Thursday, 19 January 2023
Department of Finance
Recent Government policy has focused on strengthening the environmental rationale behind company car taxation. Until the changes brought in as part of the Finance Act 2019, Ireland’s vehicle benefit-in-kind regime was unusual in that there was no overall CO2 rationale in the regime. This is despite a CO2 based vehicle BIK regime being legislated for as far back as 2008 (but never having been commenced).
In Finance Act 2019, a CO2-based BIK regime for company cars was legislated for from 1 January 2023. From the beginning of this year, the amount taxable as BIK is determined by the car’s original market value (OMV) and the annual business kilometres driven, while new CO2 emissions-based bands determines whether a standard, discounted, or surcharged rate is taxable. The number of mileage bands has reduced from five to four.
In certain instances, this new regime will provide for higher BIK rates, for example in relation to above average emissions and high mileage cars. It should be noted, however, that the rates remain largely the same in the lower to mid mileage ranges for the average lower emission car. Additionally, EVs benefit from a preferential rate of BIK, ranging from 9 – 22.5% depending on mileage. Fossil-fuel vehicles are subject to higher BIK rates, up to 37.5%. This new structure with CO2-based discounts and surcharges is designed to incentivise employers to provide employees with low-emission cars.
I am aware there have been arguments surrounding the mileage bands in the new BIK structure, as they can be perceived as incentivising higher mileage to avail of lower rates, leading to higher levels of emissions. The rationale behind the mileage bands is that the greater the business mileage, the more the car is a benefit to the company rather than its employee (on average); and the more the car depreciates in value, the less of a benefit it is to the employee (in years 2 and 3) as the asset from which the benefit is derived is depreciating faster. Mileage bands also ensure that cars that are more integral to the conduct of business receive preferential tax treatment.
I believe that better value for money for the taxpayer is achieved by curtailing the amount of subsidies available and building an environmental rationale directly into the BIK regime. It was determined in this context that reforming the BIK system to include emissions bands provides for a more sustainable environmental rationale than the continuation of the current system with exemptions for electric vehicles (EVs). This brings the taxation system around company cars into step with other CO2-based motor taxes as well as the long-established CO2-based vehicle BIK regimes in other member states.
In addition to the above and in light of government commitments on climate change, Budget 2022 extended the preferential BIK treatment for EVs to end 2025 with a tapering mechanism on the vehicle value threshold. This BIK exemption forms part of a broader series of very generous measures to support the uptake of EVs, including a reduced rate of 7% VRT, a VRT relief of up to €5,000, low motor tax of €120 per annum, SEAI grants, discounted tolls fees, and 0% BIK on electric charging.
Finally, it should be noted that this new BIK charging mechanism was legislated for in 2019 and was announced as part of Budget 2020. I am satisfied that this has provided a sufficient lead in time to adapt to this new system before its recent implementation.