Concerns raised over definitions within plastic packaging tax

There have been concerns raised in parliament over definitions used for the tax that do not align with those used in the existing packaging producer responsibility regulations.

A debate in parliament on 19 January saw Secretary and Treasury Minister, Helen Whately MP, questioned as to whether HMRC would exempt silage film from the plastic packaging tax, commencing in April of this year.

The call to exempt silage film was prompted by a lack of alignment between the definition of packaging under the tax, and that under the current packaging producer responsibility obligations, where it is exempt from producer reporting and PRN generation.

The request – raised by Conservative MP Nigel Mills -  was rejected however, with the Minister stating that any further exemptions would “undermine” the environmental objectives of the policy.

She highlighted that the tax and producer responsibility systems are discreet regulations overseen by separate governmental departments, HMRC and Defra respectively. Until now silage film, used primarily by the agricultural industry, has not been in scope of compliance and environmental legislation.

Other examples of misalignment

Silage film is not the only plastic packaging product where misalignment occurs between the two regulatory systems. For instance, whereas bin bags do not fall under the definition of packaging within the PRN system, as they are sold as the product itself, they are in scope of the tax due to being a single-use consumer item.

Another example of this misalignment includes single-use display stands, which are in the scope of the tax. Display stands are out of the scope of the PRN system, unless they are used for a packaging function prior to being used for display.

This lack of unified legal definitions does pose a risk to the effectiveness of measures designed to lessen the impact of packaging waste, as it increases confusion for businesses along the supply chain and increases the risk that mistakes are made in interpreting the rules.

You can find confirmation published by HMRC of which items are in and out of scope of the tax 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 21/01/2022 Topics Packaging
Get in touch