Motoring expenses: what is a car?
For VAT purposes the legal definition of a motor car is contained in the Value Added Tax (Cars) Order 1992, Statutory Instrument 1992/3122. This has been amended on various occasions. The current definition is:
“Motor car” means any motor vehicle of a kind normally used on public roads which has three or more wheels and either:
a) is constructed or adapted solely or mainly for the carriage of passengers; or
b) has to the rear of the driver’s seat roofed accommodation which is fitted with side windows or which is constructed or adapted for the fitting of side windows;
but does not include—
(i) vehicles capable of accommodating only one person;
(ii) vehicles which meet the requirements of Schedule 6 to the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986(c) and are capable of carrying twelve or more seated persons;
(iii) vehicles of not less than three tonnes unladen weight (as defined in the Table to regulation 3(2) of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986);
(iv) vehicles constructed to carry a payload (the difference between a vehicle’s kerb weight (as defined in the Table to regulation 3(2) of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986) and its maximum gross weight (as defined in that Table)) of one tonne or more;
(v) caravans, ambulances and prison vans;
(vi) vehicles constructed for a special purpose other than the carriage of persons and having no other accommodation for carrying persons than such as is incidental to that purpose.
This definition of “motor cars” came into effect on 1 December 1999. It changed the previous definition in three ways:
- exception 2 was made conditional upon the vehicle meeting the requirements of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. The object is to ensure that people cannot recover input tax by performing unsafe conversions;
- the exception relating to London type-taxis was deleted. This exception was not needed after 1 August 1992. Changes made on that date allowed input tax recovery on cars primarily used as taxis.
- exception 4 was introduced. Payload is defined as the difference between a vehicle’s kerb weight and maximum gross weight as defined in the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. This change means that certain dual purpose vehicles are no longer cars for VAT purposes. These are commonly called twin cab or double cab pick-ups. You should note that a few double cabs carry a payload of less than 1 tonne. Manufacturers and dealers should advise customers which models are affected by the change.
The following definitions in the Table to regulation 3(2) of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 are also useful:
Unladen weight means the weight of a vehicle or trailer inclusive of the body and all parts (the heavier being taken where alternative bodies or parts are used) which are necessary to or ordinarily used with the vehicle or trailer when working on a road, but exclusive of the weight of water, fuel or accumulators used for the purpose of the supply of power for the propulsion of the vehicle or, as the case may be, of any vehicle by which the trailer is drawn, and of loose tools and loose equipment.
Kerb weight means the weight of a vehicle when it carries:
- in the case of a motor vehicle
i. no person; and ii a full supply of fuel in its tank, an adequate supply of other liquids incidental to its propulsion and no load other than the loose tools and equipment with which it is normally equipped;
- in the case of a trailer, no person and is otherwise unladen.
Gross weight means:
(a) in relation to a motor vehicle, the sum of the weights transmitted to the road surface by all the wheels of the vehicle
(b) in relation to a trailer, the sum of the weights transmitted to the road surface by all the wheels of the trailer and of any weight of the trailer imposed on the drawing vehicle.
Special purpose vehicles include ice cream vans, mobile shops, hearses, bullion vans, and breakdown and recovery vehicles.