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EIM23455 - Car and van benefit: pooled cars and vans: meaning of private use merely incidental to business use

Sections 167(3)(d) and 168(3)(d) ITEPA 2003

The meaning of the phrase merely incidental to may give rise to difficulty.

We regard it as implying a qualitative rather than a quantitative test. It does not refer to the extent of private mileage but rather to the private element viewed in the context of a journey as a whole. Support for this view can be found in Robson v Dixon (48TC527) where the judge said in another context that

“the words “merely incidental to” are … apt to denote an activity … which does not serve any independent purpose but is carried out in order further some other purpose”.

Thus the use of a car or van for what is primarily a business journey, but which includes some limited private use, would satisfy the words merely incidental to.

An example might be an employee who is required to make a long business journey. So that the employee can make an early morning start he or she is allowed to take a pooled car home the previous evening. Considered in isolation, the office to home journey is private use, but in these circumstances it is plainly subordinate to the business journey the next day. It is undertaken to facilitate the business trip. It is thus merely incidental to the business use.

Even so, a reservation is necessary in this type of case. If it happened too often the car would fail condition (e) at EIM23450 because it would be kept fairly often in the vicinity of the employee’s home (see EIM23465). In these circumstances the car would not rank as a pooled car.