Currently reading: How do you claim for charging an electric company car?
What can electric company car drivers claim for business mileage and is it keeping up with spiralling energy and charging costs?

Charge anxiety is often cited as a reason not to go electric, but the reality is you’re never far from an opportunity to plug in. Instead of dashing to the fuel station when you’re running low, an electric vehicle can be charged almost anywhere with an electrical outlet – at home, work, or on the road – and you don’t have to hang around while it’s doing so.

However, that flexibility means mileage claims for business trips are a little less straightforward than for a petrol or diesel car, and it’s easy to end up out of pocket or on the wrong side of HMRC if you get it wrong. Here’s why.

What can you claim for charging at home?

Plugging in overnight is the most convenient way to top up an electric vehicle, but it’s also the most complicated from an expenses point of view. Unlike buying a tank of fuel, charging costs are effectively bundled into your household energy bill, and it’s difficult to prove how much was used for business journeys if you’re driving a company car. 

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HMRC introduced an advisory electric rate (AER) in 2018, enabling drivers to claim charging expenses at a per-mile rate, as they would in a petrol or diesel car, but the fleet sector has criticised it for not covering drivers’ costs. 

Petrol and diesel cars have different rates according to their engine size, and these are updated quarterly. The AER applies to all electric vehicles, from frugal city cars like the Fiat 500 and Honda E to large SUVs such as the Audi E-tron and Mercedes EQC, and was increased by only 1p per mile during its first four years, despite the cost of home energy more than doubling during that period. 

That system changed at the end of 2022. There’s still only one AER for all electric vehicles, but it’s now updated every quarter, based on the latest electricity prices from the Office for National Statistics and a weighted average efficiency for fleet-operated electric cars. 

Since 1 March 2023, the AER has been set at 9p per mile, which is enough to cover home charging costs for a mid-size EV (think Volkswagen ID 3) if it’s plugged in at home on a flat-rate tariff under the government’s Energy Price Guarantee scheme. It’s a step in the right direction.

Do fleets have to use the advisory electric rate?

No, but the alternatives can be an administrative headache. HMRC treats reimbursed domestic electricity as a taxable benefit in kind, unless the vehicle is available for business use only. For a company car, where some journeys will be private, it’s up to employers to prove how the energy has been used. 

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Luckily, most home charge points installed recently (and all new installations) have a data connection and the ability to log usage in detail. This means there are a few hardware-agnostic solutions that can support more accurate reimbursement, without miring fleet managers in a complex audit process, such as these. 

- Centrica’s ‘virtual fuel card’ brings home, workplace and public charge points under a single account. Home energy is then automatically reimbursed via payroll, but it’s designed for business-only vehicles (such as vans) and not for company cars. 

- NewMotion’s solution is similar. It’s a card for accessing workplace and public charge points but also logs energy used at home and reimburses drivers in their pay package. However, drivers would need a separate account for private journeys.

- Mina Homecharge removes up-front costs for drivers by paying for home and public charge sessions and then invoicing the employer for the energy used. Drivers can classify journeys as private within the same account, which, Mina says, creates enough of a paper trail to satisfy HMRC.

What can you claim for charging in public?

Soaring energy prices have caused even bigger challenges for businesses, including charge point operators. As businesses, they are not protected by Ofgem’s price caps and government support didn’t kick in until autumn 2022. Networks have faced huge rises in operating costs, and most have grudgingly passed those costs on to drivers.

According to Zap-Map, the most expensive networks are charging 79p per kilowatt-hour of electricity, and the AER doesn’t come close to covering that expense. Even an efficient small EV, such as a Kia Niro, would rack up ‘fuel’ costs of almost 21p per mile, which is equivalent to a 33mpg petrol car based on current pump prices and more than twice the mileage rate approved by HMRC. 

Employers are allowed to adjust the AER if they can prove it is leaving drivers out of pocket, but any excess is open to being taxed as additional income. 

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Suppliers have recognised that this is an issue. Several fuel card companies already let drivers pay for charging sessions and automatically invoice the costs back to their employer, just like a tank of petrol or diesel. Most charge point operators will also provide VAT receipts or monthly statements showing how much you’ve spent, and some will automatically reimburse drivers as part of their wages. This can help take the hassle out of making a claim. 

How about charging at work? 

A unique perk of electric and plug-in hybrid cars is the ability to get free ‘fuel’ from your employer without being taxed on it. If your workplace has its own charge points, then HMRC doesn’t tax the electricity provided as a benefit in kind – even if it’s for private use and you’re a passenger in the car. However, your employer might charge you a small fee to cover the rising cost of energy.

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