Spain opts for a sales tax and avoids allocating it only to the receipt

Spain opts for a sales tax and avoids allocating it only to the receipt

The Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, this Wednesday in Congress. / EFE

The Treasury wants to prevent energy companies and banks from using accounting engineering to avoid a tax on profits, as Brussels proposes

Jose Maria Waiter

The idea is the same, but the details hide the differences between the proposal of the European Union on the application of a tax on energy, and the rule that Spain will implement as of January 1, if Congress endorses the government bill. The origin of these new revenues that the State will obtain and, at the same time, the destination of that money marks the distance between the community proposal and the Spanish reality.

The European Commission expects to collect 140,000 million euros from benefits that the energy companies (electricity, oil and gas) did not expect even remotely, according to Brussels. But the Ministry of Finance has chosen to apply the tax on the sales of these companies (in addition to banking), and not on the profits that they may register each year between 2022 and 2023. Why? Because the Executive fears that the large corporations affected by this tax play with accounting engineering. That is, that they adjust their final result with provisions, for example: amounts of money allocated to reserves to anticipate some negative contingency in the future. In this way, they would reduce their net profit and the collection of the extraordinary tax would be reduced. By taxing income (what they invoice or what they sell, without adjustments), the money that the State will enter is much clearer, without the possibility of applying those accounting tools, in any case legal.

The problem that can be posed to the Ministry of Finance is that the European proposal presented yesterday is the definitive one. The Commission's draft advocates applying the tax to companies whose profit exceeds an increase of 20% in the average tax base for the three fiscal years starting in January 2019. If this were the case, companies like Repsol (with losses three years) would see the impact of the tax on their current bills reduced. Although from the Treasury they clarify that it will be necessary to wait for the negotiation of the Commission's proposal among the Member States, since any final decision requires unanimity.

For now, the forecast of the Executive is to apply a rate of 4.8% on the income of electricity companies (and 1.2% in the case of entities), with which it estimates to raise some 7,000 million euros in two years. An amount that could be even higher after the latest rate hike by the European Central Bank (ECB). By raising interest rates (they are already at 1.25% compared to 0% at the beginning of the year), the income of the banks for what they charge for loans will also be higher.

The other difference between the community plan and the Spanish proposal lies in the destination that will be given to that millionaire collection. The European Union wants this amount to be used to create a finalist fund. That is to say, that the proceeds from the extraordinary tax go to finance energy aid policies, especially for the most vulnerable groups affected by the electricity and gas price crisis. However, in line with what the Treasury has clarified up to now, it will not go exactly down that path. Spain will use that money to incorporate it into the Budget box. In fact, the forecast is that the public accounts, which are being finalized these days while waiting to present them before September 30 as dictated by the Constitution, will include these items as additional income.

But, at least not yet, the Executive has not clarified that those 7,000 million euros calculated for two fiscal years will go exclusively to measures related to energy support, such as the extension of the social bonus or the thermal check; a limitation of the rate regulated, as is being done in other countries; or new direct aid. What remains in force in Spain are the approved plans, with a disbursement of 30,000 million euros until the end of the year, with a discount of 20 cents per liter on fuel; the reduction of VAT to 5%; wave expansion of the minimum vital income.

Noons and nights, tense

The proposal to reduce energy consumption in "peak hours" also goes through an exception compared to the rest of the countries. The system records the periods of greatest light consumption between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. and between 9:00 and 11:00 p.m., according to Redeia. The first section coincides with greater industrial and business activity. The second, with the presence of families in their homes. In the rest of Europe, these rush hours are advanced one or two hours, depending on the country and its daily uses other than Spanish.

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