Can an ecological bonus-malus be applied to taxes?

► “We must redirect private savings towards ecological issues”

Eva Saspolitical adviser to Yannick Jadot

The principle of the ecological bonus-malus on taxation is simple: reward companies that make efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage the consumption of products that are more respectful of the environment. We really need massive private investment to finance the ecological transition, and taxation makes it possible to redirect savings towards this issue.

Progress has been made in recent years. But if we only trust volunteerism, ecology will sometimes come down to communication campaigns. Going to the next stage requires a change in the tax framework. Taxation is both an incentive lever and a cultural vector. Virtuous behavior should be rewarded more. We also note that the wealthiest emit more greenhouse gases: the entire population no longer has to pay for the irresponsible behaviour, from a climatic point of view, of a minority.

→ DEBATE. Meike Fink: “The most polluters are not those who pay the most”

We are not starting from nothing, the necessary legal bases exist. With regard to corporation tax, companies with more than 500 employees must already draw up their greenhouse gas emissions report every four years. Institutional players, including banks and insurance companies, have the same obligation to assess their asset portfolio. But for companies to respect a carbon trajectory compatible with the Paris agreements, we must go further: move from a greenhouse gas balance to a broader carbon balance. And that this procedure is certified, with a robust methodology.

The change would be the same for wealth tax: we would start from the assessment of the carbon footprint of financial assets and the energy performance diagnosis for real estate. On VAT, the idea is simple: reduce the taxation of products that respect the environment – ​​repair services, organic products and public transport – and increase that of goods with low nutritional or environmental qualities.

Admittedly, the population must adhere to this type of project, which has not always been the case. But we have changed era: everyone agrees today that we live better in a less polluted world, provider of jobs and offering purchasing power. We have also learned the lessons of the yellow vests: we must first offer an alternative before sanctioning polluting behavior. On mobility, for example, we are promoting the sustainable mobility package to make carpooling free and the development of public transport and the use of electric cars. It is imperative that the revenue from this tax is entirely directed towards the construction of alternatives for citizens.

► “There are already taxes for polluting activities”

Jean-Yves Mercierhonorary lawyer and member of the Cercle des fiscalistes

To begin with, corporation tax is not the right lever. How would it be possible to tax the profits of companies according to their activity, which emits more or less CO?2 ? I do not see how the Constitutional Council could accept such a breach of equality before tax. Especially since there are already other types of taxes on polluting activities, just like a market for carbon quotas at European level, which already make it possible to charge for greenhouse gas emitters.

Yannick Jadot also offers an environmental bonus-malus for certain financial assets, which would apply to shareholders with assets of more than two million euros. Such a system would consist in imposing an additional constraint on those who own the capital. The risk is that shareholders get rid of their shares. However, companies that pollute by nature are often essential, in the production of energy or in industry. If they lose their shareholders, they will close or ask to be nationalized. At the same time, the smallest shareholders will be able to continue to invest in these polluting activities: this does not really make sense.

On the VAT aspect, one of the ideas proposed is to modulate the rate according to the repairable or non-repairable nature of a manufactured product. This will have to be negotiated at European level. A directive obliges Member States to apply a minimum rate of VAT of 15%. It leaves countries the possibility of applying two different reduced rates. This is why in France we also have rates of 10% and 5.5%, which can only be applied to certain categories of products and services, strictly delimited by the European text. However, manufactured products are not among the possible exceptions. When Jacques Chirac wanted to extend the possibility of applying a reduced VAT in the catering sector, he had to fight for several years with his European partners.

On food products, this will raise questions of delimitation between the products considered as organic or non-organic. What about an organic product that will come from afar? You should also know that a reduction in VAT does not automatically translate into prices. Still in the catering sector, the application of a reduced VAT had only been passed on in prices to a marginal extent.

I find it hard to see how Yannick Jadot could apply all of these measures. For my part, I am rather in favor of the idea of ​​restoring the image of the carbon tax, at the national level and at the borders. This is the measure that seems the most useful, even if it is difficult to accept in the current context.


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