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June 11. 2021

What is the best way to change a Car?

Deciding whether to change your business car can be a difficult decision, as there can be significant tax implications. We are often asked what the best way to change a car is and of all the ways available it really comes down to two options, buying it or leasing it. Both effect your tax in very different ways, details of which are below.

Buying the car (Burst Tax Saving)

Driving Instructor cars are very unique in that, assuming Dual Controls are fitted, they are classed as Plant and Machinery rather than a Car. This distinction is incredibly important as it allows us to claim a one off 100% deduction in the year you buy the car. This means that if you buy a car before the 5th April 2022 you can claim up to 100% of the cost of the car and dual controls against your profit.

It is important to note two additional things:

  1. If the full amount is claimed there is no additional tax relief on the car, and
  2. When you sell or part exchange the car anything you receive for it is wholly taxable and will be added to your profit in the year you sell it.

If we do not claim the full amount in the year of purchase, then under the normal rules we can claim 18% of the remining balance over the life of the car.

This is the reason we refer to it as a Burst Tax Saving, you can have a massive tax saving in one year then your profit and tax will return to normal levels in following years.

How to pay for it.

From a tax point of view there are again only two real ways of acquiring the car, outright or on a Loan/HP/PCP agreement. By buying it outright there is no additional tax relief available, however when acquiring it on a Loan/HP/PCP agreement there is an additional tax relief. This is because you are being charged interest on the amount you borrow to acquire a business asset. This interest is therefore a business expense and is deducted from your turnover when calculating your profit. It is incredibly important to remember that you do not get tax relief on the repayment just on the interest charged. 

Leasing the Car (Regular Tax Saving)

Leasing the car, for example under a PCH agreement where you never have a right to ultimately own the vehicle, is completely different to the above as there is no Burst Tax Saving. However, in many ways it is much simpler as the amount you pay the lease company each year is an allowable business expense and is therefore deducted from your turnover when calculating profit. 

We refer to this as a Regular Tax Saving as you will always receive tax relief for 100% of each lease payment you make.

Manager’s thoughts

Normally when I am asked about tax relief and changing a car, I usually reply that there is no “one size fits all” approach to this kind of tax planning. Every person’s situation is different, and it really does come down to how you want to receive the tax relief. We have many clients who love the Burst Tax Saving and just as many who like the Regular Tax Saving, and that is absolutely great, you have to find whichever is best for you. 

This year however I might be moving ever so slightly closer to one over the other. Following conversation with Driving Instructors (DI’s) who are restarting their businesses and seeing just how many are working extra hours, I do think many DI’s will have significantly higher profits in 2021/22 than they normally would. Now this obviously cannot go on forever, and at some point, the market will return to its historic norm, but in the meantime many DI’s are going to see higher tax bills than they are used to. 

Buying a new car instead of leasing one could have a significant impact on your tax returns this year as you could see your profits pushed towards the higher rate band. So, buying a car could help bring your profits and tax in 2021/22 back down a level you are used to.

This is obviously incredibly speculative, no one truly knows what your profit will look like during the year, but you know the feel of your business and how full your diaries are.  It might be worth a quick five-minute check to see how your income might stack up this year and compare it to previous years and think about the merits of changing your car.

You must of course also consider the impact a car change can have on other things. Changing your car as discussed above, is highly likely to reduce your profits in the year of change and this could have an impact on things such as loan or mortgage renewals/applications which rely on reported annual taxable earnings. Finally, of course, as always when taking on any new debt you need to think carefully about whether you can afford it. 



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