Fleet News

Budget 2004: Tax avoidance schemes less likely in the future

FURTHER challenges lie ahead for fleets as the Government prepares a number of post-Budget announcements that could affect the fleet industry.

A review of the company car tax system is currently underway and could herald a number of further changes.

And although Vehicle Excise Duty is frozen for the next year, that could herald major changes for 2005. Similarly, Insurance premium tax has also been frozen.

Fleets are still waiting to here of any changes to Approved Mileage Allowance Payments, which are a crucial factor in employee car ownership schemes (AMAPS).

Currently, drivers receive 40p for the first 10,000 miles on business in a private car tax and NI-free, and 25p a mile for higher mileage.

Ministers have come under pressure to change the system as it currently provides an incentive for drivers to cover high mileages – a reason why the mileage-based company car tax system was scrapped.

Further major changes could be coming with Government plans for a massive crackdown on anti-avoidance schemes.

New measures will be introduced to force accounting firms to reveal all about schemes they sell to individuals and companies.

Alison Chapman, of accountants Deloitte and Touche said it was currently too early to tell whether structured personal leasing schemes would be affected, as the legislation would be aimed at a different problem area.

But industry consultant Philip Harvey said: 'Whether the announcement to cut down on tax evasion will catch any car benefit-related schemes remains to be seen. The detail will be published in the Finance Bill, and schemes for the evasion of employment taxes are known to be an Inland Revenue target.'

Stewart Whyte, director of the Association of Car Fleet Operators, said: 'While there was no mention of 'alternative' company car schemes, ACFO believes they could be on his agenda.

'The Chancellor introduced a new disclosure measure to counter what he called 'large-scale avoidance of direct taxes'. That means companies that devise and market 'certain avoidance schemes' will have to provide details of these to the Inland Revenue.

'Whether the various company car alternative schemes being marketed are classed as tax avoidance, remains to be seen.

'ACFO strongly recommends that any members operating and considering putting in place alternative company car schemes should seek Inland Revenue approval before they are introduced, and to think about the longer-term stability of the fiscal framework against which such schemes will operate.'

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