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LETTERS to Fleet News editor Martn Moore.

Let’s get back to the simple life

AS they didn’t appear to be worn out, I kept a couple of our vans beyond the end of the warranty period and have learned an important lesson.

Our SEAT Inca would tick over but pressing the accelerator would do nothing. I thought it was the throttle cable but instead, it was a £295 throttle sensor plus fitting.

Then the centre section of our Mercedes-Benz Vito exhaust broke – just the centre section but with two catalytic converters. £640 later, all is well again.

What’s a preglow unit and why do I need one? Why do I have a secondary air injection system – won’t one do? The Vito hasn’t hit 80 thousand miles yet and I’m spending a fortune on things that didn’t even exist just a few years ago. Mercedes-Benz is apparently weighed down with warranty claims for all this stuff, having built its reputation on great mechanical engineering. But this hardly gets a mention next to satellite navigation and the latest system that allows you to park while asleep.

When fleet managers of the really big fleets meet the manufacturers, perhaps they could help us all and put in a request for a generic range of business vehicles that have the benefit of new safety systems but keep everything else nice and simple and dedicated to getting the job done.

RICHARD LITTLE
Jenton International

Free fuel can still be worth having

THE article in the Fuel Management Guide, (Fleet NewsNet, June 29) ‘What Price Freedom’ appears to me to be written in such a way as to state that free fuel is a bad option.

I disagree with this. The comment should be ‘do your sums to ensure it is worth it to you’. If you take a travelling distance of 20 miles to the office, which is more than representative of most people and add a personal additional mileage of 3,000 miles, a total private mileage in a year would be 20 x 2 x 252* + 3,000 = 13,080 miles. My chart shows the number of gallons required for a range of MPG figures and the associated cost of fuel.

Given a 40% taxpayer would pay, from your article, around £1,209 per year for most cars except the smallest and cheapest, it would be beneficial to take the free fuel.

* The figure of 252 days is the number of working days in a year (52 weeks x five days) less eight for bank holidays. Annual holidays are ignored as there is invariably some private mileage included.

DAVID TAYLOR
Xansa

MPG Gallons Cost
27 484.44 £2,180
30 436.00 £1,962
33 396.36 £1,784
36 363.33 £1,635
39 335.38 £1,509
42 311.43 £1,401
45 290.67 £1,308
48 272.50 £1,226
51 256.47 £1,154
54 242.22 £1,090

Vans: what exactly is private mileage?

THE article ‘Plan for van taxation changes, fleets urged’ (Fleet News June 29) is misleading. Providing an employee agrees not to have private use of the vehicle, there will be no tax charged to the driver.

The following is taken from the Inland Revenue website and outlines how a driver can avoid paying tax on a company van:

‘The charge is nil if both the following requirements are satisfied throughout the year (or part of the year on which the van is available to the employee) – the van must only be available to the employee for business travel and commuting; it must not be used for any other private purpose except to an insignificant extent or the van must be available to the employee mainly for use for the employee’s business travel.

‘If both the requirements are not met, the charge is £500 if the van is less than four years old at the end of the tax year or £350 otherwise.

‘From 2007-08, the age of the van is no longer taken into account and the charge is increased to £3,000.’

The word ‘insignificant’ is not defined, so takes its normal meaning of ‘too small or unimportant to be worth consideration’.

Private use is to be considered insignificant if it is insignificant in quantity in the tax year as a whole (ie. a few days at most), insignificant in quality (eg. a week’s exclusive private use is clearly not insignificant), intermittent and irregular or very much the exception in terms of the pattern of use of that van by that employee (or their family or household) in that tax year.

Examples of insignificant use are an employee who takes an old mattress or other rubbish to the tip once or twice a year, regularly makes a slight detour to stop at a newsagent on the way to work or calls at the dentist on his way home.

Examples of use which is not insignificant are an employee who uses the van to do the supermarket shopping each week, takes the van away on a week’s holiday or uses the van outside of work for social activities.
EMMANUEL LEWIS, Vista Retail Support

THERE is a further scenario to the three presented in the article ‘Plan for van taxation changes fleets urged’ (Fleet News, June 29).

Scenario four – drivers can decide to relinquish the right to ‘unlimited private mileage’. This option still permits them to use their company van to travel to and from work, stop for a newspaper or a sandwich on the way in, or make an occasional private trip, down to the council tip for example.

However, they would not be liable for any BIK charges at all, not even the £500 they have been taxed on until now. This seems to me be to a far less ‘painful’ choice for both companies and drivers, and is the option we are offering our van drivers.

We ask them to sign a suitable disclaimer confirming that they have relinquished ‘unlimited private use’ of their van and then inform the Inland Revenue accordingly.
MIKE CLAYTON, Fleet manager Garndene Communication Systems

FROM what I have read, BIK taxation on company vans will be introduced at £3,000 from April 2007. Our engineers are unhappy about this tax and are prepared to give their vans up. As our fleet is mainly 24-hour call-out vehicles, we would not be able to offer this service if engineers were not willing to take a van home. This would have a direct impact on our business.

Is a 24-hour call-out vehicle where there is no private mileage BIK tax exempt?
GARETH BEVAN, Director, Control Gear Group

DON’T panic! As long as there is no private use of your vehicles (commuting to and from work doesn’t count) then your drivers will not be subject to benefit-in-kind taxation – Ed.

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