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The UK’s Plastic Packaging Tax (“PPT“) becomes effective on 1 April 2022 and applies to plastic packaging in the UK that contains less than 30% recycled plastic content at a rate of £200 per metric tonne. You can access our recent webinar on PPT here.

The tax is aimed at encouraging the use of more sustainable plastic packaging, increasing the use of recycled plastic and helping to reduce plastic waste. The PPT has been promoted by the UK government as a world leading measure and other jurisdictions are already putting in place similar regimes. We expect plastics regulation to continue growing worldwide in coming years given the current focus on sustainability.

The UK’s PPT is payable by manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging that are liable to register with HMRC either as a result of:

  • Having reasonable grounds to believe that they will manufacture or import 10 or more tonnes of plastic packaging within the following 30 days; or
  • Manufacturing or importing 10 or more tonnes of plastic packaging within the previous 12 months.

Importers have to take into account both finished plastic packaging that they import as well as filled plastic packaging that already contains goods (e.g. filled plastic drinks bottles).

The primary legislation is set out in the Finance Act 2021 which was enacted in June 2021 with the more administrative aspects of the PPT dealt with in secondary legislation, including The Plastic Packaging Tax (General) Regulations 2022 and The Plastic Packaging Tax (Descriptions of Products) Regulations 2021. The UK government has published detailed guidance on the PPT.

The PPT regime provides for exemptions for various types of plastic packaging as well as relief and credit mechanisms for plastic packaging that is exported from the UK.

As we have flagged before, a crucial aspect of the PPT regime is that downstream businesses that buy plastic packaging on which the tax should have already been paid may be found jointly and severally liable for any unpaid tax. In connection with this, on 30 December 2021, HMRC published guidance on the due diligence checks businesses should undertake in connection with the PPT. The guidance does not set out a specific list of checks that should be carried out in every case. Rather, it is the responsibility of each business to decide which checks are “relevant, reasonable and proportionate” depending on the businesses’ “personal circumstances and supply chain”.

Businesses that have not already done so should now assess whether they will be required to register and pay for the PPT. Even where a business is not required to pay the PPT directly because of the secondary liability risk it will still need to consider what steps should be taken to ensure that it is not involved in a supply chain where the PPT goes unpaid by someone else.

Author

Rachel MacLeod is a senior associate in Baker McKenzie's London office. She advises companies on the "cradle-to-grave" regulation of a broad range of products sold on the EU and UK markets. She also advise companies on how to comply with their operational environmental and health & safety obligations.

Author

Jennifer Revis is a partner in the EU Competition and Trade Practice Group of Baker McKenzie's London office. She is acknowledged for her timely advice and responsiveness by the Legal 500. Jennifer has been on secondment to the UK customs authorities (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) in their tax and excise litigation department and to the Firm's European Law Centre in Brussels. Jennifer is frequently invited to speak at external conferences and regularly contributes articles to tax journals on customs matters such as De Voils Indirect Tax Journal.

Author

Rini Rashid is an Associate in Baker McKenzie London office.

Author

Graham Stuart is a partner at Baker McKenzie's London office specialising in product regulation and environmental, health and safety law.

Author

Adeel Haque is an associate in Baker McKenzie's London office. He is a member of the International Commercial & Trade and Antitrust & Competition practice groups. Adeel qualified in September 2019 and has spent time working in the Firm's Hong Kong office.

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