There are five conditions that need to be met to get the tax benefits of a pool car.

When is a car a pool car?

Rather than allocating specific cars to particular employees, some employers find it preferable to operate a carpool and have a number of cars available for use by employees when they need to undertake a business journey. From a tax perspective, provided that certain conditions are met, no benefit in kind tax charge will arise where an employee makes use of a pool car.

The conditions

There are five conditions that must be met for a car to be treated as a pool car for tax purposes.

  1. The car is made available to, and actually is used by, more than one employee.
  2. In each case, it is made available by reason of the employee’s employment.
  3. The car is not ordinarily used by one employee to the exclusion of the others.
  4. In each case, any private use by the employee is merely incidental to the employee’s business use of the car.
  5. The car is not normally kept overnight on or in the vicinity of any of the residential premises where any of the employees was residing (subject to an exception if kept overnight on premises occupied by the person making the cars available).

The tax exemption only applies if all five conditions are met.

When private use is ‘merely incidental’

To meet the definition of a pool car, the car should only be available for genuine business use. However, in deciding whether this test is met, private use is disregarded as long as that private use is ‘merely incidental’ to the employee’s business use of the car.

HMRC regard the test as being a qualitative rather than a quantitative test. It does not refer to the actual private mileage, rather the private element in the context of the journey as a whole. For example, if an employee is required to make a long business journey and takes the car home the previous evening in order to get an early start, the private use comprising the journey from work to home the previous evening would be regarded as ‘merely incidental’. The car is taken home to facilitate the business journey the following day.

Kept overnight at employee’s homes – the 60% test

For a car to meet the definition of a pool car, it must not normally be kept overnight at employees’ homes. In deciding whether this test is met, HMRC apply a rule of thumb – as long as the total number of nights on which a car is taken home by employees, for whatever reason, is less than 60% of the total number of nights in the period, HMRC accept that the condition is met.

When a benefit in kind tax charge arises

If the car does not meet the definition of a pool car and is made available for the employee’s private use, a tax charge will arise under the company car tax rules.

Partner note: ITEPA 2003, s. 167.

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A quick summary of the new tax bands for CO2 car emissions which will be introduced from April next year:

Are low emissions cars tax efficient?

Significant changes are being made from 2020-21 to the company car tax benefits-in-kind bands affecting ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs).

The taxable benefit arising on a car is calculated using the car’s full manufacturer’s published UK list price, including the full value of any accessories. This figure is then multiplied by the ‘appropriate percentage’, which can be found by reference to the car’s CO2 emissions level. This will give the taxable value of the car benefit. The employee pays income tax on the final figure at their appropriate tax rate: 20% for basic rate taxpayers, 40% for higher rate taxpayers and 45% for additional rate taxpayers. This formula means that in general terms, the lower the C02 emissions of the car, the lower the resulting tax charge will be.

For 2019-20, the appropriate percentage for cars (whether fully electric or not) is 16% for those emitting 50g/km CO2 or below, and 19% for those emitting CO2 of between 51 and 75g/km. This means that the taxable benefit arising on a zero-emissions car costing, say £30,000 is £4,800, with tax payable of £960 for a basic rate taxpayer – for a higher rate taxpayer this equates to tax payable of £1,920

By way of comparison, a 2001cc petrol-engine car with a list price of £30,000, will attract an appropriate percentage of 37% in 2019-20. This equates to a taxable benefit charge of £11,100, and a liability of £2,220 a year for a basic rate taxpayer.

New bands

In April 2020, new ULEV rates will be introduced, and the most tax efficient cars will be those with CO2 emissions below 50g/km. There will also be additional financial incentives for electric only cars

From 2020-21, five new bandings are being introduced for full and hybrid electric cars. Fully electric (zero emissions) cars will attract an appropriate percentage of just 2%. This means that the tax benefit arising on an electric car costing say, £30,000 will be just £600. The resulting tax payable by a basic rate taxpayer will be £120 a year and £240 for a higher rate taxpayer.

For cars emitting CO2 of between 1 and 50g/km, the appropriate percentage will depend on the car’s electric range figure:

Mileage Percentage
130 miles or more  2%
70 – 129 miles 5%
40-69 miles 8%
30-39 miles 12%
Less than 30 miles 14%

ULEVs with CO2 emissions of between 50g-74g/km CO2 will be on a graduated scale from 15% to 19% (as is currently the case, diesel-only vehicles will continue to attract a further 4% surcharge) as follows:

CO2 emissions Percentage
51 to 54g/km 15%
55 to 59g/km 16%
60 to 64g/km 17%
65 to 69g/km 18%
70 to 74g/km 19%
75 or more 20%
Plus 1% per 5g/km
Up to a maximum 37%

Whilst the journey towards ‘greener’ driving has been, and continues to be, a rocky one, in 2014/15 a sub-130g/km petrol car was considered green enough to merit an 18% appropriate percentage. However, by 2020/21, the appropriate percentage on such a car will have risen to 30%. A sub-100g/km band car that was only subject to a 12% charge in 2014/15 will also have risen to 24% by 2020/21. On the other hand, clean air all-electric cars will finally plummet to 2% under the new company car tax incentives from April 2020.

The incentives in the new tax bands are clearly designed to encourage ULEVs as a company car driver’s car of choice, and with around 1 million company car drivers in the UK, this benefit is likely to remain one of the most popular and potent perks of a job.

Partner Note: ITEPA 2003, ss 139-142; Finance Act (2) Part 1 s2

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PAYE settlement agreements

A PAYE Settlement Agreement (PSA) enables the employer to pay the tax and National Insurance instead of the employee on those benefits and expenses included within the PSA. This can be useful to preserve the beneficial nature of the benefit, for example in respect of a Christmas or other function falling outside the associated exemption, or where the effort involved in reporting the benefit on individual employees’ P11Ds is disproportionate to the amount involved.

What can a PSA be used for?

A PSA cannot be used for all benefits – only for those which fall into one of the following three categories:

  • minor benefits and expenses – such as telephone bills, incentive awards outside the scope of the exemption and similar
  • irregular items – such a relocation expenses or the occasional use of a company flat
  • impracticable expenses and benefits in respect of which it is difficult to place a value on or to divide up between individual employees – such as staff entertainment or shared cars

A PSA cannot be used for cash payments or for high-value items such as company cars.

Items falling within the scope of the trivial benefits exemption can simply be ignored for tax and National Insurance purposes – they should not need to be included in a PSA.

Setting up and checking a PSA

To set up a new PSA, the employer should write to HMRC setting out the benefits and expenses to be included within the PSA. Once HMRC have agreed the PSA, they will send two draft copies of form P626. Both copies should be signed and returned to HMRC. HMRC will authorise the PSA and send a form back – this will form the PSA.

A new PSA must be agreed by 6 July following the end of the tax year for which it is to have effect.

A PSA is an enduring agreement. Once it has been set up it remains in place until revoked by either the employer or HMRC. Employers should check that an existing PSAs remain valid.

Impact of a PSA

Where a PSA is in place, the employee does not pay tax on any benefits included within the PSA – instead the employer meets the liability on the employee’s behalf. Also, there is no need to report benefits included in the PSA on the employee’s P11D, or to payroll them.

Instead the employer pays tax on the items included within the PSA grossed up at the employees’ marginal rates of tax. For Scottish taxpayers, the relevant Scottish rate of income tax should be used in the calculation.

As far as National Insurance is concerned, Class 1B contributions, which are employer-only contributions are payable at a rate of 13.8% in place of the Class 1 or Class 1A liability that would otherwise arise. Class 1B contributions are also due on the tax paid under the PSA (as the tax paid on behalf of employees is also a taxable benefit).

Settling the PSA

Form PSA1 should be used to calculate the amount of tax and Class 1B National Insurance due under the PSA. This should be sent to HMRC after the end of the tax year. The tax and Class 1B National Insurance must be paid by 22 October after the end of the tax year where payment is made electronically or by the earlier date of 19 October where payment is made by cheque.

Partner note: ITEPA 2003, s. 703 — 707;Income Tax (Pay As You Earn) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2682), regs. 105 – 117; Statement of Practice SP5/96.

Reporting expenses and benefits for 2018/19

Where employees were provided with taxable benefits and expenses in 2018/19, these must be notified to HMRC.

The reporting requirements depend on whether the benefits were payrolled or not.

Benefits not payrolled

Taxable benefits that were not payrolled in 2018/19 must be reported to HMRC on form P11D. There is no need to include benefits covered by an exemption (although take care where provision is made via an optional remuneration arrangement (OpRA)) or those included within a PAYE Settlement Agreement. Paid and reimbursed expenses can be ignored to the extent that they would be deductible if the employee met cost, as these fall within the statutory exemption for paid and reimbursed expenses.

The value that must be reported on the P11D depends on whether the benefit is provided via an OpRA, such as a salary sacrifice scheme. Where the benefit is provided other than via an OpRA, the taxable amount is the cash equivalent value. Where specific rules apply to determine the cash equivalent value for a particular benefit, such as those applying to company cars, employment-related loans, living accommodation, etc., those rules should be used. Where there is no specific rule, the general rule – cost to the employer less any amount made good by the employee – applies.

Where provision is made via an OpRA, and the benefit is not one to which the alternative valuation rules do not apply, namely:

  • payments into pension schemes
  • employer provided pension advice
  • childcare vouchers, workplace nurseries and directly contracted employer-provided childcare
  • bicycles and cycling safety equipment, including cycle to work schemes
  • low emission cars (Co2 emissions 75g/km or less)

the taxable amount is the relevant amount. This is the higher of the cash equivalent under the usual rules and the salary foregone or cash alternative offered. The taxable amount is the cash equivalent value where the benefit falls outside the alternative valuation rules.

Payrolled benefits

Payrolled benefits should not be included on the P11D but must be taken into account in calculating the Class 1A National Insurance liability on form P11D(b).

P11D(b)

Form P11D(b) must be filed regardless of whether benefits are payrolled or notified to HMRC on form P11D. The P11D(b) is the Class 1A return, as well as the employer’s declaration that all required P11Ds have been submitted.

Paper or online

There are various ways in which forms P11D and P11D(b) can be filed. The simplest is to use HMRC’s online end of year expenses and benefits service or HMRC’s PAYE Online for employers service. Forms can also be filed using commercial software packages.

There is no requirement to file P11Ds and P11D(b)s online – paper forms can be filed if preferred.

Deadline

Regardless of the submission methods, forms P11D and P11D(b) for 2018/19 must reach HMRC by 6 July 2019. Employees must be given a copy of their P11D (or details of the information contained therein) by the same date. Details of payrolled benefits must be notified to employees by the earlier date of 31 May 2019.

Class 1A National Insurance must be paid by 22 July where paid electronically, or by 19 July where payment is made by cheque.

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