TaxPersonal TaxFor and against – CO2 tax is ‘common sense’.

For and against - CO2 tax is 'common sense'.

Ever since the Inland Revenue announced changes in the taxation of company cars to come into effect on 6 April 2002 there has been a good deal of confusion surrounding the definition of the correct CO2 emission levels to be used in calculating tax liabilities.

In recent months panic seems to have set in. This follows the suggestion, or in some cases clear advice, from professional advisers that companies will have to fend for themselves in obtaining CO2 emissions data.

A cynical view of this would be that professional accountancy firms stand to benefit from advising any ‘confused’ employers. Certainly, by indicating that the Revenue has abrogated responsibility, they are, at the very least, likely to cause concern. Just as likely is that uncertainty for both advisers and employers has been caused by delays on the Revenue’s part in issuing clear, concise guidance.

The facts are straightforward . Simply use the figure on the registration document for cars first registered from March 2001.

For vehicles registered between January 1998 and February 2001 the Revenue has commissioned a database from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which sets out details of emission for the first three years of the new system and can be found at SMMT.co.uk. The information will be updated each month. The SMMT even offers a tailored service and will respond to individual queries by email.

The Revenue has said companies should abide by its guidelines and the data that is prepared by SMMT. It says that provided employers take reasonable care to identify and document the car and CO2 emissions then the figures need not be exact. So if the Revenue is adopting a common sense approach employers have little to worry about.

The new system will be no more complicated than the current system. With burgeoning environmental concerns both at a corporate and individual level, as reflected in the growing trend towards providing shareholders with information on a company’s impact on the environment, any encouragement towards the use of more fuel efficient cars, which might help slow global warming and improve air quality, should be welcomed.

Of course, clear cut advice from the Revenue doesn’t help line accountants’ pockets. Fortunately for these hard-working champions of simplicity, the current UK tax laws ensure there is plenty of red tape to interpret to avoid them going hungry.

– Ashley Whittaker is chief executive officer of Cevas Data Systems

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