The social security authorities have recently adopted a new position on CO2 contributions on company vehicles.
Principles of the current regime
When an employer provides an employee with a company vehicle which can be used for purposes other than those strictly professional (i.e. private use, commuting from home to the workplace and collective transport of employees), the employee can claim a tax benefit.
Although this benefit is excluded from the notion of remuneration and thus exempted from regular social security taxes, the employer will still be liable for the payment of a solidarity contribution on this benefit. The amount of this solidarity contribution is determined based on the vehicle’s CO2 emissions.
Moreover, since 1 July 2005, any vehicle registered in the name of the employer or leased by the employer and which is made available to employees is assumed to be used for private purposes. 1
What has changed?
As from the second quarter of 2014, the private use of commercial vehicles (qualified by the fiscal authorities as a van, with a loading area and no windows in the back and which cannot be used to transport passengers) is no longer taken into consideration. Social inspectors can however still consider there to be a private use of a commercial vehicle depending on the circumstances, leading to the payment of CO2 contributions.
Furthermore, and equally as from the second quarter of 2014, the fact that a commercial vehicle is used for commuting from home to the workplace (regardless of whether the workplace is the company seat, a site, a client’s office or a place where an employee goes every morning throughout the year and from where they return home, even without using this vehicle during the day), will not result in CO2 contributions becoming due. Commuting with a company car or a pool car is however still considered as private use on which CO2 contributions are due.
This change in the social security authorities’ position does not affect the position of the income tax authorities, which remains less flexible in this case. Indeed, if a commercial vehicle is used by an employee for private purposes, including commuting, this private use will be considered a benefit in kind subject to income tax, as is the case for other types of vehicles. The valuation of the benefit, however, will differ depending on the type of vehicle.
As a final remark, we draw attention to the fact that non-payment of the CO2 contribution may result in penalties.
1 This presumption can be refuted by the employer if they can demonstrate that the vehicle is strictly used for professional purposes or, where it is used for other than strictly professional purposes, it is being used by a person who is not subject to the employee social security legislation (e.g. employees subject to a foreign social security scheme, self-employed directors, etc.).