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Salary sacrifice for cars ‘relatively safe’, says Deloitte

In the Budget document, the Treasury said: "Salary sacrifice arrangements can allow some employees and employers to reduce the income tax and National Insurance that they pay on remuneration. They are becoming increasingly popular and the cost to the taxpayer is rising. The Government will actively monitor the growth of these schemes and their effect on tax receipts."

In response, Mike Moore, tax director of Deloitte, told Fleet World: “In terms of the general statement about salary sacrifice, this is in line with what has been happening over the last few years.

“The principle of salary sacrifice is relatively straightforward – you give up salary and you get something else. And what the Government has focused on is what that something else is.

“What we know from our discussions with the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is that the principle will remain. That is, employers and employees will have the freedom to give up their salary and get something else.

“What they have focused on though is when that something else is tax and National Insurance free. So there has been a general removal of exemptions for things like staff canteens and computers at home. And the most recent one was travel and subsidence plans.

“So when there’s a clear tax and National Insurance advantage and therefore a loss of tax and National Insurance to the Exchequer, HMRC have started to clamp down on that and remove the exception if it’s linked to salary sacrifice.

“However, if we move on to salary sacrifice and cars, salary sacrifice cars are not exempt from tax and National Insurance so when you give up your salary, you get a benefit where the individual has a tax bill and the employer has a National Insurance bill. The dynamic isn’t the same as the things HMRC have historically clamped down on.

"So our view of it is that the HMRC have made it very public that they’re reviewing salary sacrifice arrangements but I would say that the salary sacrifice for cars market isn’t very vulnerable in that people still pay the tax on the car, the employer still pays National Insurance on it and it has the added advantage that salary sacrifice arrangements encourage people to choose lower-emission cars as they give a lower tax and National Insurance bill as a lower-emission car through a salary sacrifice scheme is relatively cheaper than a higher-emission car. So it’s not doing the mischief that the Government doesn’t like of significantly reducing tax and National Insurance bills but it’s also promoting cleaner cars on the roads. It is safe as it can be."

He added: “The only thing is that it is a growing market but in terms of the total UK fleet, it’s not large at the moment. We estimate that probably around 50,000 vehicles are provided through salary sacrifice and that is gradually increasing.

“Even if the market were to get bigger, say double, it still wouldn’t be massive compared to the company car parc in the UK and I don’t think the tax differential between the salary and the benefit would worry the Government as there’s still some tax and National Insurance there.

“Our view is that it’s still relatively safe – although that’s subject to what the Government will come up with in the future.

“But in terms of salary sacrifice arrangements for cars, our view is that it’s something that will be with us for a few years to come.”

For Tusker's response on the HMRC statement, click here.

For more of the latest industry news, click here.

Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.