Thursday, June 29, 2017

Road Haulage Operators Disgust at HMRC Incompetence Over Drivers Night Rates

Why Cast Aside a System Successfully Operated for Twenty Six Years?
Shipping News Feature
UK – The latest statement from the Road Haulage Association (RHA) regarding the overnight allowance payments made to commercial drivers when sleeping in their cabs succinctly puts a case and demonstrates the contradictions which so often ensue when no clear policy emanates from an organ of government. The RHA says that HMRC has created mass confusion, issuing wildly varying and contradictory advice on numerous occasions. Strong words from an organisation which has worked, apparently happily, alongside tax and customs officials for some time on this very matter.

Since 1991, drivers could be paid the RHA/HMRC overnight allowance free of tax and national insurance contributions when sleeping in their lorry cabs overnight, in a system that minimised red tape and was well understood throughout the industry. The payments have been upgraded over time in a scheme which has run for well over 25 years. The rate is currently £26.20, hardly five star hotel accommodation rates.

From April 2017, the RHA says that HMRC has insisted on an elaborate and ill-defined process for checking receipts, completely ignoring advice from the RHA that it would not work and ignoring its suggestions for alternatives. Its implementation has been shambolic with HMRC taking months to respond to letters from companies seeking to adhere to HMRC requirements which the RHA points out has caused costs and bureaucracy to be heaped on the industry for no good reason.

Unfortunately the HMRC is demonstrating again a 1950’s attitude, failing to grasp two very pertinent facts whilst trying desperately to claw back any possible tax advantages to those concerned. Firstly, as has been said countless times, there is a scarcity of competent drivers which threatens the entire country with possible cost increases and shortages of delivery services, particularly in the light of the uncertainty over Brexit and a falling pound, with many non-native drivers heading elsewhere in the EU.

The second point is that, unlike many other countries such as Germany, and despite the complexity of the job compared to days of yore when Grandfather rights allowed many untrained drivers behind the wheel, the UK authorities cannot grasp the fact that the picture many seem to have of the hairy grunt in the cab has long disappeared, to be replaced by a technician (of either sex) who has to be both physically and intellectually competent. Driving an HGV is a complex enough operation, accountancy skills should not be added to the task.

Photo: What driver wouldn't like a sleeper cab of such quality? Sadly this is hardly the norm.