Increasing the price of diesel at the pumps and overhauls to the motor-tax regime are among the recommendations of the Tax Strategy Group’s pre-budget review, published on Monday.
Among the changes it proposes is the equalisation of diesel and petrol excise duties, suggesting a 2.32 cent/litre increase per year for the next five years, or a 1.16 cent/litre rise over the next decade.
On motor tax, it suggests increasing the number of vehicle registration tax (VRT) tax bands from 11 at present to 20. The new rates would vary from 7 per cent for vehicles with CO2 emissions up to 50g/km, to 39 per cent for cars emitting 191g/km or over. The group also suggests adjusting the NOx surcharge bands applied to newly registered cars so the lowest band is 1-40 mg/km of NOx instead of the current 1-60 mg/km of NOx.
“Essentially there is an argument that VRT charges were far too low during the last decade as the rates applied were based on vastly underestimated CO2 values,” the paper states.
“The recorded average emissions of new car registrations during the last decade has been based on the discredited laboratory-based NEDC [New European Driving Cycle] emissions test, which has been shown to be a very poor gauge of the real world emissions performance of cars.”
With the NEDC system being replaced by a new system, known as WLTP [Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure], the tax strategy group says any reforms should seek to maintain a level playing field between cars tested under the two testing regimes for tax purposes.
In terms of grants for electric and hybrid vehicles, it proposes that for vehicles with a price of more than €40,000, the current €5,000 VRT relief would be tapered off, cutting off relief on cars priced at €50,000 or more.
‘Poor environmental outcomes’
In light of the impact of Covid-19, the Irish motor trade has called for a new scrappage scheme. But the group’s paper says such schemes “deliver poor environmental outcomes”. It also dismisses claims by the motor trade that renewing the Irish car fleet more quickly will lead to a significant drop in overall emissions.
“Fast car fleet renewal, when assessed on a life cycle basis, can significantly add to overall emissions due to the relatively high emissions embedded in the manufacturing and end-of-life cycle of a car,” it states.
In the longer term, it warns that with the scale of the proposed “electrification” of the national vehicle fleet, “there are significant annual Exchequer revenues at risk”.
Established in the early 1990s, the group is chaired by the Department of Finance, with membership comprising senior officials and political advisers from several departments and offices. Its research papers are used to inform budget strategy.