Pick a plug-in
HMRC has spent the past 20 years using company car tax to incentivise low-CO2 vehicles. The latest overhaul, in 2020, introduced large incentives for vehicles emitting less than 50g/km – in other words, all electric and most plug-in hybrid models. If a plug-in suits your lifestyle, then choosing one is the easiest way to reduce your benefit-in-kind bill.
Until April 2025, electric cars (rated at 0g/km CO2) are taxed based on 2% of their list (P11d) price, whereas even the most efficient petrol or diesel models start at 29%. That’s usually enough to reduce your tax bill by 90%.
For context, a 20% taxpayer in a £30,000 Vauxhall Astra GS Line diesel would pay around £154 in benefit-in-kind per month, whereas their boss on a 40% income tax band would pay £79 for a £120,000 BMW iX M60. It’s hardly surprising that battery-electric has become the most popular powertrain type for new fleet lease cars, according to the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA).
If you are not ready to ditch combustion engines completely, the benefit-in-kind bands also heavily incentivise plug-in hybrids with the longest electric range – and this can offset the higher list price.
For example, the Toyota RAV4 Plug-in has an electric-only range of 46 miles so it falls into the 8% BIK band, whereas the Ford Kuga ST-Line Edition travels 39 miles on a full charge and is taxed at 12% of the list price. Despite the Toyota’s £5000 list price disadvantage, drivers will pay around 25% less tax than they would on the Ford.
Be selective with options
In 2017, Europe’s automotive industry switched to a new fuel efficiency test, catchily known as the worldwide harmonised light vehicles test procedure, or WLTP. Alongside tougher test conditions, this produces more granular data, including recognising differences between trim levels and the effects of optional equipment on efficiency. Before you get carried away adding options, it’s worth double-checking that the larger wheels or panoramic sunroof you’ve just selected don’t push the car into a higher tax band. They can turn into expensive luxuries over a three-year lifespan.
Look out for fleet trims
Fleets and leasing companies have enough buying power to negotiate discounts on new cars that private buyers wouldn’t have access to. Unfortunately, this isn’t reflected in the list price and those discounts won’t result in lower benefit-in-kind for drivers.
To help pass those savings on, some manufacturers offer fleet-focused trim levels that add essential kit but effectively have the discount built into the list price. The result is lower benefit-in-kind payments than for an equivalent retail-focused version.