A large part of the announced eco-social tax reform 2022 is dedicated to the pricing of CO2. This is intended to contribute to climate protection and achieve the EU-wide regulations on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, the eco-social tax reform also provides minor changes regarding tax exemptions in the Electricity Tax Act.
An essential part of the eco-social tax reform is the pricing of energy-specific greenhouse gases in sectors (buildings, transport, etc) that are currently not covered by the European emissions trading system as the building and transport sector. The energy industry, energy-intensive industries and commercial aviation are already covered by the European emissions trading system. To achieve the climate protection targets and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a national emissions certificate trading system is to be introduced in Austria as of 1 July 2022.
To introduce the national emissions trading system as quickly and unbureaucratically as possible, the national emissions trading system is linked to the existing system for levying energy taxes. In the initial phase, energy-related greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the use of coal, gas and petroleum products are to be linked to the issuance of emission certificates. If trading participants bring fossil fuels into circulation, the obligation to surrender national emission certificates also arises with the incurrence of tax liability under the energy taxes. With the purchase of emission certificates, the trading participant receives the right to place certain substances (mineral oils, fuels, natural gas and coal) on the market and thus indirectly cause greenhouse gas emissions. Depending on the actual emission output, the trading participant has to dispose of the corresponding number of emission certificates. For the administration of the national emission trading system, the Office for National Emission Trading will be established in Austria. It will be integrated in the Federal Ministry of Finance.
The introduction is divided into a fixed price phase (1 July 2022 to 31 December 2025) and a market phase (from 1 January 2026). In the fixed-price phase, the emission allowances are not yet freely tradable, but are issued at fixed prices. The fixed price is EUR 30 in 2022 per ton CO2 equivalent and increases to EUR 55 by 2025. For 1 liter of gasoline, which has a greenhouse gas emission factor of 2.38 kg/liter, 7 cents must therefore be paid in 2022.
During the introductory phase (1 July 2022 to 31 December2023), simplified regulations apply to the registration and monitoring of the national emission trading system. All those trading participants who are already registered as tax debtors of an energy tax before 1 July 2022, will be registered automatically. Separate registration for the national emission allowance system is not required. From the transition phase onwards, a monitoring plan must be submitted during registration. This is also not yet required during the introductory phase.
Once a year, each trading participant must submit a greenhouse gas emissions report. In this report, the national emission allowances which are to be disposed have to be reported and exemptions and reductions may be claimed. From the transitional phase (1 January 2024 to 31 December 2025), the greenhouse gas emission report must be accompanied by a verification report from an independent verification body. As a relief measure to maintain cross-border competitiveness, in particular the avoidance of carbon leakage, affected parties may receive (proportionate) relief. Relief measures can be claimed primarily by agriculture and forestry as well as by energy-intensive economic sectors.
In the transitional phase, the organizational requirements for a trading system with emission certificates at national level or the transfer to a European system are to be prepared. A national emission allowance trading registry will be introduced, through which the purchase and disposal of emission allowances will be managed.
Depending on the design of the EU emission trading system and the effectiveness of national emission trading, the market phase, in which emission allowances are to be freely traded and which is to start on 1 January 2026, will be prepared at the end of the transitional phase. If the EU emissions trading system also includes the buildings and transport sectors from 2026, the national emissions trading system will be adapted accordingly and transferred to the EU-wide system. The further design of the market phase has not yet been specified at the present time.
In the introductory phase, the National Emission Trading Act 2022 and thus the obligation to purchase and disposal of national emission allowances will affect companies that already bring fossil energy sources into circulation and pay mineral oil tax, natural gas tax or coal tax in Austria. As the first phase of national emission trading is scheduled to start on 1 July 2022, companies affected by the new law should analyze the new legal requirements and the respective consequences for its businesses at an early stage.
The already existing tax benefits for “self-produced electricity” will be extended to all renewable energy sources. As of 1 July 2022, no electricity tax will fall due on self-produced and used electrical energy, provided it comes from a renewable energy source. This means that the exemption limit of 25,000 kWh per year for small hydropower plants, biogas and wind energy, for example, will no longer apply.
Furthermore, it is specified that traction current produced from renewable energy sources by railroad undertakings themselves is tax-exempt, provided that it is used by the producing railroad undertakings themselves or by other railroad undertakings for the propulsion and operation of railroad vehicles.
Barbara Anzinger ist Managerin im Bereich Indirect Tax/Global Trade Advisory bei Deloitte in Wien. Als Zollrechtsexpertin verfügt sie über mehrjährige Erfahrung bei der Beratung von vorwiegend nationalen Unternehmen mit grenzüberschreitenden Handelsaktivitäten sowie multinationale Unternehmensgruppen. Ihre fachlichen Schwerpunkte liegen im europäischen Zollrecht, auf dem Gebiet der Verbrauchsteuern sowie der Intervention in Betriebsprüfungs- und Rechtsmittelverfahren.