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Benefit-in-kind charge on electric vans

A tax charge arises under the benefit-in-kind rules where an employee enjoys unrestricted private use of a company van. The taxable amount is a set amount, with a reduced charge applying to electric vans. However, the charge for zero-emission vans is to be reduced to zero from 6 April 2021.

Taxation of company vans

Employees who enjoy the private use of a company van are taxed for the privilege. For 2020/21, the standard charge is set at £3,490. The charge does not apply where the ‘restricted private use’ condition is met. This is the case where private use, other than home to work travel, is insignificant.

A lower charge applies to electric vans.

The charge is reduced to reflect periods of unavailability and payments for private use.

Electric vans

Since 2015/16, the charge for a zero-emission van has been a percentage of the full charge. That percentage has been steadily increasing. For 2015/16, zero-emission vans were charged at 20% of the standard charge; by 2020/21 it had reached 80% of the standard charge and was due to increase to 90% for 2021/22 before being aligned with the standard charge from 2022/23.

For 2020/21, the benefit-in-kind charge for an electric van is £2,782 (80% of £3,490). By contrast, an employee can enjoy the benefit of an electric company car tax-free.

At the time of the 2020 Budget, it was announced that the tax charge for zero-emission vans would be reduced to zero from 6 April 2021 to encourage employers to move to using electric vans. This change has now been enacted.

A move to electric vans will benefit your employees, who from 2021/22 will not pay any tax if the van is available for private use. You will also benefit as there will be no employer’s Class 1A National Insurance to pay either.

Is it a car or is it a van?

For the purposes of the benefit-in-kind legislation, a vehicle is a ‘van’ if it is a mechanically propelled road vehicle which is a goods vehicle and which has a design weight not exceeding 3,500 kilograms, and which is not a motorcycle.

However, as the long-running Coca-Cola case has demonstrated, just because something looks like a van does not mean that it is, at least for tax purposes. The Court of Appeal have held that modified crew-cab vehicles are cars rather than vans for the purposes of the benefit-in-kind legislation, and as such the taxable benefit should be worked out using the company car rules rather than van benefit rules. In this case, the vans in question were panel vans with a second row of seats behind the driver’s seat.

Separate charge for fuel

If an employer meets the costs of fuel for private journeys in a company van, a separate fuel benefit charge arises. The benefit is valued at £666 for 2020/21.

However, HMRC do not regard the provision of electricity as a ‘fuel’ for these purposes. Consequently, no tax charge arises if the employer meets the cost of electricity for the private use of an electric van.

Help and advice

We can help you work out the benefit-in-kind charge on company vans and plan ahead for the changes to come.