Chancellor Philip Hammond announced his first and last Spring Budget against a backdrop of better than expected tax revenues, higher growth than forecast and an economy that had ‘confounded commentators with its robust performance’.
The Office for Budget Responsibility revealed that economic growth for this year was now expected to be 2.0% rather than the 1.4% previously forecast, while employment was at record levels and unemployment at an 11-year low.
Although not explicitly stated, the Budget, which will be switched to November in future, confirmed many of the measures that the Chancellor had already introduced at the Autumn Statement.
For fleets, these were among the most relevant other measures:
New tax plans for diesels
One new measure that will be of concern for fleet operators who run primarily diesel vehicles will be the news that the Government is planning to explore changes in the way such vehicles are taxed.
The Budget report states that a detailed draft plan will be announced in the Spring concerning improving the UK’s air quality.
Allied to this, the report states that “the Government will continue to explore the appropriate tax treatment for diesel vehicles, and will engage with stakeholders ahead of making any tax changes at Autumn Budget 2017”.
Fuel duty frozen
Although there was no direct reference to it in the Budget, the Chancellor had already announced at the Autumn Statement that fuel duty would remain frozen, putting the planned rise on hold for the seventh successive year and making the current fuel duty freeze the longest for 40 years.
In total, this initiative was expected to save the average car driver £150 a year and the average van driver £350 a year, and amounted to a tax cut worth £850m, the Chancellor said at the time.
In the Budget, the Chancellor announced that HGV VED and Road User Levy rates will be frozen from 1 April 2017.
A call for evidence on updating the existing HGV Road User Levy will be launched this spring, and the Government will work with industry to update the levy so that it rewards hauliers that plan their routes efficiently, to incentivise the efficient use of roads and improve air quality.
Vehicle Excise duty set to rise
Pleas from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association to defer or stagger planned changes to the VED system fell on deaf ears, as did it’s wish for owners to retain the ability to obtain a full refund of any tax outstanding when a car is sold in the first year.
From 1 April 2017, VED rates for cars, vans and motorcycles registered before April 2017 will increase by Retail Prices Index (RPI).
However, it is all cars registered after that date that will see the biggest changes due to the new system announced at the Autumn Statement and which takes effect in April.
Under the a new rules, there is a higher first year rate for most cars according to their CO2 emissions, including Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs), many of which will be subject to VED for the first time, although cars that emit no CO2 will continue to be exempt from both rates.
The first year rate continues to increase as CO2 emissions rise, with the highest rate set at £2,000 compared to the current high of £1,120.
Thereafter, in subsequent years there will be three duty bands – zero emission, standard and premium.
For standard cars – which covers 95% of all cars sold in the UK – the charge from April will be a flat rate £140 a year. This is less than the average £166 a year that motorists pay today, although the new rates have been designed to increase revenues.
VED bands and rates for cars first registered before the April 1 2017 deadline and after:
|Emissions CO2 g/km||First year rate pre April 17 (£)||First year rate post April 17 (£)||Total increase in first year (£)||Pre April 17 annual rate (£)||Post April 17 annual rate (£)||Total increase/ decrease in first year (£)|
For cars with a list price greater than £40,000 when new, there will be an annual supplement of £310 in addition to the standard rate, for five years.
Funding for driverless vehicle and EV research
The Chancellor pledged £270m to keep the UK at the forefront of “disruptive technologies like biotech, robotic systems and driverless vehicles”.
These technologies will be supported through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), which will support collaborations between business and the UK’s science base. The funding will cover an initial investment of £270 million in 2017-18, which will include work in the development, design and manufacture of EV batteries.
Roads spending and other investment
The Chancellor announced at the Autumn Statement an extra investment in the country’s transport infrastructure with an additional £1.1bn for work on the roads network in England.
And at the Budget he confirmed that a further £220m was designated to address ‘pinchpoints’ on major strategic roads, with £93m to be spent in the North and £23m in the Midlands. He also announced a £690m competition amongst local authorities to tackle urban congestion.
Changes to company car tax
Although not directly addressed at the Budget, changes already announced in November to the Benefit in Kind company car tax system will prioritise electric vehicles from 2020.
The Autumn Statement reintroduced a BiK band for 0g/km vehicles which had been removed last April, and added a sliding scale for plug-in hybrid and range-extended electric models which emit 50g/km or less.
From April 2020, fully-electric cars will be taxed at 2%. Vehicles emitting between 1g/km and 50g/km – plug-in hybrids and range-extenders – will vary, with BiK bands between 2% and 14% depending on how far they can travel on battery power.
There will be a 1% increase per band, up to a maximum 37% rate, for cars emitting 90g/km or more. See table below.
|2020-21 company car tax bands|
|CO2 (g/km)||Electric range (miles)||BIK (%)|
Critics of the scheme say, however, that there is a considerable disincentive under current BIK rules to purchase ULEVS until 2020, as the current regime sees rates rise to as high as 16% for vehicles emitting 0-50g/km and 22% for vehicles of 76-94g/km in three years time – see table.
|CO2 g/km||BIK%||CO2 g/km||BIK%||CO2 g/km||BIK%|
Insurance Premium Tax to rise
The government said it would legislate to introduce anti-forestalling provisions and increase the standard rate of IPT to 12% from 1 June 2017, as announced at the Autumn Statement.