EU go-ahead for aggregates levy relief in N Ireland

A scheme to keep the rate of aggregates levy in Northern Ireland at one-fifth of the level paid in the rest of the UK received EU state aid clearance from the European Commission in May.

The scheme was proposed by the Government after it became clear that the levy’s objectives were being defeated in Northern Ireland by untaxed imports from Ireland and illegal quarries within the province (ENDS Report 346, pp 3-5 ).

Under an earlier levy relief scheme in Northern Ireland, aggregates used in processed products such as concrete attracted only 20% of the full levy rate of £1.60 per tonne last year, with 20% annual increments due to take it up to the full rate from March 2007.

Following the Commission’s decision not to object to the UK’s new proposal, the levy rate is to be frozen at the 20% level until March 2011, and the relief is also being extended to virgin aggregates.

The reduced rate will be backdated to 1 April, with legal cover for the measure being provided by the Finance Bill and regulations to be made under it. As announced at the time of the Budget (ENDS Report 350, pp 28-30 ), companies will qualify for the reduced rate only if they comply with an “aggregates levy credit agreement”.

The core of these agreements will be a set of site-specific environmental improvement targets to be defined by the Department of the Environment in the light of the findings of audits conducted by accredited environmental consultants. It will be for quarrying firms to commission these audits and pass results to the DoE by an as yet unspecified date.

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