From 6 April 2020, the way in which carbon dioxide emissions for cars are measured is changing – read more here.

Zero charge for zero emission cars

From 6 April 2020, the way in which carbon dioxide emissions for cars are measured is changing – moving from the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) (used for cars registered prior to 6 April 2020) to the Worldwide Light Testing Procedure (WLTP) for cars registered on or after 6 April 2020.

For an introductory period, the appropriate percentages for cars registered on or after 6 April 2020 are reduced – being two percentage points lower than cars with the same CO2 emissions registered prior to 6 April 2020 for 2020/21 and one percentage point lower for 2021/22. From 2022/23 the appropriate percentages are aligned regardless of which method is used to determine the emissions.

Zero emission cars

As part of the transition, the appropriate percentage for zero emission cars is reduced to 0% for 2020/21 and to 1% for 2021/22. This applies regardless of when the car was registered.

The charge was originally set at 2% for 2020/21 and 2021/22, and will revert to this level from 2022/23.

Impact

Electric company car drivers were already set to enjoy a tax reduction. The appropriate percentage for 2019/20 is 16% and was due to fall to 2% from 6 April 2020. However, the further reduction to 0% means that those who have opted for an electric company car can enjoy the benefit tax-free in 2020/21. Their employers will also be relieved of the associated Class 1A National Insurance charge.

Case study

Kim has an electric company car throughout 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22. The car has a list price of £32,000. Kim is a higher rate taxpayer.

In 2019/20, Kim is taxed on 16% of the list price – a taxable benefit of £5,120. As a higher rate taxpayer, the tax hit is £2,048 (40% of £5,120). Her employer must also pay Class 1 National Insurance of 13.8% on the taxable amount (£706.56).

In 2020/21, the appropriate percentage is 0% so there is no tax or Class 1A National Insurance to pay. This is a significant reduction compared to 2019/20.

In 2021/22, the charge is 1% of the list price, equal to £320, on which the tax is £128 (assuming a 40% tax rate) and the Class 1A National Insurance is £44.16.

From 2021/22 the charge is 2% of the list price – equal to £640.

Not quite zero emissions

It is also possible to enjoy a company car tax-free in 2020/21 if it is registered on or after 6 April 2020, has emissions of between 1 and 50g/km (measured under the WLTP) and an electric range of at least 130 miles.

Go electric

The benefits of choosing electric cars from a tax perspective, as well as from an environmental one, are significant.

Partner note: ITEPA 2003, s. 139, 139A (as to be amended/inserted in accordance with draft Finance Bill 2019 clauses (see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/taxable-benefits-and-rules-for-measuring-carbon-dioxide-emissions)).

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Government Incentives

Do you think electric cars are worth the tax-free benefits?

Electricity for electric cars – a tax-free benefit

The Government is keen to encourage drivers to make environmentally friendly choices when it comes to choosing a car. As far as the company car tax market is concerned, tax policy is used to drive behaviour, rewarding drivers choosing lower emission cars with a lower tax charge, while penalising those whose choices are less green.

The use of the tax system to nudge drivers towards embracing electric cars also applies in relation to the taxation of ‘fuel’. As a result, tax-free benefits on are offer to those drivers who choose to ‘go electric’.

Company car drivers

Electricity is not a ‘fuel’ for the purposes of the fuel benefit charge. This means that where an employee has an electric company car, the employer can meet the cost of all the electricity used in the car, including that for private journeys, without triggering a fuel benefit charge. This can offer significant savings when compared with the tax bill that would arise if the employer pays for the private fuel for a petrol or diesel car. However, it should be noted that a fuel charge may apply in relation to hybrid models.

Example

Maisy has an electric company car with a list price of £20,000. Her employer meets the cost of all electricity used in the car, including that for private motoring. As electricity is not a fuel for these purposes, there is no fuel benefit charge, and Maisy is enabled to enjoy her private motoring tax-free.

By way of comparison, the taxable benefit that would arise if the employer meets the cost of private motoring in a petrol or diesel company car with an appropriate percentage of 22% would be £5,302 (£24,100 @ 22%) for 2019/20. The associated tax bill would be £1,060.40 for a basic rate taxpayer and £2,120.80 for a higher rate taxpayer.

However, the rules do not mean that an employee loses out if they have an electric company car and initially meets the cost of electricity for business journeys and reclaim it from their employer. There is now an advisory fuel rate for electricity which allows employers to reimburse employees meeting the cost of electricity for business journeys at a rate of 4p per mile without triggering a tax bill. However, amounts in excess of 4p per mile will be chargeable.

Employees using their own cars

Currently, there is no separate rate for electric cars under the approved mileage payments scheme. This means that the usual rates apply where an employee uses his or her own electric car for business. Consequently, the employer can pay up to 45p per mile for the first 10,000 business miles in the year and 25p per mile for subsequent business miles tax-free. If the employer pays less than this, the employee can claim a deduction for the shortfall. Payments in excess of the approved amounts are taxable.

Employees with their own electric cars can also enjoy the benefit of tax-free electricity for private motoring – but only if they charge their car using a charging point provided by their employer at or near their place of work. The exemption also applies to cars in which the employee is a passenger, so would apply, for example, if an employee’s spouse drove the employee to work, charging their car when dropping the employee off or picking the employee up.

Partner note: ITEPA 2003, ss. 149, 237A; www.gov.uk/government/publications/advisory-fuel-rates/advisory-fuel-rates-from-1-march-2016

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