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Chapter 2: Submitting Returns and Paying the Levy

This chapter provides information that all operators need to know:

  • How to get the information you need to complete a return, and when and how to submit it.

  • How to pay, when to pay, and what happens if you don’t pay on time.

It also covers specific information about submitting monthly and annual returns.

Getting started

After 1 July 2009 you will need to go through the registration process if you are:

  • operating a disposal facility
  • opening a new disposal facility
  • taking over the operation of an existing facility

  • changing the type of waste accepted at an existing facility so that it now comes within the definition of a disposal facility in the Act
  • operating a facility that is prescribed as a disposal facility in regulations.

We suggest that if any of these circumstances apply, you should contact us as soon as possible – preferably before you begin disposing of waste.

If you are an existing operator and nobody has contacted you by 1 July 2009, or you become liable for the levy after that date, contact us on 0800 WDLEVY (0800 935389) or email info@wastelevy.govt.nz to begin the registration process.

Registering for the online waste levy system

Once you have contacted us, you will be given access to the Online Waste Levy System (OWLS). This is a secure website. The only people who can access your information are people you authorise, and Ministry for the Environment staff or contractors authorised to administer the levy. User accounts will be set giving your people permission to:

  • enter and view data

  • confirm a return is correct

  • submit returns.

To maintain security, we will use information you provide when setting up your user accounts to verify your identity when you call us.

Once you are registered, you will need to tell us how you measure or assess waste. If you want to use an alternative method to weighing or measuring every load, you may need to get approval for that method (this is explained in chapter 5).

We will agree a payment method with you, preferably by electronic funds transfer, and give you the details you need to include with your payment.

Setting up new staff for the online waste levy system

If you have new staff that need access to the Online Waste Levy System (OWLS) they will need to be registered.  We suggest you call or email the Ministry for the Environment Levy Administrator and Levy Collector on 0800 WDLEVY (0800 935389) or email  info@wastelevy.govt.nz.

Calculating the amount of waste subject to the levy

What do I pay the levy on?

The levy is set at a rate of $10 per tonne (excluding GST), and is payable on the net tonnage of waste disposed of at a waste disposal facility. Even if only part of the material is household waste, the levy is payable on all waste disposed of at a disposal facility.

How do I calculate the net tonnage?

The net tonnage is simply the ‘gross tonnage’ less the ‘diverted tonnage’. Note that diverted tonnage must only include waste or diverted material that has previously been measured as part of the gross tonnage.

Formula 1: Net tonnage

gross tonnage - diverted tonnage = net tonnage

Gross tonnage - Diverted tonnage = Net tonnage

How do I calculate the gross tonnage?

The gross tonnage is the total tonnage that enters the disposal facility – both waste and diverted tonnage (that is, diverted material that is weighed as part of gross tonnage on entering the facility)  . Chapter 5 gives detailed advice on how to measure these tonnages.

If there is a compliant and functioning weighbridge at the disposal facility, you must use it to measure gross tonnage, unless you have approval to use an average tonnage system (average weight per vehicle) method.

If the facility does not have a weighbridge, you can:

  • use a compliant weighbridge located off site, or
  • measure the volume of waste and diverted material arriving at the facility and use an approved conversion factor to convert the volume to equivalent tonnage (conversion factors are listed in appendix 3).

If you have access to a compliant weighbridge (on or off site), you can apply to use an average tonnage system for light vehicles and trailers, using an approved method. You can also apply for approval to use an average weight method based on assessment of the volume and use of conversion factors. This is explained in more detail in chapter 5.

Operators approved to submit annual returns can use alternative methods of assessing tonnage, as set out in chapter 5.

How do I calculate the diverted tonnage?

The diverted tonnage is the tonnage of material that is reused or recycled at the disposal facility, or removed from the disposal facility within six months. The Secretary for the Environment can agree in writing to extend this timeframe (see chapter 4).

You can only include material in your diverted tonnage figure if you previously recorded the material as gross tonnage.

Note that diverted tonnage includes material removed from the site for treatment or disposal elsewhere.

Diverted tonnage must be weighed using a compliant weighbridge, or a conversion factor must be used to convert the measured or estimated volume into weight.

Does the levy apply to liquid waste?

Yes – gross tonnage applies to both liquid and solid waste or material. It is based on the weight of waste or material in the vehicle or container at the time it is weighed at a disposal facility, irrespective of whether it is liquid or solid waste.

Do I have to weigh loads of diverted materials arriving at the site?

No – you don’t have to weigh waste or diverted material if it is immediately separated out for reuse, recycling or removal after entering the facility – as long as it would have been measured as diverted tonnage and has not been included as part of your gross and diverted  tonnage figures in your monthly return. This provision applies where material is delivered to a separate drop-off area at the facility and then re-used or recycled without being weighed in to the landfill. For example, used clothing bins or a drop off area for saleable goods located ‘at the facility’, but before the weighbridge.

What if I need to store material for longer than six months?

Material that was weighed as ‘gross tonnage’ when it arrived at the landfill, but was removed for recycling or further processing within six months of that date, can be included in ‘diverted tonnage’.
Any waste or diverted material planned for reuse, recycling, removal or further processing will become subject to the levy after six months. If you need to continue storing the material beyond the six month limit you must apply to the Secretary for an extension, please refer to chapter 4 for further detail on applications.

Submitting a return

Who needs to submit a return?

All disposal facility operators must submit returns to the levy collector. The default position is submitting monthly returns, but operators of small facilities (no more than 1000 tonnes of waste deposited per year) can apply to submit returns annually (more information on this is provided in chapter 3).

What information will I need for my return?

Monthly returns must contain the:

  • name and site number (if applicable) of your facility
  • name, contact details and client number (if applicable) of the ‘operator’
  • name and contact details of the person who prepared the return (unless it was the operator)
  • month and year for which the information is being provided
  • gross tonnage for the month
  • diverted tonnage for the month

The requirements for annual returns are discussed in chapter 3.

Returns will cover the entire month’s or year’s tonnage – you do not need to break the information down to a daily tonnage for the purposes of the return. You will, however, need to keep records of the individual measurements you use to get your gross and diverted tonnages – see chapter 6 for more details.

When are returns due?

Monthly returns are due on the 20th of the month after waste has been deposited.

For example, your monthly return would have been due on 20 August 2009, for waste deposited in July 2009.

Actual annual returns are due on or before 20 July, for waste deposited in the preceding financial year.

If you wish to continue providing annual returns, each year you must submit an application to do so, and provide an ‘expected net tonnage’ for the coming year. Your application is due on 20 July at the beginning of each financial year. See chapter 3 for more information.

Do I need to report cover material used at a disposal facility?

Cover material is an important component of a modern disposal facility.  To better understand the use and source of cover material at disposal facilities and to help inform further policy work, the Online Waste Levy System (OWLS) now contains a voluntary reporting screen for cover material. 

While the return submission itself is mandatory, the cover material component is voluntary. Collecting this data will help us better understand the source and use of cover material at disposal facilities.

Please note that if any of the cover material used at your facility is liable for the levy, then you must also include that cover material as ‘gross tonnage’ in your return. The levy applies to material or waste that is disposed of or discarded at the facility.

The information requested in OWLS includes:

  • Where your disposal facility sources its cover material. Is it sourced on-site, (e.g. from quarrying activities), off-site, (e.g. from customers), or is it a mix of the two?
  • The quantities of cover material sourced on-site and off-site.
  • The types of cover material your disposal facility uses.

We realise that cover material sourced on-site may be difficult to weigh, particularly if there are large distances between where the material is sourced and your weighbridge.  Furthermore, some facilities do not have a weighbridge.  We would therefore recommend that you develop a practical solution for estimating on-site quantities.  For example, estimating volumes as accurately as possible and using a conversion factor to calculate the weight.  Conversion factors are discussed further in chapter 5 of this guide.

For cover material sourced off-site, particularly where your disposal facility has a weighbridge, actual weights should be provided.

How do I submit a return?

Returns are submitted in writing or electronically via the Online Waste Levy System (OWLS): www.wastelevy.govt.nz

This is a secure website with a login name and password required for access. We will ensure all operators of liable disposal facilities are set up with a user identity and password to access the secure site.

All disposal facility operators must declare that the information on the returns is correct. This declaration is to be made by the operator or a person authorised to act on behalf of the operator. Some facilities may want to set up a formal internal process that ensures that information entered on the return is accurate (see example 1 below). The levy system helps you do this by allowing multiple levels of authorisation at a facility.

Example 1: Internal validation process

Operators can have a dual process where:

  • one staff member inputs the data fields required on the website. This person’s access allows them to input the required figures

  • another person, preferably at managerial level with appropriate delegated authority, checks the return for accuracy and then authorises the return to be sent to the levy collector.

What if my tonnages are significantly different from my usual return?

Any time you make an unusual or atypical entry on your return (for instance, the monthly tonnage is significantly different from previous months), the system will prompt you for an explanation.  Your explanation should be as detailed as possible and outline why your return has varied from previous months.  If you have made a mistake, this is your opportunity to correct it before submitting the return.

The levy collector will note your explanation, and may contact you for further clarification. If not satisfied that the information is correct or complete, the levy collector may issue an estimate instead (see later in this chapter for what an ‘estimate’ is).

What happens if I make a mistake?

If you discover that you have made a mistake in calculating the tonnages after you have submitted your return, or have entered incorrect information, you can supply the levy collector with updated figures. Your account may be debited or credited based on your updated figures.

Can I submit a paper return?

The collection, calculation and payment of the waste disposal levy is designed to operate almost exclusively electronically, via the Online Waste Levy System (OWLS): www.wastelevy.govt.nz. This helps us keep administration costs as low as possible, and it means you will be able to access your previous returns and other information online. Electronic returns are preferred. If you submit a paper return, an authorised person must sign the return and make a declaration that they believe the information is correct.

Can I get an extension of time to submit my return?

If you submit monthly returns and cannot send your return on time due to unusual circumstances, you can apply for an extension of up to one month. If you submit annual returns, you cannot apply for an extension.

You must send your application to the levy collector no later than 15 days before the return is due. To assess your application, the levy collector will need the:

  • name and site number (if applicable) of the disposal facility

  • full name, contact details and client number (if applicable) of the operator

  • full name and contact details of the person submitting the application

  • levy return the application relates to

  • reason why you are unable to submit the return on time.

The levy collector assesses applications on a case-by-case basis. Extensions will be granted at the levy collector’s discretion, and on any terms and conditions the levy collector imposes.

The levy collector will notify you in writing of the decision at least five days before the return is due. If an extension is granted, you cannot apply for a further extension for the same return, and it does not extend the date payment is required.

If an extension is not granted, you will be expected to submit a return on the due date. If this does not happen, the estimate process will be followed (see below).

Example 2: Application for extension of time to submit a return

Example 2: Application for extension of time to submit a return

This diagram explains the process for getting a time extension to submit a return.

  1. If waste is deposited from 1 July to 31 July.
  2. By 5 August, waste disposal operator needs to submit an application to the levy collector for an extension of time to submit the July levy return
  3. By 15 August, levy collector assesses the application and notifies the operator in writing of their decision.
    a.       If the application on is approved the levy return will be given a date of return by the levy collector
    b.      If the application is declined, the due date would be 20 August
  4. All late returns will result in the levy collector issuing an estimate which will become the amount payable as governed under section 34 of the Act.

What happens if I don’t submit a return?

If you don’t provide an annual or monthly return by the due date, or if the levy collector considers your return is incomplete or incorrect, then the amount of levy payable will be estimated and you may be sent an invoice and written demand.

How is an estimate calculated?

The method used to estimate your levy will depend on how much information we have about your facility, gathered from your previous returns. If there isn’t enough information from previous returns to base an estimate on, the levy collector will use other information, such as surveys of landfill sites, resource consent terms and conditions, and the number of people and businesses using your facility.

We strongly encourage you to submit your returns so you pay the correct amount of levy.

Your information will allow us to keep an accurate record of waste being disposed of or discarded, which is important to support our efforts to minimise waste.

What is the process for issuing an estimate?

The levy collector uses a two-step process when issuing an estimate:

Initial estimate

If you do not submit a complete and accurate return, then five days after the return was due you will be issued an initial estimate. When you receive this, you can provide us with further information. If your additional information is deemed correct, the final estimate and invoice will be based on it.

Final estimate

The final estimate will be issued 15 days after the due date for the return (about the 5th of the following month), whether or not you submit any further information. The final estimate is the amount that you must pay by the due date.

Example 3: Estimates timeline

Waste deposited from 1–31 July
Date Action
20 August Either no return is received from the disposal facility operator, or the return received is deemed not to be a fair assessment of the levy due.
25 August The levy collector issues an initial estimate.
25 August–3 September The operator may provide additional information to the levy collector.
4 September The levy collector issues the final estimate and invoice for the amount payable.
20 October The payment is due to the levy collector.

Paying the levy

How do I know how much to pay?

After you have submitted your return you will receive an invoice setting out the amount of levy payable. If the invoice is based on a final estimate, it is the amount payable and you have no opportunity to have the estimate changed.  If you have any question please call or email the Ministry for the Environment Levy Administrator and Levy Collector on 0800 WDLEVY (0800 935389) or email  info@wastelevy.govt.nz.

When will I get the invoice?

You will receive an invoice every month, whether you submit monthly or annual returns. If you submit monthly returns, invoices will be sent by the 15th day after the day the return is due, and will apply to waste deposited over the previous two months.  For example, an invoice sent on 1 September will relate to a return submitted on 20 August for waste deposited in July. The payment for waste deposited in July is due, at the latest by 20 October.  While invoices issued in October will display waste deposited in both July and August.

If you submit annual returns, you will receive an invoice by the 5th day of the second month after the month for which the levy is payable. For example, for waste disposed of in July you will receive an invoice by 5 September.

The invoice will be sent to the email address of the person you have designated as your ‘finance contact’. If there is no finance contact designated, it will go to the email address you have designated for your ‘verifier’.

How do I pay the levy?

You can pay the levy to the levy collector either by bank transfer, cheque, or other method, as agreed with the levy collector when you register as an operator (see “Getting Started” on page 4). Electronic payment and in particular, direct debit is preferred. The bank account number and postal address are on the invoice.

You must make sure that your payment is received on or before the due date.

For all payments, please ensure your operator number is recorded with the payment.

To set up direct debit for your facility call or email the Ministry for the Environment Levy Administrator and Levy Collector on 0800 WDLEVY (0800 935389) or email  info@wastelevy.govt.nz.

Once the direct debit has been set up, the amount due on your waste levy statement will be automatically debited from your nominated bank account on the due date (or first working day after the due date).

When are payments due?

Payments are due on the 20th of the third month after the month waste has been deposited. For example, the levy for waste deposited in July must be paid by 20 October.

Operators of smaller disposal facilities submitting annual returns must still pay monthly (this is further explained in chapter 3).

Can I get more time to pay the levy?

If you cannot pay the levy on time due to unusual circumstances, you can apply to the levy collector for an extension. Extensions will be for no more than one month.

You must send the application to the levy collector no later than 15 days before payment is due. To process the application, we will need the:

  • name and site number (if applicable) of the disposal facility

  • full name, contact details and client number (if applicable) of the operator

  • full name and contact details of the person submitting the application

  • levy payment the application relates to

  • reason why you are unable to pay the levy in time.

The levy collector assesses applications on a case-by-case basis. Extensions will be granted at the levy collector’s discretion, and on any terms and conditions the levy collector sees fit. It is not anticipated that extensions will be granted routinely.

The levy collector will notify you of the decision in writing at least five days before the payment is due. If an extension is granted, you will be advised of a new date for payment. You cannot apply for a further extension for the same payment. If an extension is not granted, you must pay the levy on the due date.

If you do not pay on the original or extended due date, normal interest charges will apply, and debt recovery procedures will be followed.

Example 4: Application for an extension of time to pay the levy

Example 4: Application for an extension of time to pay the levy

This diagram shows the process for getting a time extension to pay the levy.

  1. If waste is deposited from 1 July to 31 July.
  2. By 5 August, waste disposal operator needs to submit an application to the levy collector for an extension of time to pay the levy invoice
  3. By 15 August, levy collector assesses the application and notifies the operator in writing of their decision.
    a.       If the application on is approved the levy payment is will be given a date by the levy collector
    b.      If the application is declined, the due date would be 20 October
  4. All late payments will incur interest at the prescribed rate.

Will I be charged interest if I don’t pay the levy?

Interest is due on the levy the day after payment was due. Interest is calculated daily (currently at the rate of 7.5% a year), using simple interest – that is, interest will not be due on the interest. If you have been granted an extension of time to pay the levy, you will be charged interest if you do not pay by the new due date.

The invoices and statements issued to you will show any outstanding debt and interest to
be paid.

What happens if I don’t pay the levy?

All outstanding levies are a debt that you are liable to pay. We will use debt collection procedures to recover outstanding debt.

Does GST apply to the levy?

Goods and Services Tax (GST) is payable on the waste disposal levy.

What happens if I pay the wrong amount?

We can, in certain circumstances, make corrections to the amount a disposal facility operator has been invoiced. This can arise where the operator was invoiced for an incorrect amount, information in the operator’s return was incorrect, or we miscalculated the levy payable.

In this case, a credit or debit balance will appear on your next invoice and this will reduce or increase the amount of levy money payable in the following month.

Closing up or selling

If you are selling, otherwise transferring ownership, or closing your facility, you are required to give written notice of the date you will stop being the facility’s operator. This notice must be sent to us at least 10 days before the facility is closed or sold. To obtain a closure form, contact us on 0800 WDLEVY (0800 935389) or email: info@wastelevy.govt.nz

If you are closing the facility, you will need to send the levy collector a return for the final month of operation. The levy collector will then send you a final invoice.

If you are selling the facility, or for some other reason you cease to be the operator of the facility, you will need to send a final return for the last complete month during which you were the operator of the facility. The levy collector will also need to know who the new operator is, so that they can be set up in the Online Waste Levy System (OWLS).

The new operator will be responsible for the whole of the first month in which they took over the facility. If you operated the facility for part of the month you will need to provide the new operator with records of all waste deposited during that time (or you can provide the information directly to us).

Passing on the levy to your customers

If you decide to pass on the levy to customers, you do not need to show it as a separate item on the customer’s invoice. However, if you do, the levy rate should be no more than $10 (plus GST) per tonne. If the rate is higher, you could be in breach of the Fair Trading Act 1987, which prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct in trade and other unfair business practices.