It's time to pay the eco-fee

The deadline to submit the payment for the protection and improvement of the environment fee, better known as the eco-fee, for the majority of businesses expires on the last day of July. The amounts that businessmen will have to set aside range from 5,000 to two million dinars, but this year the amount of the fee will not depend on how much the companies actually pollute the environment, but on the size of their business, as well as the areas in which they operate.

- The principle called "polluter pays", in which the costs are proportionally carried by those who endanger the environment the most, has not yet been applied in Serbia. The biggest pollutants pay an amount that doesn’t meet the damage of harmful gases they emit, and they also pay the same price as those who have invested significant funds in setting up treatment plants, so this practice does not stimulate any ecology investments. That is why it is necessary to reform this fee, and in that matter we have offered a solution to the relevant Ministry - says the Vice President of NALED's Environmental Protection Alliance and the director of Ekostar Pak Bojana Perić.

According to her, the first step in this reform is to integrate the protection and improvement fee into the pollution fee, and to determine that business entities should pay for the actual amount of pollution they produce. In addition, the list of taxpayers paying the integrated fee should be expanded by those from local registers of pollution sources, and the list of harmful substances for which the fee is paid should be expanded. The amount of the fee per ton of emissions should be gradually increased in the next three years (10% each year) until we reach the proposed values, but also as an incentive for companies to reduce pollution by investing in treatment plants.

According to the prescribed decree for the amount of the eco-fee, micro companies and entrepreneurs in the trade sector will pay 5,000 dinars, whether they are food stores, boutiques, toy stores, florists, pharmacies. There are also restaurants, cafes, and even web portals. The owners of hair salons, fitness or sports clubs, those who run a dental office, kindergartens, any schools, tourist or accounting agencies, law offices, all of them need to pay the eco-fee.

Small polluters include hotels, banks, telecommunications companies, railways, air transport and other, but in the case of small, medium or large companies, the amount increases to 50,000, 125,000 or 500,000 dinars. The state also sees its institutions - the central bank, courts, PIO and RHIF, defense and other public administration bodies, as small polluters.

The largest part of agriculture, energy, construction, traffic and water supply, wastewater management (the amount of the fee ranges from 10,000 to one million dinars) are classified as medium pollutants. Agriculture (such as poultry and pig breeding), mining and most of the processing industry are among the big polluters (the amount of compensation goes from 20,000 to two million dinars).

The positive improvement in this field are electronic applications, that are being submitted to local tax administrations. Additional improvement would be achieved by introducing a procedure in which companies would calculate the fee according to the amount of emissions and pay electronically. The local tax administrations would, then, only oversee whether the payments are filed correctly and would be relieved of unnecessary administration.

The current procedure is making companies wait for the decision on fee amount before paying it. Also, if a company operates in more than one municipality (and some of them, such as telecommunications operators, banks, retail chains operate in more than 100 or 150), they cannot file a consolidated registration, but need to make them separate for each city and municipality individually and deposit money into the same number of accounts.

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