Monday, May 05, 2008

Time to tax aviation fuel.

Why are there no duties/taxes on aviation fuel?

I understand that the traditional argument was that aircraft were flying between different jurisdictions with differing tax regimes. Thus, imposition of a fuel tax in one country would result in aircraft refuelling elsewhere, and might even deter airlines from offering services to a tax-levying destination.

We now live as part of the wider EU community, with most of the flights from airports within the EU travelling to other EU destinations (have a look at Aer Lingus & Ryanair websites). Therefore an EU-wide initiative to tax aviation fuel should not result in any competitive disadvantage.

The majority of flights to non-EU destinations are long-haul. Perhaps aircraft on such routes would maximise the fuel fill at the tax-free end of the route, but presumably much of their potential saving would be offset by the fuel burnt in carrying the extra weight long-distance. In any event, there would be no additional loss to the exchequer, as there are currently no taxes/duties levied.

The additional costs, passed on to the passenger, would probably be no greater than the current baggage charge, or the credit card “handling charge”, though undoubtedly Michael O’Leary would be apoplectic at such a proposal.

We are facing into an era of carbon taxes, where the cost of motoring, heating & lighting your home etc are all going to rise significantly. Why should that burden not be at least shared by the airline industry (and it’s passengers), which is widely recognised as one of the major and growing sources of carbon emissions?

It’s time this was tackled as a matter of urgency on an EU-wide basis. There’s much less potential benefit/impact from trying to do this on a unilateral basis, though that may be worth pursuing if getting an EU-wide environmental tax proves impossible.

Last year a BBC reporter became their “green man” for a year, measuring his family’s carbon footprint and doing everything he could to reduce it. This included selling the family car. After a year of “deprivation”, insulation etc., they took a family holiday and that single flight more or less wiped out the benefit of the family’s effort in the year before.
Worth thinking about as we hear of Govt plans for new building standards, insulation initiatives, heating systems etc.. and, of course, carbon taxes.

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