Company Vans - What To Know And Expect From The HMRC

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Here is what you need to know and expect when it comes to the HMRC and the tax on driving a company van. 

A Company Van (LCV) is used to carry loads with a maximum weight capacity of 3500kg, not including Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV). Company vans are available to employees and are purchased or leased by the company (drivers do not own the vans).

Do I have to pay tax on company van?

Employees are liable to pay tax on all private journeys which are considered as ‘significant private use’ - these being trips used by the employee for their own personal benefit, normally regular trips. If the company provides the employee with the benefit of personal use, unless tax is paid for the trips taken in the van, then it is not allowed.

Examples of significant private use provided by the HMRC:

  • Regularly taking the van to a local supermarket

  • Using the van for annual holidays

  • Using the van outside of work for social activity

Employees do not have to pay tax on any journeys which are considered as ‘insignificant private use’ - considered a very rare trip which would not be conducted regularly by the employee. (Journeys that would last for very short periods and at very odd occasions of the year).

Examples of insignificant private use provided by the HMRC:

  • Taking an old mattress to the tip a couple of times within a year

  • Regularly making a small detour to purchase a newspaper at a local newsagent on the way to work

  • Checking in at the dentist on the way home from work. Situations do arise where the HMRC conduct regular audits on companies all over the UK

But how can you prove a trip to the shop was insignificant? The difference between these two trips would be purely from a HMRC compliance perspective - a driver's personal situation will not be taken into account.  

HMRC compliance inspectors regularly check registration numbers of vans that they find parked in supermarket car parks (especially on weekends). A DVLA search is then performed to see who and where the van is registered to. If the registered keeper of the van is a company, then checks are made as to whether or not any associated company van benefits have been declared on their employees’ P11Ds. If not, they will then conduct an Employer Compliance Audit.

As a result of these random audits companies all over the UK are suffering large tax hits.

How can a company avoid insignificant private use?

HMRC want to see evidence to prove that vehicles are not being used for significant private use. They also want to see steps that the employer has taken to prevent significant private use. This shows that the company has policies and procedures in place to emphasise these laws and make sure that their employees are fully aware of these.

The employer and the employee can avoid any benefit charges linked with company vans or fuel by keeping sufficient records to show that the van is mainly used for work journeys and ordinary commuting. A lot of companies record their mileage manually using pen and paper, which is very time consuming. A lot of drivers with a very busy schedule tend to judge distances and times travelled. These inaccuracies can also lead to hefty penalties which has happened in the past.

What is required by the HMRC for an accurate mileage record?

  • Vehicle details
  • Driver details
  • The date
  • Where the journey commenced
  • The place/companies visited
  • Where the journey ends
  • The start and closing mileage
  • Total business miles

How can I be protected from a tax fine?

ABAX is the fastest growing telematics company in Europe (Berg Insight, 15th September 2016), supplying digital mileage logs for mileage claims. ABAX Triplog automatically documents all driving via GPS, calculates mileage and distance, to minimise the amount of tax paid and eliminate the risk of HMRC penalty charges (following the recommendations from HMRC regarding mileage claims for personal and company cars). In addition, this will allow you to easily reduce your fuel costs and increase your service level to your customers.

We have helped many companies increase the control of their fleet, reduce risk of any HMRC audits aswell as increase efficiencies. The HMRC are constantly changing the tax laws around company vehicles. Since the 2016 tax year, it is now a legal requirement for van drivers to record all trips taken in vans. The HMRC are conducting more audits than ever and this is only going to increase.