Thursday, September 22, 2005

Taxing the WEEE ones

On the way back to Dublin this afternoon I was listening to Joe Duffy on the radio. For anyone who hasn't lived in Ireland at anytime over the last decade or so, the Liveline show is another hang over from 1979, but it appears to be popular and actually kinda interesting in a bizare, unexpected way. The basic idea is people ring in with complaints and tales of woe, Joe tells them how terrible it is and others ring in with similar stories.

Anyway, today one lady rang in to complain about the new WEEE tax. The government may not call it a tax, but when they force everyone to pay it then it is a tax. The unfortunate thing about it is that it was an EU idea and no one in Ireland seems to want to take responsibility for it. The electronics shops now have to pass on an extra charge to consumers for electronic devices that will need to be recycled. The consumer is then supposed to be able to return old electronics to the shop and the shop is responsible for the recycling of the old device. Probably a good idea, in an ideal world. However no one seems to know what is taxed, how much the tax should be and even that they can bring their old devices back to the shop.

The lady told Joe about her husband who went to Argos to purchase a talking Peepa Pig (a character from a cartoon aimed at 2 to 6 year olds) and a set of surround sound speaker stands. Peepa was €21.99 and the pair of stands was €29.99. The ladies husband was then charged €5 for each of them as recycling tax.

There are two problems for the government here. Firstly the stands are not electronics. They may be used with electronics, but they are just basically shelves on poles, nothing electric in them. Why is the tax being added to them? Probably confusion, the retailer doesn't know what to tax and so taxed everything electronics related.

Secondly, and far far more importantly, taxing toys? The government has introduced a tax on TOYS???? In the run up to Christmas??????? Thank God the opposition are totally inept or they could cause some trouble for the government on this one.

Of course I'm being ironic, only the Irish opposition parties are so bad at the job of opposition that they could let a government off on this one. Someone needs to get their arse kicked for allowing toys to be put on the list or for allowing retailers to put the tax on toys in error.

In fairness to the Department of the Environment, they did contact the show and announce that the tax was not supposed to be added onto any toys, and that they had nothing to do with the tax, it was all Europes fault. Joe did insist that toys were on the directive and while I couldn't find "toy" in the directive itself I did find this list on another site.

This Directive applies to the following categories of electrical and electronic equipment:

  • large and small household appliances;
  • IT and telecommunications equipment;
  • consumer equipment;
  • lighting equipment;
  • electrical and electronic tools (with the exception of large-scale stationary industrial tools);
  • toys, leisure and sports equipment;
  • medical devices (with the exception of implanted and infected products);
  • monitoring and control instruments;
  • automatic dispensers.

It appears that we have a new tax that no one is responsible for, no one understands and no one wants except some Eurocrats. The Department of the Environment needs to come out with a definitive list, make it widely available and easy to understand. Then we should all familiarise ourselves with the directive and when we are in shops over the next couple of months make sure that we only pay the tax on items that are covered by the directive and not items the retailer has thrown the tax onto in a scatter gun reaction. If the retailer disagrees with you, simply walk away and go to another shop that does not charge you 20% extra tax on your kids Christmas present just because it takes batteries.

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