Godfrey Davis Contract Hire (GDCH) claims that as a rough rule of thumb, most standard rate tax payers will benefit if employers provide fuel, while higher rate tax payers should buy their own fuel for private journeys.
From April 2003, the Government will determine annually a 'gross fuel cost' (set at £14,400 for the tax year 2003/04) on which the fuel benefit is charged, then apply a formula similar to the company car tax charges introduced in April 2002. This means a car rated at an 18% emissions scale charge will have its fuel taxed at 18% of £14,400, giving the driver a tax liability of £2,592 – and an actual tax bill of 22% or 40% of this figure.
Nigel Underdown, director of marketing at GDCH, said: 'Previously, drivers producing the best fuel consumption figures within their band had to cover a greater number of private miles to profit from 'free' fuel, but under the new formula they will not be so disadvantaged.'
He used the example of two drivers in petrol cars, one with carbon dioxide emissions of 175g/km and the other at 200g/km, but both returning 35mpg. The driver of the first car would have to cover 6,200 private miles to benefit from free fuel, while the second would need to record 7,800.
'Drivers now have to balance the effect of the Car Benefit Charge Tax, which frequently favours the diesel option, against the possible disadvantage of driving a low consumption diesel when factoring in the Fuel Benefit Charge,' said Underdown.
He challenged the 'myth' that under current taxation the majority of drivers were better off paying for their own fuel.
Underdown said: 'Although there has been a migration away from 'free' fuel over recent years, standard rate payers only need to cover about 55% of the private mileage of their higher rate colleagues.
'With annual private mileage of company car drivers around 10,000 miles, most standard rate payers are better off inside company fuel schemes and this will not change.'
|Fuel benefit charge break-even points|
|Model||Fuel type||Breakeven private mileage||Breakeven private mileage|
|Standard rate (22%)||Higher rate (40%)|
|02/03 - 03/04||02/03 - 03/04|
|Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 Comfort||Petrol||5,650 - 6,550||10,300 - 11,900|
|Vauxhall Corsa 1.7Di Comfort||Diesel||10,600 - 9,650||19,300 - 17,550|
|Ford Focus 1.8 Zetec||Petrol||6,850 - 6,900||12,450 - 12,550|
|Ford Focus 1.8TDCi Zetec||Diesel||9,100 - 8,250||16,500 - 15,000|
|Peugeot 307 1.6 LX||Petrol||7,200 - 6,200||13,000 - 11,250|
|Peugeot 307 2.0HDi 90LX||Diesel||9,600 - 8,700||17,400 - 15,850|
|Ford Mondeo 2.0 Zetec||Petrol||6,500 - 7,200||11,800 - 13,100|
|Ford Mondeo 2.0TDCi||Diesel||8,500 - 7,700||15,400 - 14,000|
|BMW 318i SE||Petrol||7,200 - 6,900||13,100 - 12,600|
|BMW 320d SE||Diesel||9,100 - 8,250||16,500 - 15,000|
|Audi A6 2.4SE||Petrol||7,600 - 8,050||13,800 - 14,700|
|Audi A6 2.5TDI SE||Diesel||10,350 - 8,500||18,800 - 15,500|
|2002/2003 - engine based|
|2003/2004 - emissions based|
|Source: Godfrey Davis Contract Hire|