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Company car and van key handback needs careful management by fleets, warns AFP

Fleets need to ensure company car and van key handback is handled carefully to avoid potential issues with audit trails and even loss of keys.

The AFP warns of problems from employees simply pushing their keys back through the letterboxes of unattended offices

The call comes from the newly formed Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP), which is also urging HMRC to provide further guidance on the issue, including questions around related areas such as Benefit-in-Kind on fuel.

With many drivers either working from home or furloughed during the coronavirus lockdown, the AFP – created following the merger of ACFO and ICFM – had said last week that the Government should explore the impact of the lockdown on company car and van Benefit-in-Kind taxation with a view to suspending BiK during the crisis.

HMRC responded by saying that company cars will not be seen as available for company car tax purposes where they are ‘virtually’ handed back by returning keys and fobs.

While the move has been welcomed by the AFP – which says that avoiding BiK could make a genuine difference to those facing potential hardship – it added that questions remain for HMRC around the issue to ensure compliant procedures can be established by fleets, including on related areas such as BiK on fuel.

But the AFP also warned of a range of potential practical problems for fleets to resolve.

AFP co-chair Caroline Sandall explained: “The main immediate problem that needs to be avoided is employees simply pushing their keys back through the letterboxes of unattended offices, something of which we have heard several reports. For your employer and HMRC, this doesn’t create an audit trail showing when the key was returned or to who, which is something that may need to be ultimately established to the satisfaction of either or both.

“It also creates a possible fleet management problem for the future. If you run a single or limited badge fleet, you could find yourself with a pile of identical keys and no means of working out how to link them to a particular vehicle. Plus, there is quite a high probability that keys will be lost and replacing them is always expensive.”

Sandall also urged fleets to consider where company cars were being left while they are being unused.

“There is a health and safety issue here. Clearly, no employee should be leaving their car or van on the road if they don’t have the keys because they may need to move it in an emergency. Even if it is parked on their drive, they may still require urgent access.

“If the vehicle is being parked or stored elsewhere, then security becomes a concern, as does its ongoing condition. There is certainly an argument for the car or van to be properly inspected before it is accepted as being handed back, and that regular checks afterwards are needed.

“Finally, if the crisis situation persists for some months, as seems not unlikely, then you should consider the usual issues surrounding long-term vehicle storage, from flat batteries to seized brakes. All of these matters should be examined by fleet managers.”

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Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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