Amendments to the Environment Bill and Finance Act

Recent amendments impact both the Environment Bill and the plastic packaging tax

Starting with the Environment Bill, it was reported last week that peers in the House of Lords have asked the Commons to rethink their previous overturning of amendments. The amendments in question concerned the independence, and therefore ability to be effectual, of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) and the available scope of penalties for non-compliance with environmental law.  

Specifically the House of Lords voted 223 to 172 to ensure the OEP had sufficient independence to allow it to fulfil its function of holding public authorities, including ministers, to account in relation to breaches of environmental law”. These two amendments will return to the House of Commons to be accepted by government, or returned to the Lords once again.  

Expanded charge on single-use items

Another change to the Environment Bill was made in late October. It was agreed in the House of Commons, after being tabled in the Lords, that charges could be made on any single-use items. Previously it was written that government could make charges on single-use plastics only. This said, most of the other amendments tabled by the House of Lords were rejected.  

Nature Minister, Rebecca Pow, has said that the single-use amendment “will allow the charge to be imposed on single-use items made from any material, not just plastic."

"This charge will help us to future-proof the bill and protect the environment for generations to come by providing a powerful tool to incentivise the right shifts towards more reusable alternatives to single-use items and towards a circular economy."

"We want to take this opportunity to strengthen our hand and encourage citizens to reduce, recycle and reuse” 

The plastic packaging tax  

Six amendments have been tabled by Treasury in relation to the plastic packaging tax, due to start in April next year. None of the amendments materially change the design of the tax, but will ensure it works after primary legislation was written into the Finance Act 2021. It is common for amendments such as these to be made at this stage, so the intent of the tax is mirrored in underpinning legislation.  

The first amendment will allow HMRC to change the import formalities to align with other changes to customs legislation – specifically “make provision to modify the timing of an import, and the meaning of import and customs formalities, using secondary legislation”. 

The second ensures  that small businesses under the 10 tonne de minimis are not required to pay for the tax, and so the intent of the tax is achieved and burden on small businesses is reduced.  

The third amendment relates to returns and tax relief in relation to diplomats and visiting forces, whilst also setting administrative requirements in the secondary legislation to guarantee compliance with international tax agreements.   

The fourth change allows for group returns to be made by the “representative member of that group” (more information on group returns for the tax on gov.uk here), and the fifth ensures HMRC notifies that representative member “of the date that applications for and modification of group treatment will take effect”. Lastly, the sixth amendment is to "Change certain terms used to describe unincorporated bodies to ensure consistency throughout the legislation".

Updated tax guidance

Yesterday there was also updated guidance published on gov.uk to help check if you need to register for the tax and the next steps to follow. This guidance can be access here.

Louisa Goodfellow

Policy Manager

As Policy advisor Louisa provides key support to our team, including preparing reports on environmental policy issues and maintaining awareness of new developments. As such she will often be found coordinating responses to policy consultations, advocating policy positions and providing internal guidance to current legislation.

Written by Louisa Goodfellow Published 05/11/2021 Topics Sustainability
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