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    歐洲對能源公司征收大筆稅款

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    Finance & economics

    財經板塊

    Windfall taxes: Power grab

    意外利潤稅:爭奪權力

    Poloticians turn to a tax that is enticing on paper, but tricky in practice

    政治家們盯上了一種看似誘人,卻難以落實的稅收政策

    On march 8th, the day the price of a barrel of Brent crude oil spiked above $127, the European Commission unveiled its grand plan to fight stratospheric living costs.

    3月8日,布倫特原油價格飆升至每桶127美元以上,當天,歐盟委員會公布了其應對驚人之高的生活成本的宏大計劃。

    Claiming that the “crisis situation” warranted exceptional measures, it recommended that member states levy a one-off tax on electricity-generating firms.

    它聲稱“危機情況”需要采取特殊措施,建議成員國對發電公司征收一次性稅。

    The revenues raised could then be used to keep households’ bills down.

    增加的收入可以用來降低民眾家庭支出。

    The next day Elizabeth Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, tweeted that she and other legislators were working on a tax on the “war-fuelled profits” accruing to American oil majors.

    第二天,來自馬薩諸塞州的參議員伊麗莎白·沃倫在推特上說,她和其他立法者正在研究對美國石油巨頭們積累的“戰爭催動的利潤”征稅。

    The proposal is now making its way through the House of Representatives.

    該提案目前正在眾議院審議。

    Politicians have reached for such “windfall” taxes before. Bulgaria, Italy, Romania and Spain have imposed them on power generators in recent months, as benchmark energy prices have risen.

    政客們曾經也征收過這種“意外利潤稅”。隨著基準能源價格的上漲,保加利亞、意大利、羅馬尼亞和西班牙近幾個月對發電企業征收了“意外利潤稅”。

    In 1980, America announced that it would begin taxing oil prodecers in 6 years' time, hoping to cash in on profits that were expected to be made after prices were deregulated.

    1980年,美國宣布將在6年內開始對石油生產商征稅,希望在油價解除管制后從預期的利潤中獲利。

    Britain’s new Labour government taxed utilities in 1997, after the Conservative government had sold them off cheaply.

    1997年,在保守黨政府低價出售公用事業之后,英國的新工黨政府開始對公用事業征稅。

    The levies are understandably tempting for the taxman. Big windfalls mean big receipts.

    可以理解,這些稅對稅務人員來說很誘人。大筆的意外所得意味著大筆收入。

    The usual worry with a tax is that it might change companies’ behaviour, say by encouraging them to lower investment in order to bring down future tax bills.

    關于稅收,人們常有的擔憂是,它可能會改變公司的行為,比如會促使它們減少投資,以降低未來的稅款。

    But the event causing the windfall is meant to be a one-off, unconnected to investment.

    但產生意外之財的事件往往是一次性的,與投資無關。

    They are “extremely efficient ways to raise revenue”, says Helen Miller of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a think-tank in London. At least, in theory.

    倫敦智庫財政研究所的海倫·米勒說,這是“非常有效的增加收入的方式”。至少在理論上是這樣。

    Britain’s tax probably fitted the ideal better than most. It had a clear rationale: that excess gains had come from the underpricing of shares when firms were privatised.

    英國的稅收可能比大多數國家更符合這一理想狀態。它有一個明確的理論基礎:超額收益源自公司私有化時的股票定價過低。

    Post-privatisation profits were multiplied by a price-to-earnings ratio; a 23% tax was levied on what was left over once public proceeds from privatisation were subtracted.

    私有化后的利潤乘以市盈率;從私有化中獲得的公共收益被扣除之后,剩下的部分將被征收23%的稅。

    Even then, however, the tax failed to target the beneficiaries of excess gains.

    然而,即便如此,這種稅收也無法針對超額收益的受益人。

    British Telecom, the first utility to be privatised, had listed in 1984. Many early punters had come and gone, leaving shareholders in 1997 bearing the burden.

    英國電信是第一家私有化的公用事業公司,于1984年上市。許多早期的投資者來了又走,只剩下股東們在1997年承受著負擔。

    Levies elsewhere have faced other hurdles. In 2006 Mongolia introduced a 68% charge on profits from copper and gold sales, hoping to cash in on a new mine during a commodity-price boom.

    其他地方的征稅也面臨著其他障礙。2006年,蒙古對銅和黃金銷售的利潤收取68%的費用,希望在大宗商品價格上漲期間從一座新礦中獲利。

    Instead, investors withheld funds for the project until regulators agreed to drop the tax. America’s tax did distort firms’ behaviour, by some estimates reducing oil production between 1980 and 1986 by up to 4.8%.

    現實卻恰恰相反,投資者扣留了該項目的資金,直到監管機構同意取消稅收。美國的稅收確實轉變了企業的行為,據估計,1980年至1986年間,美國的石油產量減少了4.8%。

    The European Commission’s plan has its flaws. It does not explain why the current situation warrants a one-off tax, adding uncertainty about when such levies might be used again.

    歐盟委員會的計劃有其缺陷。它沒有解釋為什么目前的情況需要征收一次性稅,這增加了何時可能再次使用這種稅收的不確定性。

    Furthermore, the energy industry buys and sells power using long-term contracts, making the link between today’s prices and tomorrow’s profits fuzzy.

    此外,能源行業使用的是長期合同進行電力買賣,所以當前價格和未來利潤之間的關系比較模糊。

    And prices can fall as quickly as they rise. By March 16th, for instance, the oil price was back to about $100 a barrel.

    價格下跌的速度和上漲的速度一樣快。例如,到3月16日,油價回到了每桶100美元左右。

    Recent experiments offer scant grounds for optimism. Romania, Italy and Spain are targeting renewable-power generators, which have not experienced the same increase in costs as generators that use fossil fuels.

    最近的實驗很難讓人樂觀。羅馬尼亞、意大利和西班牙正將目標瞄準可再生能源電力公司,因為這些電力公司的成本沒有像使用化石燃料的公司那樣上漲。

    Richard Howard of Aurora Energy, a consultancy, says that this raises the “risk premium” of investing in renewables—exactly what legislators want to avoid.

    咨詢公司Aurora Energy的理查德·霍華德說,這增加了投資可再生能源的“風險溢價”,而這正是立法者想要避免的。

    Peter Styles of the European Federation of Energy Traders, a trade body, notes that Spain’s scheme stops green-energy generators accruing excess profits to begin with, which will distort the way prices are set in the market.

    歐洲能源貿易聯合會(一個貿易團體)的彼得·斯泰爾斯指出,西班牙的計劃從一開始就阻止了綠色能源發電企業獲得超額利潤,這將改變市場定價的方式。

    Their momentum across Europe also creates a fiscal opening that may be hard to close. The commission recommends that all windfall taxes should be wound down by the end of June.

    歐洲的這種稅收勢頭也創造了一個難以停止的財政開放現象。歐洲委員會建議所有的意外利潤稅應該在六月底結束。

    But Spain has already extended its clawbacks once. And Italy’s measures will last until December.

    但西班牙已經將征稅款計劃延長了一次。意大利的稅收措施也將持續到12月。

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