More than half a million euros. It is the amount that the Treasury claims to the Operator of the Organized Gas Market in the Iberian Peninsula (Mibgas) for the VAT of 2018, an exercise in which this company that finances consumers through the gas tariff still had as president Antonio Erias, former deputy of the PP.
Erias was placed by the Government of his friend Mariano Rajoy in that position when Mibgas was created, whose references allow to estimate the wholesale price of this raw material in Spain, protagonist for its determining effect on the successive records of the light of this 2021 because of the design of the wholesale electricity market.
The conflict with the Treasury starts a month after the dismissal of Erias, on March 22, 2019. The Treasury initiated an inspection on the VAT of the 2018 financial year relating to the remuneration received by Mibgas from the National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC).
“The Tax Agency considers that the aforementioned remuneration, being a consideration for the provision of subject services, constitutes a taxable base for VAT and, therefore, the Company should have declared the aforementioned amount,” explains Mibgas in its accounts, accessible through Insight View.
In December 2019, and “after receiving the settlement agreement for an amount of 554 thousand euros, the Company filed an appeal for reconsideration, which was dismissed on 16 January 2020”.
Mibgas appealed the settlement before the Regional Economic Administrative Court (TEAR) of Madrid on February 7, 2020, and has maintained that criterion with the VAT after the departure of Erias and the arrival of its current president, Raúl Yunta.
This has led to another inspection and the signing, on January 14, of a new Act of Disconformity, with another fee to enter 301,903 euros.
“The company’s auditors are aware of both inspection procedures and do not consider the existence of a risk for the company and its accounts,” said Mibgas sources. In fact, the operator has not recorded any provision for these lawsuits. It considers that “there is a high probability of success in the appeal filed”.
Its criterion is supported by a consultation raised by the CNMC before the Directorate General of Taxes (DGT), which issued its conclusion on February 6, 2020, the eve of the filing of that first appeal before the TEAR. According to Mibgas, it “confirms” that the amounts it receives from the CNMC “do not determine the existence of a legal relationship between it and the organised gas market operator”.
Both “reciprocal benefits are exchanged”, so, he says, the Tax Department “concludes that the amounts received from the CNMC do not constitute the consideration for any transaction subject to VAT and that their receipt will not be subject to VAT”.
From the seat to the council
Erias, Professor of Applied Economics at the University of A Coruña, landed in Mibgas in 2015 from Congress. There he was for years spokesman for Energy of the PP, after being a councilman in A Coruña and vice president of the provincial council. He ceased leaving the operator in losses after guaranteeing himself a compensation of 724,000 euros for his dismissal, lower than his claims and additional to his more than 400,000 euros gross annual salary.
In total, Erias received about 2.4 million for his services in the company during a mandate in which the CNMC would drastically adjust downwards the remuneration of Mibgas. In a harsh report, the agency questioned its high staff costs, with an average cost per employee “higher than the rest of regulated companies that perform similar or comparable activities” (REE, the electricity market operator OMIE and Enagás).
Competition forced to leave out of the items subject to regulated remuneration (charged to the consumer) the allowances of the directors of Mibgas and the amortizations derived from one of the first decisions of Erias when he arrived at the company: to buy a car valued at about 62,000 euros.
Like its largest shareholder, the Operador del Mercado Ibérico de Energía (the entity that sets daily electricity prices), Mibgas is privately owned. Its shareholders are Omel (32.13%), its Portuguese equivalent OMIP (10%), Enagás (13.3%), the Portuguese company REN, companies from the electricity and oil sectors and some financial institutions, among others. It is financed by the users (through the gas bill) and the Secretary of State for Energy plays a decisive role in the company, which must approve the appointment of its head.
Since the arrival of its current president, Mibgas has been gaining prominence as a platform for gas trading in the Iberian market, managing 20.4% of demand up to September, 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh). Under Erias, this percentage never exceeded 10%.
Its daily price references, which have soared in recent months due to the global energy crisis, although last Friday, despite the closure of one of the two Algeria-Spain gas pipelines, fell by more than 12% and the European TTF reference marked its lowest level in two months, in view of the expectation of more deliveries of Russian gas from November onwards. Mibgas prices have been used to calculate the cut in the remuneration of electricity companies approved in September due to the effect of the exponential rise in gas prices in the electricity pool. A severe adjustment that the Government has just corrected by exempting bilateral contracts to try to guarantee “reasonable” prices to the industry, in the words of the third vice-president, Teresa Ribera.