Since 1 January 2008 some Dutch companies, including those in the IT industry, have been subject to a tax on the packaging they use. The aim of the Packaging Tax is to allow the prices of goods on the market to reflect the degree of environmental pollution connected with those goods. The overall aim is to reduce the quantity of packaging used and to promote a shift towards using packaging materials that have a less harmful effect on the environment.
The Packaging Tax is incorporated into the Dutch Environmental Taxes Act and applies to all companies bringing more than 15,000 kg of packaging materials annually onto the Dutch market.
The types of packaging covered and examples of some prices
Both consumer and industrial packages are subject to the Packaging Tax. Packaging made of glass, aluminium, other metals, (bio) plastics, paper and cardboard, as well as wood and other kinds of material (for example ceramics or textiles) all fall within the Act.
How much tax will be paid will depend on the type of packaging used and whether the packaging is qualified as primary, secondary or tertiary packaging. These types of packaging are defined in the Act as follows:
“A sales or primary packaging is packaging that is designed in a way to form a sales unit for the end user or consumer at the sales point” (for example a cardboard box around a laptop).
“A collection or secondary packaging is packaging that is designed in a way to form a collection of a number of sales units at the sales point, regardless of the fact that these are sold to the end users or consumers, or whether these are only meant to fill the shelves at the sales point and can be removed from the product without affecting the characteristics of the product” (for example cardboard packaging containing several navigation systems).
“A shipment or tertiary packaging is packaging that is designed in a way that the shipping and transport of sales units and collection packages is facilitated in order to prevent physical damage by shipping or transport, not including road, rail, ship or flight containers” (for example big cardboard boxes for computer monitors).
We have set out below, by way of example, the current tariffs for the different kinds of packaging
Type of material
Price for Primary packaging
Price for Secondary and Tertiary packaging
Aluminium and aluminium alloys
Paper and cardboard
Other kinds of material
Please note that for biodegradable packaging a lower tariff of €0.0624 per kilogram applies.
When will the Packaging Tax be levied?
The Act states that Packaging Tax will be levied in the following circumstances:
“Situation A - The packaging of products at disposal, to the extent that this packaging is placed at the disposal of others by a producer in The Netherlands for the first time;
Situation B - The packaging of products, in the event that the importer of the packaged products removes the packaging; and or
Situation C - Packaging that has been designed and is meant to be filled at the sales point, in the event that this packaging is placed at the disposal of others by a producer in The Netherlands for the first time.”
If the packaging has not (yet) been released for free circulation in the European Union or is supplied outside of The Netherlands, the Packaging Tax will only fall due in relation to the importer of packaged products (situation B above).
Who is subject to the Packaging Tax?
In situations A or C above the Packaging Tax will become due when the packaged product or packaging is “placed at the disposal” of someone else. The tax will be paid by the producer, who is defined as:
“the company which in the exercise of its profession:
places packaged products at someone’s disposal; or
places at someone’s disposal packaging that has been designed and is meant to be filled at the sales point.”
In situation B above the, tax will become due when the importer removes the packaging. The importer will be responsible for paying the Packaging Tax. The Dutch Environmental Taxes Act defines an importer as:
“the company which in the exercise of its profession ships packaged products into the Netherlands.”
Where both situations A and B apply, the Packaging tax can be levied on both the producer and the importer. If, however, the producer and/or importer are part of a group of companies, the Packaging Tax will be levied on the group of companies. The consequences of this are that:
a group of companies will be regarded as a single taxpayer;
the activities of the entire organisation is taken into account when determining the total amount of packaging materials brought onto the Dutch market; and
internal deliveries within a group of companies are not relevant to determine the amount of Tax due.
Definition of “Placing at someone’s disposal”
The Dutch Environmental Taxes Act does not contain a definition of “placing at someone’s disposal”. This could potentially lead to disagreements between producers, importers and the Government as to exactly when the tax becomes due. We have set out below some examples of situations where the concept of ‘placing at someone’s disposal’ could apply.
Company A, located in Belgium, owns and packages certain products. It sells these products to company B in The Netherlands. Company B asks company A to deliver the products directly to Germany. Even though company B now owns the products, the products will not physically enter The Netherlands. The Packaging Tax is therefore not due.
Company A, located in Belgium, owns and packages certain products. It sells and delivers these products to company B in The Netherlands. Company A is thus the importer. If company A places these products at the disposal of someone else, or removes them from their packaging, within The Netherlands, it must pay the Packaging Tax. If company A decides to export the products again from The Netherlands, no Packaging Tax is due.
Indirect export constitutes a major obstacle for a number of business sectors. Packaged products which are placed at someone’s disposal outside The Netherlands are not subject to the Packaging Tax. If the same product is, however, placed at someone’s disposal in The Netherlands before the export, this packaging will be subject to Packaging Tax.
Since several countries of destination also apply similar packaging taxes and since there is no possibility to re-claim the Packaging Tax paid, this will often lead to double taxation. Consultations have therefore been held with the Dutch Minister of Finance to find a solution to this problem. In the near future, the Dutch tax department will clarify whether a system to re-claim Packaging Tax paid will be initiated in The Netherlands.