Spain: Adapting the tax system to challenges facing the green transition
In the context of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan a range of measures relating to environmental taxes have been approved, notably the creation of a tax on non-reusable plastic packaging and amendment of the tax on fluorinated greenhouse gases. This new tax will come into force on January 1, 2023, whereas the amendment of the tax on fluorinated gases has been in force since September 1, 2022.
The Recovery Plan, drawn up in response to the requirements and provisions in the legislation applicable to the Next Generation EU instruments, to national and EU economic priorities and to the Sustainable Development Goals in the 2030 Agenda, has among its main priorities adapting the tax system to the reality of the twenty-first century (28th component). For achieving this goal, it underlines the need to undertake a process to adapt environmental taxes to international best practices, in the context of a green tax reform that will contribute to achieving a more sustainable socioeconomic model which will support measures to protect the environment, sustainable mobility and to combat climate change, in addition to enabling fulfillment of acquired environmental obligations.
The two taxes share the same structure, based on a taxable event defined as the manufacture, import or intra-Community acquisition of the taxable goods. In addition to which a number of non-taxable events, tax credits and refunds are allowed if certain tests are met. Among the ones that will probably be the most common in practice is if the goods are sent outside Spain.
In relation to the manufacture of goods, the taxable person is the manufacturer subject to the tax and these manufacturers will have to be entered on the register held by the tax management office. They will also have to keep accounting records for the goods, and, if applicable, for the raw materials needed to obtain them, which will have to be supplied electronically to AEAT (the Spanish Tax Agency). Additionally, they will have to self-assess and pay over the tax.
Where an intra-Community acquisition is made, the taxable person is the person making that acquisition. As in the previous case, intra-Community purchasers have to be entered on the register held by the tax management office and keep accounting records for the goods (in the case of fluorinated gases) or a record of inventories (in the case of packaging), which will have to be supplied electronically to AEAT. They will also have to self-assess and pay over the tax concerned.
In relation to imports, the taxable person is the importer and the tax is assessed using the same method as that specified for the customs debt under the customs legislation. Importers also have to be registered with the tax management office, unless they do not have economic operator status. Unlike in the other cases, however, they are not required to keep accounting records for the taxable goods.
Lastly, another feature to note is the invoicing obligations which present a few differences between the two taxes. For the tax on plastic packaging, manufacturers have to charge the tax to the purchaser, and mention separately on the invoice the amount of unrecycled plastic and the amount of tax due, or, if an exemption is applied, the article under which the sale or supply is exempt. In all other cases, following a request by the purchaser, whoever makes the sales or supplies of the items of packaging has to include the information described above on a certificate or on any invoices they issue in relation to those sales or supplies:
The tax on fluorinated gases, by contrast, is not legally required to be charged to the customer. Moreover, this tax does not make the inclusion of information on the invoice conditional on it being requested by the customer. In other words, anyone who makes sales or supplies of fluorinated gases or of goods, equipment or apparatus containing them, has to include on a certificate or on the invoice they issue for those sales the following data: the type of fluorinated gas and the amount sold or supplied, as well as the amount of the tax paid in respect of those gases.
All of this shows that the adaptation of the tax system to better respond to the new challenges that are arising, as is the case with environmental taxes, requires continuous monitoring of the successive reforms that are appearing and will continue to occur in the future.