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Government urged to replace taxes lost due to EV uptake fairly

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The Government is being urged to work with the fleet sector to ensure any changes to motoring taxation are carried out in a timely, effective and proportionate way.

Ahead of the annual Spending Review (Wednesday, November 25), reports suggested that the Government was considering reviving road pricing plans to counter lost tax revenues from the increasing adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

The fleet sector has already shown it is receptive to road pricing as a replacement to other road and fuel duties. Fleet News has been calling for the Government to launch a feasibility study since its Fleet Industry Manifesto report in 2015.

The National Infrastructure Strategy, launched to coincide with the Spending Review, emphasised the need for motoring tax revenues to ‘keep pace’ with the uptake of EVs. It did not, however, mention road pricing as a potential alternative to the current regime.

Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) says any changes need to be fair to the fleet industry. 

He recognises that the Government’s future motoring tax strategy must strike a “fine balance” in maintaining vital revenues and encouraging people into newer and cleaner vehicles.

But he stressed: “The Government must avoid placing a crushing tax burden on businesses and individuals that are unable to upgrade their cars, vans or trucks and are already struggling to cope with the economic implications of Covid-19 pandemic and EU exit.”  

The Government has already spent £280 billion to help support the economy through the pandemic and will spend a further £55bn next year to support the recovery.

"We will very soon need a system that can levy tax on both conventionally fuelled and battery electric vehicles fairly," Nicholas Lyes, RAC

In total, taxes on UK motoring, including vehicle excise duty (VED), fuel duties and VAT, raise around £40bn per year or 7% of total revenue to the Exchequer. Of this, benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax payments, covering the provision of company cars, raise close to £1.8bn.

Darren Handley, head of infrastructure grants at the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), told attendees at Virtual Fleet and Mobility Live that, while the question of future motoring taxation is one for the Treasury, it should not necessarily follow that lost fossil fuel revenues will be recouped from EV drivers.

He said: “If you look at a parallel with something like health and smoking, any reduction in tax (take) from (a reducing number of) smokers isn’t regained by taxing somebody who is healthy.”

Covid-19 impact on tax revenues

In Budget 2020, the Treasury outlined expected tax receipts from fuel duty each year up to 2024/25. It expected to collect £27.5bn this tax year, a £200m decline on £27.7bn in 2019/20. But, then it was predicted to increase to £28.1bn the following year (2021/22), before reaching £30.5bn in 2022/23, £31.2bn in 2023/24 and £31.7bn in 2024/25.

VED receipts are expected to fall by £100 million to £7bn in 2021/22, before increasing by £200m each year for the next three years, reaching £7.6bn in 2024/25.

Revenues, however, have already been impacted by Covid-19, with lockdown restrictions reducing fuel duty by £2.4bn in April and May compared with the same time last year.

Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, said: “While not paying car tax is clearly an incentive to go fully electric at the moment, we will very soon need a system that can levy tax on both conventionally fuelled and battery electric vehicles fairly.

“If this isn’t addressed, we risk finding ourselves in a situation where petrol and diesel drivers continue to pay all the tax for using the roads which is unsustainable.”

Four-in-10 drivers believe that some form of ‘pay-per mile’ system would be fairer than the current system of fuel duty, says the RAC, while half (49%) agree that the more someone drives, the more they should pay in tax.

Insurance and Mobility Solutions (IMS), which is part of Trak Global Group, has successfully piloted road pricing projects in several US states.

Dr Ben Miners, chief innovation officer for IMS, explained: “Road user charging (RUC) and electronic toll collection (ETC) are both important solutions to fairly generate revenue from road users.” 

ETC focuses on specific concessions or fixed points with a roadside/infrastructure approach, whereas RUC focuses on the broader transportation network with an infrastructure-free, wireless infrastructure, process. 

Miners said: “The additional flexibility of RUC enables new virtual tolls to be introduced and transform any road segment or fixed asset into a ‘tolled’ road, which eliminates lengthy construction times and shortens time-to-market.”

Read crucial guidance for fleets on the adoption of EVs in the December edition of Fleet News

This article was first published in the December edition of Fleet News.

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