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Good News For Electric Company Car Drivers as Tax Rate Drops to Zero

There are almost One Million people who drive company cars and the latest statement from HMRC about company tax rates is, for once highly positive!

The number of company car drivers in the UK has remained stable at around one million for many years, and despite some changes to the system for taxation it seems to be a trend which is likely to continue. However, the latest news from HMRC represents a double edged sword; bringing refreshing news for zero emissions drivers, but a raft of  painful tax increases for fossil fueled vehicles.

The government announced the latest rates for what is called the ‘Benefit in Kind’ tax. Which is payable by employees who receive benefits on top of their usual salary, for example a company car which is also available for private use. 

Understanding Benefit in Kind Taxation

The calculation of Benefit in Kind taxation can seem highly complex, the figures are mostly based on the CO2 emissions produced by the vehicle with the amount of CO2 produced per kilometre fitting into individual bands based on emission ranges. The amount paid by the individual is then determined by the list price of the car, combined with the employees personal tax rate. 

So for example the method for calculating the tax paid is as follows, here we will presume the purchase of a 3 Series BMW with a cost price of £30,000 and an emissions rate of 124g/Km CO2 for a higher rate tax payer:

Company Car List price£30,000
Multiply by the tax rate(120-124g/Km band) 28%
Multiple by your personal tax rate 40%
Annual Tax payment£3,360

This is an additional tax bill of almost £300 deducted from your pay packet every month, and this is for a relatively mid-range vehicle. It is not inconceivable to have a monthly tax bill of over £1,000 and the average fees for executive drivers is over £600 per month. £600 per month which could be saved instantly by switching to an electric vehicle. 

Considering The Environmental Impact of Motoring

Of course, as you would expect, with the environmental focus which is on the table the benefit in kind figures are mooted to increase for everything other than low and zero emissions vehicles. 

The latest announcement from HMRC is encouraging for electric vehicle drivers as the new benefit in kind rates for zero emission vehicles is 0%, reduced from 16% in the current tax year. 

This reduction marks a major drive to encourage zero emission fleets. As part of the announcement of the new benefit in kind rates the Government have stated that they “recognised the value of the company car market in supporting the transition to zero emission technology… By providing clarity of future appropriate percentages, businesses will have the ability to make more informed decisions about how they make the transition to zero emission fleets.”

The overall trend is that there are more electric vehicles within company fleets rather than domestically and the government is looking to this sizable market to encourage the take up of low and zero emission vehicles. 

Forecasting The Future

Of course, we stand waiting for the results of a snap election. The planned autumn statement which would have formally announced the benefit in kind rates for 2022/23 was cancelled. However, this does not mean that we should expect that the picture is likely to get any better for company car drivers who have not embraced low emission driving.

It has been clear from the manifestos of each of the major parties that, apart from the obvious machinations on Brexit, the environment is a major fighting ground and, with vehicle emissions being a major source of low level pollution has been seen to be a major area for discussion on the hustings.

Naturally the Green Party presents the strongest message related to the environment, with a pitch to ban the burning of fossil fuels by 2030, necessitating the full replacement of all petrol and diesel vehicles. Of course, it is simple to say that this is a pipe dream for a party which has failed to make any major inroads in mainstream politics. However, we are standing ready for a potential coalition government and it is foreseeable that the Green’s could play a part and cannot be discounted. Therefore, their influence could have major effects for fleet managers and a major encouragement to consider zero emission motoring.

The Labour Party have stated that, as a planet, “we stand on the brink of unstoppable change” and have also mooted “net zero” by 2030. The Liberal Democrats and SNP believe that a 2030 target is unachievable and state that 2045 is a more suitable date.

The Conservative party made a number of pledges also, sticking to a previously announced 2050 target for zero emissions.  

Overall, whether it is ten, twenty-five or thirty years away it is clear that there is a major drive to a zero emission environment. Whereas it cannot happen overnight the obvious path is for whichever Government comes into power to load tax on higher emissions vehicles, to both satisfy their environmental promises and recoup the reduction of tax revenue from the zero emission drivers.

It is clear that the money to support funding incentives for zero emissions vehicles has to come from somewhere, and there have been a lot of election promises which are putting demands on the collective kitty. It does not take an economic genius to guess that the rates for higher emission vehicles will therefore increase exponentially in Benefit in Kind as well as road tax, emissions charging, fuel excise and whatever new taxation they feel they can introduce to appease public opinion when it comes to environmental matters.

It is clear that, if one party comes into power there will be little sympathy for taxing higher rate taxpayers with their perceived ‘fat cat’ perks and ‘expensive motor cars’.  The pinch may be less if there is a more blue tint to the final government of the day however there is clear public pressure for whichever government to be seen to be making steps towards improving our shared environment.  Therefore, the writing is very clearly on the wall. 

The Bottom Line

For the foreseeable future you will need no crystal ball to tell you what will happen to drivers of mid and higher range emission vehicles. There will be an overall increase in costs, up to 37% in Benefit in Kind and it is unlikely to stop there.

Let’s put this into perspective with the cost of running both a petrol and electric vehicle for one month in Central London.

 PetrolEV
Benefit in Kind£600£0
Low Emissions Zone Charging£720£0
Congestion Charge£345£0
Vehicle Excise Fund£180£0
Fuel1,000 miles driven on average costs£410£20
Average Monthly Cost£2,255£20

That is a shocking reduction of £2,235 per month or £26,820 per year in costs. You may feel this is an extreme example and that there are lower costs outside of London, however the model shows that, however you drive, if it is not electric you will be paying more today and you will continue to pay more and more as we approach a zero emissions future.

It is no doubt that there is a war on motorists from both the government and environmentalists. Through no fault of drivers who have been brought up with fossil fueled vehicles and for whom there has not been a credible alternative. However the best advice is for both drivers and fleet managers is to change to electric now! 

We are at a stage where there are grants available for the purchase of vehicles and the installation of charging infrastructure, there are clear benefits in terms of costs and taxes as well as the obvious cost savings to be made for refueling and running costs. 

If you are looking at purchasing a new company car you would be foolish to not consider the benefits of electric.

For more information please contact us on 0141 280 8890 or at info@britetechnicalservices.co.uk

Comment (1)

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