Can I Reclaim the VAT on a Company Car? - ESDG Accountancy

Can I Reclaim the VAT on a Company Car?

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Ed, Chartered Accountant

Company Car

Understanding VAT reclaim rules for company cars is crucial for business owners, Limited Company Directors, and fleet managers in the UK. With tax laws continuously evolving, it’s vital to stay updated on how these changes can impact your financial decisions as well as benefit you financially.

Overview of VAT Reclaim on Company Cars

When purchasing a company car, there are generally three methods: purchased outright, Hire Purchase (HP), and Personal Contract Purchase (PCP). The ability to reclaim VAT largely depends on the type of purchase method and the intended use of the vehicle.

1. Purchased Outright

When a car is purchased outright by a company, the VAT is not recoverable. This is because HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) restricts VAT reclaim to prevent personal usage benefits under company expenses.

There is a common misconception that a more favourable VAT treatment is available for electric cars – sadly this is not the case.

2. Hire Purchase (HP)

A hire purchase is essentially the same as using loaned funds to purchase the car outright.

In a Hire Purchase agreement, the vehicle is treated as purchased from the start. Therefore, similar to outright purchases, VAT is blocked 100% and cannot be reclaimed.

3. Personal Contract Purchase (PCP)

A PCP agreement can be classified either as a lease or a purchase:

  • As a Purchase: If the balloon payment at the end of the agreement is set below the anticipated market value, the car is treated as purchased, blocking VAT recovery.
  • As a Lease: If the balloon payment matches or exceeds the expected market value, 50% of the VAT is recoverable. This is because the car is considered under lease terms where VAT applies only to the monthly repayments.

Understanding Balloon Payments

A balloon payment is a final sum paid at the end of a finance agreement to own the vehicle. The classification of this payment affects VAT treatment as discussed above.

VAT Reclaim on Electric Vehicles

For electric cars, the rules for VAT recovery align with those of conventional vehicles, but with the added advantage of various government incentives designed to promote cleaner energy use. If the electric vehicle is purchased outright or through a Hire Purchase agreement, the VAT is still non-recoverable. However, when leased, not only does the business benefit from the 50% reclaim on VAT for the lease payments, but it can also leverage additional tax benefits, such as reduced Benefit in Kind (BiK) rates and grants available for electric vehicles, which enhance the overall cost-efficiency of choosing an EV. This aligns with broader government strategies aiming at environmental sustainability and makes electric cars a compelling option for forward-thinking businesses.

Special Cases for VAT Reclamation and Exceptions to the Rule

There are specific scenarios where VAT can be fully reclaimed, regardless of the purchase method. This full recovery applies predominantly to vehicles used exclusively for business purposes, such as taxis or cars used by driving instructors. In these cases, because the vehicle is integral to the business’s primary operations, 100% of the VAT can be reclaimed, reflecting the vehicle’s dedicated business use.

Integrating VAT Considerations into Broader Tax Planning

Understanding VAT on company cars should form part of a broader tax strategy that includes considerations such as capital gains tax when selling business assets or optimising salary packages for directors, as detailed in optimum salary strategies for limited company directors. Advanced planning can significantly enhance tax efficiency across your business operations.

Conclusion

Deciding how to purchase a company car involves weighing the VAT implications against your business needs and tax strategy. Whether opting for outright purchase, Hire Purchase, or Personal Contract Purchase, it’s important to understand how each affects your VAT recovery and overall financial planning.

For further guidance on VAT and other tax-related queries, consider exploring our comprehensive guide to registering for VAT or contact us directly through our contact page to tailor a consultation specific to your business needs.

Navigating tax responsibilities doesn’t have to be a solo journey. At ESDG Accountancy, we are here to help you optimise every aspect of your company’s financial operations, ensuring compliance and maximising benefits under current UK tax laws. For more insights into effective tax planning and accountancy services, visit our services page.

About the author

Ed is qualified Chartered Accountant and founded ESDG Accountancy in 2020. He has gained extensive experience in various sectors, working with business owners, international groups, & private equity investors.