Beta This part of GOV.UK is being rebuilt – find out what this means

HMRC internal manual

VAT Input Tax

HM Revenue & Customs
, see all updates

Motoring expenses: car derived vans

A list of car derived vans can be seen at Car derived vans and combi vans.

What is a car derived van?

From the outside these vehicles still look like a car. However, from the inside the vehicles look like and function as a van. This is because:

  • the rear seats and seatbelts have been taken out, along with their mountings;
  • the rear area of the shell is fitted with a new floor panel to create a payload area; and
  • the vehicle’s side windows to the rear of the driver’s seat are made opaque.

Are these vehicles cars or vans for VAT purposes?

These vehicles clearly do not fit comfortably within the first part of the definition of a motor car (see VIT50300). This is because they are not “solely or mainly for the carriage of passengers”.

Turning to the second part of the definition it would appear that this vehicle is “constructed…for the fitting of side windows”. However, where these vehicles are clearly not designed for the carriage of passengers HMRC takes the view that these vehicles can be treated as vans for VAT purposes. This view is subject to the conditions set out below.

What characteristics define a car derived van?

We know in very broad terms what these vehicles look like. However, if one of these vehicles is to be classed as a van for VAT purposes then it must have certain characteristics.

You will see that HMRC has rated these characteristics as general, important or essential. This does not mean that a vehicle can fail to meet an important criterion and still be classed as a van. The classification merely indicates that the technical requirements for an important criterion have been relaxed to reflect their non-essential status.

Load area

A general point that ensures the vehicle has the basic entry characteristic of a car-derived van.

When viewing the load area it is important that these two conditions are met:

  • the adaptations must allow the vehicle to function as a commercial vehicle. The removal of a bench seat or similar from what is essentially a two seater car would not automatically qualify the vehicle as a van for VAT purposes even if all other conditions are met.
  • the accommodation that remains must be highly unsuitable for carrying passengers. If the space that remains could accommodate a bench seat or similar you may need to look instead at the guidance on combination vans at VIT50900.

Seat belt mountings

This is an essential criterion.

The seat belt mountings must be completely removed or disabled. It is not enough to merely cover them over or fill in holes with a non-metal cold substance, which can easily be removed later. Examples of suitable methods of disabling are:

  • welding up the boltholes;
  • fitting bonded shear-bolts.

Seat mountings

This is an essential criterion.

The seat mountings must be completely removed or disabled. The boltholes must be treated in the same way as the boltholes for the seat belt mountings. Hooks or brackets must be removed.

Rear foot well

This is an important criterion.

The rear foot well makes the rear of the vehicle suitable for the carriage of passengers as it gives the necessary headroom. HMRC would insist on a permanently fixed cover which must either be welded or fixed to the body with shear bolts. It is not suitable to have a temporary floor which can be easily removed.


This is an important criterion.

HMRC takes the view that a window must let light and/or air into the vehicle. Therefore a car-derived van where any side windows to the rear of the driver’s seat are fitted with clear glass would not qualify as a van for VAT purposes even if all the other conditions were met. So to satisfy this criterion HMRC insists that:

  • all side windows to the rear of the drivers seat must be completely opaque. To avoid any doubt on this issue we would prefer the glass to be laminated. This means the opaque layer is sandwiched in the middle of clear glass. Alternatively we understand that an opaque film can be fitted which is difficult to remove due to the type of adhesive used. HMRC would not accept any film which could be removed by simple process; and
  • the mechanism for raising and lowering the windows in the rear side doors, where applicable, must be disabled or removed. Where this cannot be done HMRC would accept bonding the glass to the frame so that it cannot be opened.