Petition to Eliminate Tax On IT Repairs Takes Aim at Cutting Carbon and e-Waste

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Photo via QFamily via Flickr CC

It's no revelation that repairing and maintaining computer equipment reduces overall emissions. Redemtech has shown us first hand how redepolying old IT equipment, rather than replacing it, can boost bottom lines, reduce e-waste, and get the most out of the embodied energy in computer equipment. But the incentive to repair rather than replace has to come from somewhere - and why not a tax break? Comtek, a repair company in the UK, has launched a petition calling for the government to abolish value-added tax (VAT) on IT repairs, making maintenance less expensive and therefore more appealing to businesses than buying new products. eWeek Europe reports that the change could mean a revitalized repair industry and a step closer to carbon emissions goals. But it wouldn't come without a fight from manufacturers who would see a dent in their product sales.

Askar Sheibani, CEO of Comtek, states, "There are loads of products whose life could be extended several times but it is a clash between the customer and the manufacturer, who wants to sell and manufacture as much as possible."

Still, it could end up being an incentive for manufacturers to build up the repair sector in their company to capture some of the revenue. Most people like the idea of having the manufacturer repair the product, since they're the ones with the most available knowledge about it.

"The government's green technology measures so far have focused on supporting new "eco-friendly" technologies, such as electric cars and new hardware which uses less electricity, he said, and have missed the opportunity for maintenance and repair, 'either because of ministers' lack of knowledge of ICT hardware, or because of the vendors' lobbying.'"

But Comtek hopes to change that with their petition, which has backing from public sector leaders.

"Removing the VAT on repairs to used ICT equipment would be a tremendous benefit to the refurbishment community and could potentially tip the scales in the right direction," said Catalina McGregor, UN ITU Green iCT Liaison Officer to the OECD and EC. "Refurbishment affects a significant range of UK green collar jobs. We often forget that an entire community of SMEs some of whom are empowering the disabled workforce focus wholly on re-use and refurbishment skills development and transformation. The United Nations Agency ITU are currently working on a complex iCT CO2 measurement model and this will be the foundation profile for our sector moving forward. This should be available in 2011."

Around 50-70% of the energy consumed by a laptop happens during the manufacturing stage - indeed, the bulk of energy consumption for electronics happens during manufacturing, and not during use. Bringing back a repair culture (and in the case of IT equipment, eliminating planned obsolescence and boosting an upgrade culture) would go a long way in minimizing how much energy and materials are wasted making new equipment that isn't really needed. A tax incentive could just be a key part of this transition.

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