Company cars have long been used by businesses to reward and retain staff as an extra perk on top of a standard salary. Unfortunately, the Government, and especially HM Treasury, are aware of this kind of incentive, and as a result, levies tax on them. This company car tax is called Benefit-In-Kind (BIK) tax, as the cars are seen as an additional taxable benefit that falls outside of your standard National Insurance tax contributions.

BIK tax is one of a number of revenue streams used by Her Majesty’s Revenu and Customs (HMRC) to keep Government coffers ticking over, and as a result it’s subject to annual changes in The Budget that’s given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer each year. Invariably, this sees an increase in the amount of taxation levied on company cars, as the Government chases the lower CO2 levels of new cars to recoup lost revenue as cars get cleaner.

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Company car tax can appear to be daunting, but once you’ve grasped the basics, it’s fairly straightforward to understand, and there are benefit-in-kind calculators on specialist websites that can help you calculate your tax outgoings on a company car. BIK rates are primarily based on a car’s CO2 emissions, because the government has decided that the best way to help reduce the overall emissions of cars in the UK is to offer tax incentives to businesses that provide staff with company cars.

That’s the basic foundation of BIK tax, but the amount you actually pay is determined by the list price of the car you’re looking at, combined with the personal tax rate you’re on (20%, 40% or 50%). The price of the car will be its list price before non-taxable items (first-year VED road tax, first registration fee, telephone installations, etc), but will also include the cost of any options.

In addition, the amount of tax you pay will be determined by the fuel you put in your car. In the past, pure electric vehicles (EVs) were exempt from taxation, but as their take-up has increased, HMRC has seen fit to include them on BIK rates, albeit at a substantially lower rate than conventional models. The low emissions of plug-in hybrid vehicles mean they’re a popular interim solution while full-electric cars increase their range and rapid charging ability, as they can be driven like conventional cars, but have BIK rates that are far lower.

Increased rates for diesels

There’s another level of BIK to consider if you’re driving a diesel. All diesel models had a 3% surcharge added to their BIK tax, but from 6 April 2018 this will change to a 4% surcharge. This applies to all diesel models that can’t meet the RDE2 ‘real-world’ driving section of thenew WLTP efficiency standards.

However, as these new WLTP RDE2 regs are not going to be fully implemented until 2020, and few cars have been tested to them, there are no new diesel cars that can meet the RDE2 test, and there are unlikely to be any that meet it before 2020, when HMRC will be amending road tax and BIK once again.

What is company car tax?

If you drive a car that has ben provided by your employer, and you can use that vehicle for personal transport outside of work, then it’s considered a company car and is seen as a taxable perk by HMRC.

Officially a company car is known as a Benefit In Kind (BIK), because there is a monetary value attached to your ability to use it privately. HMRC view it as an additional bonus on top of your annual salary, because the car is paid for by your employer in addition to your standard pay.

As a result, there is tax to pay. The easiest way of calculating how much tax you will have to pay on a company car is to visit the HMRC website, where it has a company car tax calculator with plenty of additional help to ensure you’re paying the right amount of tax.

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HMRC works out the amount of BIK tax you pay based on the amount of CO2 emissions a car emits. There are 21 emissions bands, starting with vehicles that emit 0-50g/km, ranging up to those models emitting 180g/km or more, and the amount of tax you pay is a percentage of the car’s list price, which HMRC refers to as the P11D value. This is the price of the car with optional extras included, but minus the non-taxable parts of the vehicle, including the first year’s VED (road tax) and its first registration fee. The P11D value is determined by the list price quoted by a manufacturer, so even if you get a discount on a new car’s list price, the P11D value will remain unchanged.

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One way you can reduce the amount of BIK you pay is to declare if you only have access to the vehicle part-time, or if you contribute to the initial cost of the vehicle. These two caveats should help to reduce your tax outgoings.

How much company car tax will I pay?

The amount of company car tax you actually pay is dependent on your annual salary. For example, if you fall into the 20 per cent income tax bracket, you’ll pay 20 per cent of the taxable portion of the car’s P11D value. Those in the 40 per cent tax bracket, meanwhile, pay 40 per cent on the taxable chunk of the P11D. This will usually be deducted from your monthly pay packet.

Company car tax calculator example

Here’s how to calculate your company car tax in three simple steps:

  1. Take your company car’s P11D value (for example £15,000)
  2. Multiply this value by the car’s company car tax rate which is dependent on CO2 emissions (for example 15%) to get your BIK amount
  3. Multiply this BIK value by your personal tax rate – 20%, 40% or 50% – (for example 20%). This will be the amount of company car tax payable. So:

ВЈ15,000 x 15% = ВЈ2,250 (BIK amount) x 20% =ВЈ450 per year

Company car tax: petrol vs diesel

Diesels carry a four per cent surcharge over petrol models with similar emissions, because they emit greater amounts of harmful particulates. So if you’re choosing between petrol and diesel for your next company car, you’ll need to work out whether or not you cover enough miles in a year to cover the extra cost of a diesel company car in the first place.

Company car tax guide 2018: everything you need to know

Company car tax jargon buster

If all the terms and jargon associated with company car tax are a bit confusing, we’ve put together a quick glossary to help you understand all the important bits…

• Benefit in Kind (BIK) – Benefits that are not included in an individual’s salary, one of which is the company car

• Her Majesty’s Revenue Customs (HMRC) – The UK’s tax authority

• P11D – form that must be completed by an employer every year and sent to HMRC

• P11D value – Total value of the car including RRP, VAT and any extras such as metallic paint, sat nav or parking sensors.

• Recommended Retail Price (RRP) – This is the amount that the car manufacturer recommends that the car should be sold for.

• Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) – amount payable on all cars, including company cars, that is calculated based on CO2 emissions of the car

Company car tax bands 2018/2019:

CO2 (g/km) 2018/19 BIK rate (%) – Petrol 2018/19 BIK rate (%) – Diesel*
0-50 13 17
51-75 16 20
76-94 19 23
95-99 20 24
100-104 21 25
105-109 22 26
110-114 23 27
115-119 24 28
120-124 25 29
125-129 26 30
130-134 27 31
135-139 28 32
140-144 29 33
145-149 30 34
150-154 31 35
155-159 32 36
160-164 33 37
165-169 34 38
170-174 35 39
175-179 36 40
180+ 37 41

*Diesel cars that meet RDE2 are charged at the standard BIK percentage rate.

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