COVID-19 and car fringe benefits

Employer fringe benefits tax (FBT) obligations may be affected where employees have been garaging  work cars at their homes due to COVID-19.

The ATO has clarified that an employer will not be taken to hold a car for the purposes of providing  fringe benefits to an employee where a car has not been driven at all during the period it has been  garaged at home or has only been driven briefly for maintenance purposes. Under these  circumstances, an employer that elects to use the operating cost method will have nil taxable value  for the car and no FBT liability. Employers should maintain odometer records to show that the car was  not driven during the period it was garaged. If the car was driven for business purposes, the taxable  value of the car fringe benefit may be reduced to nil if the car is only being used for business travel,  and the required logbook and odometer records for the period are kept. 

Employers that do not apply the operating cost method or do not have odometer records must apply  the statutory formula method. Under the statutory formula method, an FBT liability will arise as the car was garaged at an employee’s home and taken to be available for private use. 

The ATO has also provided guidance on logbook requirements for car fringe benefits under the  operating cost method where COVID-19 has impacted driving patterns and: 

• an existing logbook was in place 

• driving patterns were impacted during the time a logbook was being maintained, or • it is the first time the operating cost method is being used or it is a logbook year for the car. 

From CAP TAX News – 20 August 2020 / Edition 32