Get Paid To Fix Your Broken Things — New Swedish Tax Breaks Support Repair
Sweden’s newly adopted tax break policy on repairs aims to push forward a circular economy mindset against the widespread throw-away consumer culture — By Lucie Venard.
When we find a hole in our otherwise good pair of shoes, how many of us take the time get them mended, or try to mend them ourselves?
The truth is, it’s much easier and faster to replace them than take the time to find a repair shop, or shoe cobbler, and get them fixed. Shoe repair shops seem like a relic from a bygone era, when resources were scarce and people had to make everything last as long as it could. But that past is not as far from us as we think. In fact, in this modern age, resources are scarcer than ever. So how do we put a stop to our wasteful practices? Well, in Sweden, there’s one new tactic currently being tested.
This January, Sweden decided to help its citizens become more sustainable by rewarding them for their repairing efforts, taking one more step towards a circular economy. The parliament adopted a 50% tax break for repairs on shoes, clothes and bicycles, and allows its citizens to claim back from income tax half the labour cost of appliance repair.
The set objective is clear: we need to reduce emissions linked to consumption, which are on the rise.
Through its policy, the government aims to change its citizen’s mindset from a buy-and-throw-away consumer culture to more sustainable behaviour — just like the old days. “Part of this is making it more affordable and economically rational to stop the buying and throwing away, instead repairing your goods and using them for a longer time”, explains Per Bolund, Minister of Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs.
This is not a mere gesture either: the tax breaks put in place can reduce the cost of repair by up to 87%. As such, it makes it worth buying better quality goods and repairing them for longer use.
Sweden’s tax break highlights how smart policy and government action hold the potential to help change consumer markets and promote a more sustainable economy.
Let’s go back to our broken pair of shoes: we would now have a good reason to bring them to a traditional repair shop. We could also bring them along to new neighbourhood repair cafés, where we could learn how to fix them ourselves with the help of skilled members. The expected rise in repairs is hoped to not only reduce consumption, but to also create new jobs and boost employment through a new home repair service industry.
Will this Really be Enough to make a Change?
But will this tax law really change our behaviour, when the products themselves are not designed to be easily fixed and are often designed to break? Can it compete with marketing campaigns that continue to incessantly promote the consumption of new, fashionable, desirable products?
We will need further policy that compels companies to design their products for longevity. This includes repair services for their customers (imagine a 10-year guarantee on your next pair of shoes, for example), or perhaps even shifting their business towards a Product As A Service model. This means you could be renting a new pair of shoes every month. Sounds strange? Well it’s happening already, with some companies leading the way.
Sweden’s tax break highlights how smart policy and government action have the potential to help change consumer markets and promote a more sustainable economy. However, we will have to wait and see whether this new policy will have an impact on consumer habits in the coming year, and if it will be enough to influence product and business design and bring a systemic shift toward the circular economy.
Our first guest blog is by Lucie Venard. Lucie Venard contributes as a freelance writer and volunteer worker for human and environmental causes she believes in — with Oxfam in Chad, Yalla! Pour les Enfants, Makesense in Lebanon, and The Green Exchange. She is a master graduate in International Development from the Paris School of Foreign Affairs.