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Planet Impact Tax

A design speculation

Winner of the Future of Money Design Award 2018.

Planet Impact Tax (PIT) is a speculative tax system proposed as an replacement for Value Added Tax (VAT). The tax rates would be determined using supply chain data, including carbon emissions, pollution, labour welfare, biodiversity loss and energy consumption. They would be calculated using artificial intelligence and published annually.

Higher welfare, environmentally friendly products would have a lower tax; products that are environmentally damaging would have higher tax rates. 

The price adjustment at the point of purchase would nudge consumer behaviour towards more planet-friendly products choices, creating a positive disruption throughout the supply chain globally in a systematic shift towards a circular, sustainable economy.

VAT is already used to nudge behaviour around certain issues - for example the ‘sugar tax’ used by several countries around the world. Sweden is an pioneering example where this approach is being explored to nudge consumer behaviour towards the ciruclar economy, by reducing VAT on repair services. All that said, UK VAT rates have varied wildly during the history of the tax and the logic behind some of the rates is inconsistent and questionable. View the UK’s current VAT rules on to explore for yourself. 

Emerging policy changes
It is exciting to see that since I researched and conceptulised this project in 2017, a recent report on Behaviour change, public engagement and Net Zero for the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (Imperial College London, October 2019), recommends to, ‘revise VAT rules on foods to remove many existing inconsistencies and reflect the goals of healthy and sustainable diets.’ (p.14). They make speicific note of product labeling and shopping receipts as customer touchpoints which could be leveraged with improved supply chain data in order to influence purchasing habits.

The role of speculative design
At this point in history, where the climate emergency is demanding  radical and urgent policy changes, it worth reflecting on the role that design speculations might play. Speculations can help bring abstract subjects like policy and economics to life, engaging a wider citizen and business audience into the conversation about the kind of futures we want to collectively own.

Year: 2017