On the telegraph.co.uk website, readers called the plans “another stealth tax”, “a tax on workers” and “another nail in the coffin for the British way of life”, as hundreds posted their reactions on an email messageboard.
Despite officials from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) making it clear at the conference that the pence-per-mile costs in its three scenarios were for purely illustrative purposes and not final recommendations, in its lead story “Tax threat to drivers using own cars for work” The Daily Telegraph used the figures to conclude that a motorist driving 10,000 miles a year could face an additional annual tax bill of £500-£1,500 in the “potentially radical reforms”.
Masterlease, which was quoted as calculating the figure, told Fleet News the £1,500 was “in extremis” and part of a wider set of calculations that set out the various likely costs of any change to the rates.
Robert Kingdom, Masterlease’s head of marketing said: ‘Although the figures used by HMRC are illustrative, they are certainly near the mark of where they could end up, and we gave the Daily Telegraph the full range of options.
“It’s fair to say what was in the paper wasn’t the angle we would have taken, but it is time HMRC decided what path it wants to take, because fair recompense for the cost of motoring and the environmental angle are diametrically opposed.”
Speaking to the paper, Chris Grayling, the Conservative’s transport spokesman said: ‘These figures bear no relation at all to the cost of running a car.
“Once again the Government seems set on trying to hit people in their pockets by changing the small print.”
However, Elizabeth Ward, policy advisor for HMRC, was at pains to point out that the scenarios – offering rates to better reflect costs of driving or as part of an environmentally aware system – were part of a consultation, with an equally valid option being no change to the present set-up.
An HMRC spokesman said: “It is completely incorrect to suggest that the figures quoted form the foundation for any changes to the mileage allowance rates for those customers who use their own car for work. These are illustrative examples offered for discussion in a consultation and have been used completely out of context.”