HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has launched a consultation on a draft version of its plans to extend landfill tax to cover material disposed of at illegal waste sites.
The technical consultation, which closes on 18 February, seeks views on two proposed changes to the landfill tax regime. Set to come into force from 1 April 2018, these changes would mean that rogue operators caught handling waste illegally would be forced to pay landfill tax. HMRC would also be given powers to prosecute illegal waste operators and impose large fines and prison sentences of up to seven years.
Under the new measures, a person who dumps waste at a site without a permit, or knowingly facilitates the dumping, could become liable for tax. All parties involved could also be liable to penalties for non-compliance or face criminal prosecution. By making the illegal disposal of waste taxable, HMRC hopes it will deter illegal activity by making it less profitable and reinforce the principle of ‘the polluter pays’.
It is estimated that around 600 illegal sites are operating in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In 2016, 110 businesses and individuals were prosecuted by the Environment Agency for offenses related to illegal waste sites. HMRC says that extending the scope of landfill tax builds on action already being taken by the Environmental Agency to shut down these sites due to the harm they cause to the environment, by removing the financial incentive to set them up in the first place.
It is hoped that the changes to landfill tax will help ensure that honest businesses in the industry who pay the tax they owe are not disadvantaged by unfair competition. HMRC has said that “Safeguards will be put in place to ensure that landowners and people in the waste supply chain who, despite carrying out all reasonable due diligence, were unknowingly involved in the illegal dumping won’t be assessed for any tax or penalties.”
Draft legislation to enact the changes was first published in September last year and followed a consultation on the proposals held last spring. Anyone wanting to comment on the proposals has until 18 February to respond.
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