Taxes

Selling a Business Vehicle: Tax Issues to Know in the UK

Andre Spiteri

Perhaps your current company car has seen better days, so you've decided to get rid of it. Or maybe you'd like to cut down on expenses by switching to a cleaner, more fuel-efficient and, so, more cost-effective model. Whatever the reasons behind it, selling a vehicle you use in your business usually has tax implications, just like the sale of any other business assets.

Here's a look at some of the chief tax issues you need to be aware of if you're self-employed and thinking of selling or trading in your car (or getting rid of it some other way).

What are the tax implications of selling or trading in your business vehicle?

In the UK, you may have to pay capital gains tax — or corporation tax, if you do business as a limited liability company — whenever you ‘dispose of' a business asset.HMRC considers you to have disposed of a business asset if you:

  • Sell it
  • Give it away as a gift or transfer it to another person
  • Swap it for something else, for example, if you trade in your old company car for a new one
  • Get compensation for it, for example, because you total your car and get an insurance payout
  • Keep it but no longer use it for business purposes
  • Start using it outside your business

When do I have to pay tax on the sale of a business vehicle?

In theory, you'd have to pay corporation tax (or capital gains tax if you're a sole trader and use your car for business travel) if you sell the car for more than you bought it.

You'd also have to pay capital gains or corporation tax if you dispose of the car some other way and make a profit. For example, you'd have to pay tax if you traded in your car for another one and the value of the trade-in was higher than the original price of the vehicle.In practice, however, it's unlikely that this will happen. Namely, the chances of you making a profit from selling or trading in a car are very slim.

The AA reckons that a new car can lose as much as 40 percent of its value in its first year on the road. And by the third year, you can expect it to decrease as much as 60 percent of its value. To put things in perspective, that shiny new Vauxhall Insignia you bought for £20,000 in 2015 could now cost as little as £8,000.

Pastry chef loading cakes into van

When do I have to pay taxes on the sale of a business car?

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Aside from the difference between the purchase price and what you sold or traded in the car for, HMRC also requires you to factor in the number of capital allowances you claimed.

If you do business as a limited liability company, your status may affect how much corporation tax you have to pay. Similarly, if you're a sole trader, doing this may increase your income tax bill (although you'll be happy to hear, you won't have to pay capital gains tax).Sounds complicated? Don't worry. We'll explain everything in a minute.But before we dive in, here's a quick refresher on claiming capital allowances on your business vehicle.

How to write off the cost of a company car as a business expense: A refresher

If you buy an automobile and use it for business purposes at least some of the time, HMRC lets you claim a tax deduction. The deduction could be the full purchase price or a lesser amount, depending on:

  • Whether you're considered a sole trader or a limited liability company. Sole traders have to account for personal drives, while limited liability companies don't.
  • The car's CO2 emissions. The more your car pollutes the environment, the smaller your tax deduction. You can find out how much CO2 your car emits using the Vehicle Certification Agency's online tool.
  • If you buy the car on hire purchase terms, or through a loan, you can also claim the interest on your repayments.
  • Once you know the value of your car (purchase price and any interest less any personal use) and its CO2 emissions, you'll need to apply HMRC's writing-down allowances.

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Writing off the cost of a company car: Example

Let's say you do business as a limited liability company.In 2015, you bought a car for £20,000, and you paid for it using the company's money. The vehicle emits 85 grams of CO2 per kilometre. Since it belongs to the company, no deduction for personal use applies.HMRC's current writing down allowance for new cars that emit between 75g/km and 130g/km is 18 percent.According to the emission guidelines:

  • In 2015/16, you'd deduct £20,000 x 18%, or £3,600. As a result of this deduction, your car's written down value, or closing balance would be £16,400.
  • In 2016/17, you'd deduct £16,400 x 18%, or £2,952, leaving you with a closing balance of £13,448.
  • In 2017/18, you'd deduct £13,448 x 18%, or £2,420.64, leaving you with a closing balance of £11,027.36.
An employee checks under the bonnet of a Vauxhall car at a Vauxhall dealership

What does this mean for my tax liability if I decide to sell my business vehicle?

Your tax liability isn't just a question of whether you've sold or traded in the car at a profit. You also need to account for any writing down allowances you've claimed in the past.If the car's sale price or trade-in value is higher than your total writing down allowances, you'll have to adjust the allocation, which is called a balancing charge. And this will increase your overall tax bill.

What is a balancing charge?

A balancing charge is the opposite of a writing down allowance. While a writing down allowance reduces your tax bill, a balancing charge increases it.A balancing charge aims to make sure disposing of a business asset doesn't result in you claiming an entitled tax deduction, which may be higher.

How a Balancing Charge Works: Example

Let's say you do business as a limited liability company. In 2017/18, you made £60,000, and your allowable business expenses were £11,000. Resulting in a company's total taxable income for the year to £49,000.In 2015, you bought a company car for £15,000. And, between 2015 and 2018, you claimed £5,000 in writing down allowances.In 2018, you sold the car for £8,000.The difference is £3,000 more than what you've claimed in writing down allowances. As a result, you'll need to add a £3,000 balancing charge to your total profits for 2017/18.So, your total taxable income for the year is £52,000, which means you'll pay more tax.

Mechanics examining and discussing tire in auto repair shop

In summary: What are the tax implications of selling a business vehicle?

  • If you're a sole trader and you sell your business vehicle, it's highly unlikely that you'll have to pay capital gains tax. The thought behind this is because you most probably won't make a profit.
  • However, you may have to pay more income tax if the sale price is higher than your writing down allowances.
  • Limited liability companies don't pay capital gains tax; they pay corporation tax.
  • Your company may have to pay more corporation tax if the amount you sell your car for is over than what you've claimed in writing down allowances.

What are some tips and tricks on selling a business vehicle?

If you've made it this far, that's excellent. You now know how selling or trading in your car could affect your tax bill if you're a sole trader or a limited liability company.But how do you go about selling your car? Where are some of the best places to list it? Actually, where do you even start?Here are some steps you can take to make sure you get a good deal:

  • Step 1: Find out how much the car is worth. You can do this for free online using a website such as AutoTrader. Alternatively, you can use Glass's Guide to research the value of your automobile.
  • Step 2: If you haven't done so already, give the car an MOT. This test will usually make the car more appealing, for two reasons. Firstly, it tells the buyer that the vehicle is in good shape. Secondly, it means the buyer won't have to fork out money for an MOT straight away.
  • Step 3: Make sure you gather all the car's paperwork together. Be prepared to present the car's V5C form, MOT certificates and service book as well as any receipts for parts and labour.
  • Step 4: Give the car a good cleaning, inside and out. It may seem obvious, but you'll have a better chance of impressing a prospective buyer if the automobile is spick and span. You may also want to consider fixing minor dents and scratches.