In Barry John Graham v HMRC  TC7313, the First Tier tribunal agreed that a sole trader had done enough to establish that three cars were not “made available for private use” and could claim input tax on their purchase.
The trader employed his son and daughter, who could use the cars for business purposes.
- He knew that the cars should not have private use.
- His son and daughter each had a contract of employment which specifically banned private use of the cars.
- The keys to the cars were kept in a safe with a combination lock of which only the trader knew the combination. If one of his children needed a car, he told them the combination then changed it.
- All three of them had cars of similar quality for private use
- The trader accounted for 93% of the journeys in the cars, and could, with effort, account for the remaining 7% in short journeys.
The tribunal dismissed arguments that:
- The insurance allowed private use, as it is not possible to get business cover only.
- The cars were parked at the trader’s home.
The judge was satisfied that the cars were not made available for private use and allowed the input VAT to be claimed.
Unless a car is specific to a business, such as a driving school car, taxi or hotel courtesy car, the bar is set very high for a trader to claim VAT input tax. It is not enough for a trader to show that no private use was made of the car; they must show that it was not “made available” for private use. This will usually require both legal and practical restrictions on private use.
It is also worth noting that the three cars were expensive models, including a Porsche. The input tax in question was £20,805. The trader justified this by saying that they were necessary as part of his business profile, charging £5,000 a day for computer services.
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