The ‘one tonne’ conundrum

BIK rates are rising all the time, especially as average vehicle CO2 ratings have risen post WLTP testing.

One way of reducing the amount of BIK payable is to run a Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV), rather than a car. These are taxed on a fixed amount (20 or 40% of a fixed amount of £3500) rather than a percentage of the P11D value.

However, why would you run a van and not a car?

When it is a Double Cab pickup:

  • Room for the family (5 seats)
  • Car style equipment
  • Rugged lifestyle looks
  • Availability from brands such as VW and Mercedes
  • High driving position and 4WD as per an expensive SUV

However, it isn’t all good news:

  • Commercial spec suspension is made to carry weight, so it is often bouncy and uncomfortable when unladen
  • Agricultural mechanical 4WD systems, not like a luxury SUV
  • Quite large and difficult to park
  • Can make you look like a farmer
  • No security of luggage/goods without buying extra equipment (e.g. Truckman top load cover)

Now is probably a good time to state that this whole piece only applies to Double Cab pickups and not single cabs or any other variation that doesn’t have two rows of seats. If you’re keen enough to run one of those, the Revenue are happy that it is always classed as an LCV.

This all sounds great, except the Inland Revenue have noticed that some people may choose to run a Double Cab pick up who could be attempting to minimise their BIK tax payments – and not use it as a commercial vehicle. And they’re not keen on that approach.

So, to maintain a veneer of LCV respectability to the process, they are insisting that anything that attracts LCV BIK rate must have a working payload of at least 1000kg (1 tonne). Under that threshold, the vehicle will revert to being taxed as a car on a percentage of the P11D value. Ouch.

For a bit of context, there are essentially three basic groups of user that will run a Double Cab pickup:

  1. Essential business users. These use the vehicle only for work purposes and are not allowed to use it for private purposes. These people are not affected as they don’t pay BIK as there is no benefit here – it is just a work tool.
  2. As per 1 but they are allowed private use. This may be down to their working practices, but as they are allowed private use, BIK is applied.
  3. A driver who otherwise may have a car but likes the ideas and maybe finds it attractive to lower their BIK bill.

The 1000kg rule applies to both 2 and 3. This is a bit rough on drivers in group 2 as they probably won’t have chosen the vehicle, it may well be permanently grubby and (to them) it certainly isn’t a car. However, for the Revenue, this distinction would be impossible to enforce.

Back to payload. This is the amount of weight a vehicle is allowed to carry, up to the maximum Gross Vehicle Weight.

Popular models are shown as examples below (one low spec, one high spec – in each range):

Mitsubishi L200Double Cab 151 4Life 4WD1045
Double Cab 178 Barbarian 4WD Auto1050
Nissan NavaraDouble Cab Visia 2.3 dCi 163 4WD1059
Double Cab Tekna 2.3 dCi 190 4WD Auto1064
Toyota HiluxActive Double Cab 2.4 D-4D1205
Invincible Double Cab 2.4 D-4D Auto
(3.5t Tow)
Volkswagen AmarokDouble Cab Trendline 3.0 V6 TDI 163
Double Cab Highline 3.0 V6 TDI 258
4Motion Auto

No problem, I hear you say. The average payload of the examples is (near as dammit) 1100kg. Which it is.

However, the payload is the amount of weight the vehicle is allowed to carry, up to its individual maximum vehicle weight. So, any added weight needs to be taken away from the payload.

For example, the L200 at the top of the list. 2 x 50kg bags of cement (or indeed a 100kg item of furniture) are placed in the load area. That removes 100kg from the payload (as you’ve used up some of the carrying capacity). The payload remaining is now 945kg. Simple so far.

The two images illustrate two of the different carrying configurations available for Double Cab pickups. The first is the standard open bed, the second has a secure hard top cover on the rear.

As is probably apparent, the vast majority of drivers choosing a pick up to replace a car will be interested in the hard top. And this is where things get complicated.

From the Revenue’s point of view, the fitment of a load cover is a very strong sign that the vehicle is not really going to be used as a van. This is where is becomes very unfair on user group 2 in our earlier list (would you leave your tools uncovered??), but that’s how it is.

To attempt to keep the process simple, rather than having to take into the account differing weights of every possible type of hard top, the Revenue allocate a statutory weight for calculation of 45kg. So 45kg taken away from the payload. But the sticker is for P11D purposes this is a permanent reduction, not just when fitted. (whereas the real payload would increase if you took the hard top off – less weight attached).

Referring back to our table, the first L200 has a payload of 1045kg. So if we take away 45kg for a hard top, it leaves us with – oh 1000kg…

Everything is still ok though, because we still hit the 1000kg number. But what if you need a towbar for your caravan/trailer? That installation could easily weigh 25-30kg. Again, very unfair on our no 2 group of users.

So, the summary here is thus:

  • Double Cab pick ups are the affected vehicle
  • Van BIK is payable by the driver (who has personal use) provided:
    • The payload of the vehicle is 1000kg or more after taking into account any accessories/modifications
    • Also, factory options can fall into this category
  • Otherwise, car BIK is payable (probably defeating the whole point of the exercise)

What is the best way to make sure this is all taken care of satisfactorily?

  • Check with the supplying dealer at the point of quoting
  • Check again at the point of ordering
  • Make sure the customer knows
  • Remember from the table that some vehicles are a greater risk than others

Paul Titchmarsh – Director of Risk & Manufacturer Relations