Just when it seemed likely that a few out of countless thousands of civil servants might lose their jobs so councils can balance their budgets, along comes a hare-brained scheme straight out of New Labour’s play book. The complications involving a work-place parking tax are quite possibly too many to enumerate, meaning that legions of civil servants would be required to manage it. Or it would be contracted out at great expense leaving nothing for the public purse. And for what? Yet another burden on the hapless taxpayer.
For starters, this is a tax on jobs. This is a pet topic of mine, the extent to which we put barriers in the way of anyone who wants to employ people in this country. We tax them through Employers NIC, a direct tax on jobs, and we burden them with endless red tape, an indirect tax on jobs. No wonder it is easier to export jobs and cut costs. This has to be the killer argument against a workplace parking tax, it’s yet another burden at a time when we desperately want to see more jobs being created.
Then we can start to think of all the practical implications, the million little complications that somebody has to deal with.
Does a company pass the cost on to its employees? Or does it just swallow the charge? Indeed, does a council have to pay the charge to itself or does it charge its own employees? Does a charity have to pay? Does the owner of an empty office block have to pay? Can a company eliminate all of its parking spaces to save the charge, perhaps by grassing them over and turning them into lawns and flower beds? Can a company install parking meters so they are no longer providing free parking? Would that be valid even if they charged only a penny per day? Or a pound per day? Would the council have to employ inspectors to go round and ensure companies were enforcing parking charges? If you are self-employed and you normally work from home, do you have to pay a charge for parking on your own driveway? Or would you have to put up a parking meter as well? Do visitor parking spaces count? Do hospitals and fire stations have to pay for parking places for emergency vehicles? If not, what counts as an emergency vehicle?
If a company does pass the charge on to its employees, do they have to pay if they are on holiday? Or sick? What if they start at the company part-way through the year? Or leave part-way through? What if they belong to a car pool, do they pay a proportion or does each employee pay the full charge? What if an employee is paying the charge but there frequently isn’t anywhere for them to park? Or they only occasionally bring the car to work? What counts as occasional use? What if there’s a transport strike and more employees have to use their cars temporarily, will they have to pay? But if they don’t, will regular car users still have to pay? What if the transport strike only affects one group of employees, for example those who normally travel to work by train?
It’s not just a local council issue either as central government must surely become involved. Will the charge, if levied on the employee, be tax deductible? If it is not tax deductible and it is not passed on to the employee, is it a taxable benefit in kind? Is National Insurance payable on it as well? Is the charge liable to VAT?
Seriously, this is another ill-thought out gimmick like the Robin Hood Tax.