In Noel Payne, Christopher Garbett, Coca-Cola European Partners Breat Britain Limited v HMRC [2017] TC06082 the FTT had to decide whether the VW Kombi and the Vauxhall Vivaro were cars or vans for the purpose of assessing employee benefits.

Update: on appeal in 2019, the Upper Tier tribunal confirmed this decision.

A “goods vehicle” for the purposes of section 115(2) Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003 (“ITEPA”). Section 115(2) is “a vehicle of a construction primarily suited for the conveyance of goods or burden of any description….”

There are special rules to value the employment benefit of a Company Car or Company Van if provided by an employer.

  • Coca-Cola provided a VW Kombi 1, a Kombi 2 and a Vauxhall Vivaros for its technicians.
  • Both had a dual capability of carrying passengers and sufficient payload for carrying cargo.
  • HMRC had adjusted the employee's PAYE coding notices for car benefit and assessed the employer for Class 1A NICs.
  • Employees and employer appealed to the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) on the grounds that all the vehicles were vans.

Expert witnesses listed the vehicles' various characteristics in great detail.

  • HMRC also noted (although this was not a VAT case and so had no direct relevance) that that there were three factors which the tribunal took into account when looking at the differences between cars and vans in VAT cases: comfort of the seats, windows and, whether the seats curtailed the use of load space in the loading area.

The judge preferred to take a broader approach. Looking at the overall characteristics of each type of vehicle he decided that the VW was more like a mini-bus and the Vauxhall more of a van.


The judge used his own version of 'the duck test': Does it look like a duck? Walk like a duck? Quack? etc. Factors considered in deciding what whas a van included driver seat height, base model for the vehicle, seating and cargo space. The rational reasoning behind this decision will be useful for future case however, this is only a FTT decision and sets no legal precedent.

Our guides

Tax free employee benefits

Company Cars

Van Benefits

Cars & Vans: VAT

External links

Noel Payne, Christopher Garbett, Coca-Cola European Partners Breat Britain Limited v HMRC [2017] TC06082