Families with above average incomes could lose up to £1,300 in potential benefits from next April, under the new Child Tax Credit (CTC) scheme. Child benefit is means-tested and paid to parents according to their incomes. For the first time the benefit charge of a company car will be included in the assessment of household earnings which determines how much cash families receive.
From April 2003, CTC guarantees £26.50 a week, or £1,378 a year, for all parents with a joint income of up to £50,000.
The scheme is a major change from the current Working Families Tax Credit scheme, in which to qualify only one parent has to earn an income of less than £50,000, not including company car benefit or cash in lieu.
Under the new scheme, if the 'benefit' value of a company car (or opt-out cash for car allowance) theoretically raises parental income above £50,000, then the parents' CTC payments will be reduced on a sharply sliding scale. For example, a household where both partners work and earn a combined income of just below £50,000, but where one of the partners had a £15,000 company car with a benefit value of £2,250 on which he pays £900 tax, could lose virtually all of the CTC benefit.
Fleet Support Group financial services director Roger Ashman has highlighted this cash drain on company car driving families, and said millions of parents could be affected.
Ashman said: 'What Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown did not spell out in the Budget statement was that taxable 'benefits' were to become 'income'.
'Millions of parents risk losing part of their CTC if they have a company car or cash in lieu of a company car.
'By stealth, work drivers who are already highly taxed are to be victimised by still more tax. Furthermore, an increase in National Insurance Contributions in 2003 will turn the screw ever harder.'