By Julian Manduca
The importers of computers and computer accessories present the latest challenge to George Pullicino’s eco-contribution rates introduced on the last day of 2004.
The headache environment minister Pullicino faced with plastic bags looks likely to be followed by another one, even if not so many people will be affected by the rising price of computers and accessories.
In a meeting held yesterday afternoon with representatives of the GRTU, Pullicino said he will be considering their complaints and led them to believe that the eco-contribution could be restricted to fewer products than what was announced in the legal notice issued at the end of 2004. Minister Pullicino also promised to consider reducing the rates currently in force and in what was described as a very cordial and successful meeting, said he will be considering other points made by the importers.
When this newspaper asked for its position following the meeting, the ministry replied: “The ministry was presented with a number of proposals that are being reviewed and will be further discussed during another meeting with GRTU that will be held tomorrow (today).”
For the computer shop owners and traders, things came to a head Monday evening at a meeting held with the GRTU.
The major concern was that the eco-contribution is based on arbitrary values on selected items rather than a flat rate percentage and this makes it very difficult to manage accounts wise. The members present were worried of repercussions later on if they failed to collect the correct amount of tax.
The members present also discussed what they consider to be the exaggerated amount of tax that has been imposed on certain items that are of low value such as Lm1 tax on a mouse, Lm1 tax on a keyboard and Lm5 on a storage unit such as a hard disk drive, CD-ROM or floppy drive. They also failed to see the relationship between item size or environmental impact and rate of tax. Importers fear that the higher the taxes imposed the more it will be attractive for people to evade taxes and the bigger will be the difference in price between legitimate systems and illegal ones.
With the current rates the tax on an entry level computer system can be up to 30 percent when one takes into consideration VAT and the Eco-Contribution.
In the formal meeting held with Minister Pullicino yesterday, representatives of the GRTU voiced the opinions and concerns about the new tax, namely that the tax as it is cumbersome and costly to maintain and should be imposed on a smaller number of items. They also complained that the tax is too high on a number of items and that it will induce more tax evasion by certain individuals.
They stated that had the minister decided to have discussions with the GRTU prior to its introduction it would not be necessary to make changes now, cosmetic or otherwise.
During the meeting the GRTU also asked the minister if he would encourage collecting schemes. The GRTU also feels that the government should draw up a three-year plan that will include any new taxable items. During the meeting, Mr Pullicino was positive that the proposals of the GRTU will be considered and possibly implemented. Regarding the collecting schemes he stated that he encouraged such schemes and would even be willing to waiver some of the eco tax due depending on the percentage of refuse collected.
While the IT minister is doing his best to encourage people to enter the computer world environment minister George Pullicino saw fit to slap a blanket eco-contribution on all hardware which could prove to be a setback to those aspiring to start using computers. IT minister Austin Gatt told this newspaper his ministry is doings its best to make computer technology more affordable, but separated his responsibilities from those of his colleague: “The further development of the information society and the introduction of the eco-contribution on hardware are two distinct areas of policy. “The role of this Ministry is to strive hard to make sure that our society and economy has the tools and skills available to exploit their opportunities to the largest extent possible. Amongst our incessant efforts are those to make access to these technologies always more affordable... something which to date has been amply demonstrated.”
The minister did, however, let on that some good news in terms of access and affordability is on its way… at least for some: “Moreover, in the coming days we will also have the opportunity to role out further initiatives to make this a reality for students and persons with disabilities.”
The eco-contribution on computers and accessories were ‘announced’ as follows: on data processing machines (computers) Lm14, on input or output units Lm5, on keyboards Lm1, on other computer accessories excluding monitors Lm1, on storage units Lm5 (including hard disks), on other units of automatic data-processing machines Lm1, and on yet other accessories Lm5.
Computer shop owners and traders were brought together as a result of the extensive imposition of Eco Taxation on a wide range of IT items and the GRTU held a general meeting for the members of the IT trade sector last Monday. The meeting was held at the Marquis Scicluna Hall in the Trade fair grounds at Naxxar and the importers and retailers that attended were numerous.
The section meeting was chaired by Vince Farrugia, Joe Tabone, Marcel Mizzi and Patrick Cutajar. This meeting was one of a series that the GRTU has held recently for sectors effected by ECO Taxation in preparation for a structured meeting with Minister Pullicino and his advisors.
The eco-contribution will also hit offices, banks, and the post offices, with the hardware used by banks being hard hit.
All calculators are to carry an eco-contribution of 50 cents; all cash registers Lm10; all office machines including automatic banknote dispensers, coin sorting or wrapping machines, Lm30; duplicating machines Lm5; addressing machines and address plate embossing machines Lm1; automatic goods-vending machines (for example postage stamp, cigarette, food or beverage machines) including money changing machines Lm30 and photocopiers Lm10.