• Car fringe benefits

    This information forms Chapter 7 of Fringe benefits tax - a guide for employers.

    Remember, a fringe benefit may be provided by another person on behalf of an employer. It may also be provided to another person on behalf of an employee (for example, a relative).

    7.1 What is a car fringe benefit?

    A car fringe benefit most commonly arises where you (the employer) make a car you 'hold' available for the private use of an employee (or the car is treated as being available). A car you hold generally means a car you own or lease.

    The following types of vehicles (including four-wheel drive vehicles) are cars:

    • motor cars, station wagons, panel vans and utilities (excluding panel vans and utilities designed to carry a load of one tonne or more)
    • all other goods-carrying vehicles designed to carry less than one tonne
    • all other passenger-carrying vehicles designed to carry fewer than nine occupants.

    You make a car available for private use by an employee on any day that either:

    • the car is actually used for private purposes by the employee
    • the car is available for the private use of the employee.

    A car is treated as being available for private use by an employee on any day that either:

    • the car is not at your premises, and the employee is allowed to use it for private purposes
    • the car is garaged at the employee's home.

    A car that is garaged at an employee's home is treated as being available for the private use of the employee regardless of whether they have permission to use it for private purposes. Similarly, where the place of employment and residence are the same, the car is taken to be available for the private use of the employee.

    As a general rule, travel to and from work is private use of a vehicle.

    Where a car is in a workshop for extensive repairs (for example, following a motor vehicle accident) it is not available for private use of the employee. However, a car is considered to be available for private use where it is in the workshop for routine servicing or maintenance.

    Private use of a motor vehicle that is not a car may give rise to a residual fringe benefit - for more information, refer to section 18.6 of Residual fringe benefits.

    If you hire a car for less than three months, you are not considered to 'hold' the car and it will not result in a car fringe benefit. However, if you make a rental car or taxi available for the private use of an employee, and the car is hired for less than three months, a residual fringe benefit may arise.

    Special rule for emergency service cars

    Home garaging for certain emergency service cars will not result in a car being treated as available for private use under the 'home garaging rule'. However, if the car is otherwise made available for private use, such as by actual private travel between work and home, a car fringe benefit may arise.

    To qualify under the home garaging rule, at the time the emergency vehicle is garaged, it must be:

    • used by an ambulance, police or fire fighting service
    • have fitted exterior markings indicating such a use
    • also be equipped with a flashing warning light and horn, bell or alarm.

    7.2 Taxable value

    You can calculate the taxable value of a car fringe benefit using either of the following methods:

    • Statutory formula method - following the 2011 Budget, changes were made to the statutory formula method which has resulted in the old progressive statutory rates being replaced with a single statutory rate of 20% (subject to transitional rules), which applies regardless of kilometres travelled. This rate applies to all car fringe benefits after 7.30pm AEST on 10 May 2011, except where there is a 'pre-existing commitment' in place to provide the car (for a meaning of the term 'commitment' see section 7.4). The taxable value of the car fringe benefits is the statutory rate multiplied by the car's base value.
    • Operating cost method - the taxable value of the car fringe benefit is a percentage of the total costs of operating the car during the fringe benefits tax (FBT) year. The percentage varies with the extent of actual private use. The lower the incidence of actual private use, the lower the taxable value.

    7.3 Choosing the valuation method

    You must use the statutory formula method unless you elect to use the operating cost method. You may elect to use the operating cost method for any or all of your cars, regardless of which method you used in a previous year. However, to use the operating cost method you must have kept adequate FBT records - for more information, see section 7.8.

    You must decide to use the operating cost method no later than the day on which your FBT return is due to be lodged with us or, if you do not have to lodge a return, by 21 May.

    You can choose whichever method yields the lowest taxable value. There is no need to notify us of the method chosen as your business records are sufficient evidence of this.

      Last modified: 15 May 2017QC 17818