The figure is 80,000 up on both1996/97 and 1995/96 and refutes claims from some benefit specialists and national newspapers that the popularity of the company car is declining. And the Inland Revenue believes the number of company car drivers will have increased by a further 10,000 when the 1998/99 tax returns have been completed. That will take the number of tax-paying company car drivers to 1.74 million, a figure expected to remain static in the current financial year.
However, the 1.73 million tax-paying company car drivers accounted for in the Inland Revenue figures is a long way short of the three million company cars traditionally claimed to be on the UK's roads. While many of the remaining 1.27 million can be accounted for as rental cars, demonstrators and courtesy cars it is unlikely they account for the full missing tally.
The figures show that the 1.73 million company car drivers paid a total of £1.71 billion in benefit-in-kind tax in 1997/98 - up from the £1.43 billion paid by the 1.65 million company car drivers in the previous two financial years. The company car tax-take will, says the Inland Revenue, increase to £1.76 billion when 1998/99 tax returns have been completely analysed and will reach £2.01 billion in 1999/2000.