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Buying a car through your limited company

Contractors often consider what tax savings are available for using their own car for business purposes and what the implications of owning a car through their limited company may be. The considerations and implications of owning a car personally or through the business are many, each option having various pros and cons. Considering all of these together can allow you to consider which is the most tax efficient option.

Is it more tax efficient to purchase a car through your limited company or purchase it personally?

When a company car is made available to a director or employee there are further tax considerations which need to be considered, these often make the difference in deciding which route is most tax efficient. The provision of a company car and payment of fuel by the company are taxable benefits in kind in the hands of the recipient, i.e. the director or employee. The value of the benefit ranges based on the type of vehicle, the CO2 emissions figure and the list price.

This benefit in kind value would be deemed as employment income, and would be taxed at 20% or 40% depending on if the individual is a basic rate or higher rate tax payer. The company would also be required to pay Class 1A National Insurance contributions on the benefit value at a rate of 13.8%.

In practice for contractors this normally means that purchasing or leasing a car through the company may not be the most tax efficient option, once the additional taxes payable are considered against the tax savings, it would often cost more to purchase the car through the company then personally. This is especially the case for cars which have a higher CO2 emissions figures.

Can you claim tax relief on any of your vehicle costs if you own the car personally?

If you use a personally owned vehicle for business purposes you are entitled to claim a tax free allowance from your company for all qualifying business miles you travel. A journey will be a qualifying business journey if it is wholly and exclusively undertaken for the purpose of the trade and is travel to and from a temporary workplace, or travel to different sites where the work is carried out.

For these journeys relief can be claimed at the HMRC approved mileage rates which are as follows:

The cost of reimbursement of the business mileage will be a tax deductible expense for the company attracting corporation tax relief at 19%, reimbursement of the mileage will also be tax free when paid to you as the contractor. If amounts are paid in excess of these rates although the company will still receive corporation tax relief at the full amount, the excess amount would be subject to personal tax and national insurance meaning for contractors it would not be tax efficient to pay any more than the approved rates.

These rates are designed to cover all vehicle related costs, such the actual cost of the car, insurance, servicing etc, therefore reimbursement of any other amounts in excess of the approved mileage rates would also cause tax implications.

Can you own a car through your limited company and claim tax relief on the purchase?

Owning a vehicle through a limited company will make the car a company asset; the method of calculating a corporation tax deduction for this asset will depend on the type of purchase and the type of vehicle.

Firstly, like with the purchase of all assets, a deduction is not made for the full purchase price of the asset in the company accounts. Instead, relief is given through a capital allowance deduction when calculating the company corporation tax liability. The capital allowances available will depend on the CO2 emission levels of the vehicle. For vehicles with a CO2 emission level lower than 50g/km a full 100% deduction will be made available; cars with a CO2 emission figure between 50g/km and 110g/km will qualify for a 18% deduction and cars with 110g/km or higher CO2 emission levels will receive a smaller 6% deduction.

Secondly, if the vehicle is not purchased outright and is instead purchased under a finance arrangement any interest paid under the agreement would qualify as a trading expense; the interest amount each year would qualify as a cost for the company when calculating profit and will therefore receive full corporation tax relief.

Instead of buying a vehicle, sometimes leasing may be a more viable option. In the case of leases the net monthly lease payment is a tax deductible expense and will therefore receive corporation tax relief, if the vehicle has a CO2 emission figure above 110g/km the tax deductible expense is capped at 85% of the lease cost.

Can you reclaim the VAT payable on the purchase or lease of a company car?

VAT can only be reclaimed on the purchase of a business vehicle where it is used solely for business purposes and is not used personally by the director or any employees. As most contractors would use the car personally as well as for business purposes reclaiming any VAT paid on purchase will not be possible.

In the case of leases for cars used personally as well as for business, 50% of the VAT amount can be reclaimed.

Can you claim tax relief and reclaim VAT on the running costs of a vehicle owned or leased through your company?

In the case of a vehicle owned by the limited company, all associated running costs would be tax deductible expenses. This includes, fuel if paid by the company, servicing, insurance and maintenance.

One specific cost to be mindful of is fuel, if the company is paying for fuel for the director this will normally also extend to fuel for personal journeys and will mean a fuel benefit in kind charge will apply to the director, this will incur further taxes for the director and a national insurance charge payable by the company.

If fuel is not paid by the company, the director or employee can continue to claim reimbursement for each business mile travelled, the rates at which the reimbursement can be paid tax free however will be lower.

For more tailored advice on how to run your limited company we recommend you speak to one of our new business advisors.

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