PwC report on APD met by dismissive comments from Treasury – Chancellor has no intention of lowering APD
The 4 largest airlines in the UK (British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet and Ryanair) commissioned a report from PwC on Air Passenger Duty (APD). The intention was to try and get APD reduced, or removed altogether. PwC put together arguments that the UK economy would benefit, if flyers could fly slightly more cheaply. There was a range of arguments, including more tax take, more investment, spin offs of all sorts. However, this has cut no ice with the Treasury. The pressure from the 4 airlines got a frosty response from the Treasury, which made clear that the Chancellor had no intention of lowering APD. The FT reports that a Treasury spokesperson said APD, which is forecast to bring in £2.9bn this year, makes an “essential contribution” towards helping meet the government’s deficit reduction plans. “We do not recognise the figures in this report or agree with the assumptions behind it,” the Treasury said. The report also had to admit that making flying a bit cheaper would have a negative impact on parts of the UK economy, as yet more Brits took they money to spend abroad.
The pressure from the 4 airlines got a frosty response from the Treasury, which made clear that the Chancellor had no intention of lowering APD. And consumer groups (Air Travel Advisory Bureau) pointed out that carriers often benefited by pocketing tax paid on cancelled bookings – travellers find getting the APD they have paid back from airlines can be very, very difficult. Critics of the industry say that airlines are happy to add their own levies to tickets, ranging from fuel surcharges to luggage charges and credit card fees. (See Times £ link )
The FT reports that a Treasury spokesperson said APD, which is forecast to bring in £2.9bn this year, makes an “essential contribution” towards helping meet the government’s deficit reduction plans. “We do not recognise the figures in this report or agree with the assumptions behind it,” the Treasury said. (FT link )
The FT adds:
But the report also found that by encouraging foreign travel by UK residents, abolishing APD would mean some parts of the economy would suffer even if the overall impact on GDP was positive.
“The outflow [of UK consumers’ pounds] is partially offset by expenditure from foreign inbound tourists . . . [but they] tend to purchase a more limited range of lower value-added goods and services than domestic consumers,” the study said.
More details about the PwC report:
Airlines have another go at trying to get rid of APD. Reminiscent of turkeys and Christmas.
Date added: February 4, 2013
EasyJet has produced two press releases, making out that a new study done for the airline industry shows that the UK economy would benefit if Air Passenger Duty was cut. EasyJet, BA, Virgin and Ryanair commissioned PwC to investigate the possible effect of abolishing APD. Using elaborate contortions of facts and logic, and glossing over the point that the main beneficiaries of abolishing the tax would be themselves (not UK plc) they ignore the inconvenient facts that the majority of air travel takes Brits abroad, to spend their money elsewhere. Only a minority – around 20% at most – of air passengers from the UK are on business. The study also ignores the fact that air travel pays no VAT and no fuel duty – making it a very special case, and very under-taxed in comparison to other sectors. Much of the “logic” behind the calculations by PwC of the suggested economic benefits of removing APD involve indirect effects, such as boosting tax take in a variety of sectors, increasing investment, and presumed spin off effects of this over time. All very dubious. No industry likes to pay tax, but there is no reason why air travel – largely discretionary spending by the better off – should escape a fair level of tax. These APD claims by the 4 airlines really are stunning nonsense.
Air Passenger Duty – 10 Key Points
1. APD was introduced in 1994 by Ken Clarke, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, not as an environmental tax but because he considered the aviation industry to be lightly taxed compared to other sectors, largely arising from its exemption from fuel duty and VAT.
2. It was initially set at £5.00 for short haul economy travel, which accounts for more than three quarters of all air travel. In 1997 Ken Clarke doubled APD to £10.00 for short haul economy flights.
3. Gordon Brown halved the short haul economy rate of APD in 2001, put it back up again to
£10.00 in 2007 and Alistair Darling raised it to £11.00 in 2009. George Osborne increased it to £12.00 in 2010. There was no increase in 2011 but it was raised to £13.00 in April 2012. Thus, for the vast majority of passengers APD has increased by just £3.00 (30%) over the past 15 years.
4. APD is payable only on departure from a UK airport and so the basic Band A rate of £13.00 is for a round trip to an overseas destination. APD is however payable on both legs of a domestic round trip within the UK.
5. APD raised £2.6 billion for public finances in 2011/12 and this is planned to increase to £3.9 billion by 2015/16. APD would, however, need to rise to four times its current level to offset the value of the industry’s exemption from fuel duty and VAT. If airlines paid the same level of fuel duty and VAT as road users, the cost to the aviation industry would be around £10.5 billion a year.
6. Not only do airlines pay no VAT on fuel, they are exempt from VAT on everything they buy
relating to the provision of air transport services. Mostly, VAT is not charged in the first place; aircraft and aviation fuel, for example, are zero rated. However, where VAT is charged, the airlines claim this back and in 2010/11, HMRC paid UK airlines a VAT rebate of £583 million (net).
7. In 2010/11, the latest year for which a detailed HMRC breakdown is currently available, 77% of passengers paid APD at the short haul economy rate (Band A).
8. Whilst it is true that “passengers can end up paying £184.00 tax on some flights”, as we are repeatedly told by the industry, this is the very top rate of APD and applies only to first class and business class passengers on long haul flights to countries whose capital city is more than 6,000 miles from London. Less than 0.4% of all air passengers fell into this category in 2010/11.
9. Regarding the alleged negative impacts on the UK economy of the recent hikes in APD, it is worth noting that overseas leisure trips by UK residents reduced from 60.1 million in 2008 to 49.2 million in 2011 – a fall of 10.9 million (21.5%) whilst the number of foreign tourists coming to the UK fell by less than 300,000 (1.6%) over the same period, from 23.8 million to 23.5 million. The effect of this was to reduce the UK’s tourism trade deficit by £6.8 billion and to boost spending in the domestic UK tourism industry by £5.1 billion over the same period (2011 vs 2008).
10. Finally, those in the aviation industry who are pressing the Government for APD to be reduced should explain how they would propose to make up the revenue shortfall to the Exchequer. Should we sack some more policemen, teachers or nurses? Should we cut pensions or welfare benefits?
Or should we raise VAT and/or extend its scope?
(the aviation industry has not questioned the accuracy of any of these figures).
Not so independent auditor
And, to add another interesting twist, the – in theory – “independent” auditors for easyJet is …. guess who? …. PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Independent auditors’ report (512KB)
which is most irregular …… probably worthy of investigation, as the “independent” auditor should not be involved in writing reports for its client.