Automobile and Motor Vehicle Benefits and Allowances


Slide 1:

Hello. Thank you for joining us for this webinar about automobile and motor vehicle benefits and allowances.

Today’s webinar is the second in a four part series relating to taxable benefits. Also, I would like to mention that today’s webinar will be recorded and posted on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website at a later date. 

The third webinar in this series will be on parking which will be held on September 7, 2016.

Please note that at the end of this segment there will be a 5 minute question period. However, you may send your questions in throughout the webinar.

Slide 2:

Today we will be discussing personal driving, keeping records, automobile versus motor vehicles, going through some of the benefit calculations, and looking at the different types of allowances employers may pay.

Slide 3:

Generally speaking, if an employer gives their employees something they can use for their own benefit outside of the employment context, the employee has received a taxable benefit.

The same concept applies to vehicles provided by employers; if their employees or shareholders use company assets for their personal benefit; then the value of the benefit is required to be included in employees’ or shareholders’ income.

The Income Tax Act has specific provisions for calculating automobile benefits.

First, I want to start off by saying that no matter how the vehicle is defined, whether owned or leased, the rules for personal driving and keeping records are the same.

Let’s spend some time on personal driving and keeping records and log books, before talking about automobiles and motor vehicles, because as mentioned before the same rules apply to both.

Slide 4:

Employees and employers often have a different notion than that of the CRA on what is employment-related use of employers’ owned or leased vehicles versus personal use.

So what constitutes personal driving or more specifically personal use?

The personal use of an employer vehicle is basically any use that is not employment related.

As simple as that may sound, there is still some confusion as to what is employment-related use and what is not. Obviously any driving employees do during the course of the work day that is part of their duties of employment is considered employment-related use. For example, travel between the employer’s office building and an employer warehouse throughout the work day.

It is just as obvious that when employees use an employer vehicle to take their families to the movies, go on vacation, or run personal errands, it is not considered employment-related use. In between those two extremes are grey areas, one of those being travel between home and work.

The drive between employees’ place of residence and their regular place of work using a company vehicle is a personal activity. That is sometimes hard for some people to understand because employees won't be making this trip if it were not for their employment responsibilities.

This is, however, a long-standing position taken by the CRA and supported by courts.

Also, one thing to keep in mind is that while some employees use company vehicles to travel between work and home; other employees who do not have the use of a company vehicle have to pay the cost of getting to work out of their own pocket.

There are times when an employee may be required to take an employer-provided vehicle home at night. At the same time, the employer can restrict the employee’s use of the vehicle for only travelling between work and home. 

These situations may occur for reasons such as:

Whatever the reason, when the employee drives home or drives to work using the employer-vehicle, the specific purpose of that drive is personal. 

Restrictions placed on the vehicle do not cancel the taxable benefit. Basically, getting to work is an employee’s responsibility.

There are a few exceptions to this rule that we will look at shortly. Let’s look at some examples of personal driving on the next slide.

Slide 5:

An inspector performs an employment related duty (such as road inspection) on the way home.

A manager regularly travels between their residence and the various stores within their region, including the head office.

Meter readers travel from home to various employer locations to read meters.

In all three of these scenarios, the first and last trip (from and to home) would be personal travel.

Performing an employment related duty (such as road inspections) on the way home does not change the fact that the primary purpose of the employee’s trip is to go home.

Trips between employer locations are considered business-related.

Slide 6:

The CRA has some administrative policies that will consider travel to be business-related even though it is truly personal. A few examples are shown on the slide.

But remember, just because you are going to a business appointment first thing in the morning, the trip home from the office the previous evening does not become employment-related, it is personal. They are two separate trips.

I’d like to spend a couple of minutes now talking about the last bullet on this slide.

“An employee travels directly between home and a point of call other than a regular place of work, such as a salesperson.”

There may be situations when the employee is required to proceed from home to a point of call. A point of call is not a regular place of employment. It's just simply a place that the employee is going to attend so infrequently that we cannot characterize it as a regular place of employment. So, when you have an employee, such as a salesperson, travelling from home to a point of call, that distance is business-related.

If the employee then continues on from that point of call into the office, that's also business-related.

When you're looking at different journeys, or multiple work locations, it's important to break the trip into segments to determine which part is personal and which part is business-related.

Slide 7:

What is a regular place of employment?

A regular place of employment is any location at which or from which the employee regularly (as a rule) reports for work.

It’s a work location where employees, in connection with their duties, file reports, receive instructions or employment information, or perform other employment-related duties.

Travel to that location from their home is personal.

For example, if employees report to an office, that office is their regular place of employment; if employees normally report to a warehouse, their regular place of employment is the warehouse.

The CRA may consider the regularity of the employee reporting to a certain location and the nature of their duties when determining whether a location is a regular place of employment.

Slide 8:

In some situations, it's difficult to determine if employees’ work location is a regular place of employment. So it may not be clear whether their travel is personal in nature. 

Sometimes due to the nature of their work, some employees with multiple regular places of employment might have to travel more to and from work than employees with only one regular place of employment.

The deciding factor is what duties employees perform at each of the locations as well as the frequency and regularity of travel to these specific locations.

It should be noted that the place can change from time to time because of the nature of employment. It’s a good idea to review these work places throughout the year.

Slide 9:

The CRA consistently runs into situations where logs have not been kept.

While the Income Tax Act (or the Act) does not set out specific document requirements for recording usage of a vehicle, the general rule is that an individual must keep records to determine the business and personal kilometres of a vehicle.

The best evidence of vehicle use is a logbook.

Employers, employees, and shareholders all have a role to play to make sure proper records are kept. The format of these records can be whatever arrangement the employee and the employer are comfortable with either on a computer or paper.

From the records the employer should be able to determine: the number of days the vehicle is available to the employee; the total business kilometres driven in the year,  the personal kilometres, and any reimbursements by the employee paid to the employer.

Even if the personal use of the employer-provided vehicle is zero, logs still need to be kept. They are proof the zero personal driving of that particular vehicle during the year.

The employer has to keep on record:

Also, employee logs will be part of the employer’s overall records that must be kept for automobile and motor vehicle benefits. Without these records, it’s difficult for the employer to properly calculate the employee’s taxable benefit.

Slide 10:

What happens if there’s no logbook?

It is the CRA’s general position that in the absence of a logbook or daily record of personal use vs. business use, the personal use is assumed to be 20,004 kilometres a year (or 1,667 per month). However, the CRA will give employers the opportunity to reconstruct their records for the period under review. 

The employer can interview the employee or look at any maintenance records, insurance renewals, gas receipts, or appointment books to reconstruct the records and determine personal use. If the personal vs business use can be properly substantiated, the CRA will accept the statements the employer provides.

If you have a situation where an employee driving an employer-provided vehicle refuses to keep logs, you as the employer can use the 20,004 kilometres to calculate the taxable benefit.

It is a good business practice to check the employees’ logs throughout the year to make sure proper records are kept.

Don’t wait until the end of the year to find out that important information is missing. 

Now that we’ve covered personal use and keeping records and log books, I’d like to talk about automobiles versus motor vehicles.

Slide 11:

How the taxable benefit is calculated will depend on whether the employer-provided vehicle is an automobile. So, what is it and what is not an automobile?  The term "automobile" is defined in the Act.

According to the definition in the Act, an automobile is a motor vehicle that is designed or adapted mainly to carry individuals (passengers) on streets and highways, and has a seating capacity of not more than the driver and eight passengers.

Generally, if the vehicle has a back seat or is an extended cab; it is considered an ‘automobile’. In other words, an automobile is a vehicle that is designed to be used as an ordinary passenger type vehicle.

Slide 12:

The definition of automobile in the Act also applies to all vehicles regardless of how the back part of the vehicle or the trunk is used.

An example of this would be:

On the other hand, if a minivan is customized by permanently removing the seats, to install shelves or racks to hold tools and supplies, it is no longer considered an automobile. It has been permanently altered and it can no longer be used as a passenger vehicle. Therefore, this vehicle no longer meets the definition of an automobile.

Slide 13:

There are vehicles that are excluded from the definition of automobiles such as:

“Clearly marked” means that, at a distance, someone on the street would be able to tell without any doubt that the vehicle is a fire truck, an ambulance, or a police car.
These clearly marked emergency-response or emergency-medical vehicles must be used in connection with or in the course of an individual’s office or employment with a fire department, the police or an ambulance service.

On the other hand, unmarked vehicles or ghost cars will not be excluded from the definition of an automobile because they are not clearly marked on the exterior.

Slide 14:

Certain vans, pickup trucks, or similar vehicles can be excluded from the definition, but you have to look at the number of passengers they carry, as well as their percentage of business use. The higher the seating capacity for passengers, the higher percentage the Act requires the vehicle—automobile—to be used for business purposes.

If you're reading material on the CRA website or in the guides, you might see mention of primarily or principally or mainly. All of these terms can be used interchangeably and really mean more than 50 percent.

If you see the phrase “all or substantially all” this means 90 percent. Sometimes we use a percentage, other times we use words to describe this, but they all have the same meaning.

Slide 15:

Pick-up trucks can also be excluded if they are used in a remote work location or special work site. What you see on the slide is an excerpt from the automobile definition. You'll notice that the percentage of business use has been reduced. Instead of it being the 90 percent that was on the previous slide, it's been reduced to 50 percent. If you have an extended cab, for example, that operates in a remote work location or a special work site 50 percent of the time, then that vehicle is not an automobile.

Slide 16:

Calculating the automobile benefits is done in two parts.

You first have to calculate the standby charge and then the operating expense benefit.

Reimbursements by the employee to the employer will reduce the amount of the benefit. So before reporting the amount on the T4 slip, you must take the reimbursements into consideration.

Let’s look at each of these separately.

Slide 17:

The standby charge is the benefit the employee enjoys for having the automobile made available to them. Whether employees use the automobile doesn't matter, it's simply that it was available to them.

The standby charge is designed to estimate the depreciation of the automobile when used for personal driving, which would be the case if the employee were to use their own automobile.

You need to use three separate pieces of information to calculate the standby charge.

Slide 18:

The three things you need to calculate the standby charge are: the purchase cost or lease cost of the automobile; the number of days the automobile was available to the employee; and finally, the number of personal kilometres driven during the time it was available.

Let’s look at each of these separately.

Slide 19:

The purchase cost of the automobile is the total of the following two amounts: the cost of the automobile when you bought it; and the cost of additions made to it before you purchased it.

This would include any upgrades such as a sunroof, leather seats, or a rear view camera. It also includes the GST, HST, and provincial sales taxes where applicable.  It does not include the added addition of any specialized equipment after the automobile is purchased.

The cost is the cost when you bought it. The cost has to be at least the fair market value and the cost doesn’t change.

So, if you bought an automobile in 2013 for $20,000, that's the amount that you will use every year to calculate employees’ taxable benefits until the vehicle is no longer used by them.

The leasing cost is the rental cost of the automobile and any associated costs such as:

and lump-sum lease payments, including lease payments made at the beginning of the lease, and any lump-sum lease payments the company makes at the beginning of the lease to reduce the monthly lease cost over the balance of the lease.

These need to be included when calculating the employee’s taxable benefit by dividing all the lump sum payments over the term of the lease and then adding that amount to the monthly lease costs. Do not include insurance costs for liability and collision.

Slide 20:

Now let’s talk about availability. It’s different from personal use and it’s calculated differently too. One is when it was available and the other is the actual driving that has taken place.

The vehicle is available if the employee has access or control over the vehicle. And that comes, generally, with the keys.

If an employee with an employer-provided vehicle is out of town on a business trip or a vacation for two weeks, and leaves the vehicle in the driveway and the keys in the house, although it wasn't driven, the car during that two-week period was still available to the employee. Therefore, those two weeks are included in the number of days available when the employer calculates the taxable benefit.

Access to the vehicle ends when the employee returns the keys to the employer.

If you have many employees sharing the same vehicle, you should have some type of log in/log out system so there is a record of when each employee had the automobile.

This information is important for calculating the benefit.

Slide 21:

The personal kilometres driven are taken from the employee records or logbook.

Employees should keep records of the personal kilometres driven if they do not then the employer should assume 20,004 personal kilometers driven per year.

Slide 22:

There are three methods to calculate the standby charge: the detailed, the simplified, if four conditions are met, and the reduced standby charge if three conditions are met. The data for these calculations is available on the CRA website and in our publications.

Any reimbursements from the employee to the employer will reduce the amount of the standby charge.

As you move from the detailed to the simplified to the reduced, the amount of the actual calculated benefit will be less. That’s why there are conditions attached to them. The conditions are contained in the legislation.

Slide 23:

The other part for calculating the automobile benefit is the operating expense benefit.

Operating expenses are what you would normally associate with driving an automobile: gas, oil, maintenance, and repairs. It doesn't include things like the capital cost allowance, lease costs, or parking costs.

Slide 24:

There are two ways to calculate the operating expense benefit. The employer can use the fixed rate method which is a fixed rate of 26 cents a kilometre (for 2016) times the number of personal kilometres.

OR - the optional method if the employee meets all three conditions. It is calculated by taking the standby charge and using half of it as the operating expense benefit.

I'm going to caution you though, because I have found that in the course of doing different calculations sometimes half the standby charge ends up being a higher benefit than what the operating expense benefit if it was calculated using the fixed rate method.

The 26 cents a kilometre is set by the Department of Finance on an annual basis. It becomes part of the Regulations in the Income Tax Act and we refer to them as being the prescribed rate. So if you hear that term, that's what it means.

Any reimbursements that the employee makes to the employer within 45 days from the end of the calendar year will reduce the amount of the operating expense benefit.

Slide 25:

A reimbursement is any payment by the employee to the employer for the personal use of the vehicle.

According to the Act, any payment(s) by the employee to the employer for the use of the vehicle will either reduce the standby charge or the operating expense benefit (depending on the nature of the payment), but not both.

If the employee reimburses the employer for all of the calculated standby charge and the operating expense benefit, then there is no taxable benefit for the employee. This is because the employee has paid for the cost of the personal kilometres the employee has driven.

If the employee partially reimburses the employer for the standby charge or the operating expenses, then the net benefit would have to be reported on the employee’s T4 slip. Any excess reimbursement can’t be transferred.  

For example, if the calculated standby charge is $2,000 and the employee reimburses the employer $2,400 for the standby charge, the difference of $400 cannot be used to reduce the operating expense benefit.

It’s important for employees to know what amounts can be reimbursed so they don’t overpay.

Slide 26:

There may be times where you require your employees to pay for certain expenses out of their own pocket. Maybe they have to pay for their own gas and oil changes on the employer-provided automobile.

If some of the kilometres driven are personal—and employees are actually paying for those personal kilometres out of their pocket because they're paying for those expenses themselves—the CRA will allow the employer to take these payments into consideration and reduce the calculated operating expense benefit accordingly. 

So, even though there is technically no reimbursement from employees to their employer, which the Act requires, the CRA recognizes there are situations where employees are paying for these expenses out of their pocket. 

The personal portion is the percentage obtained by dividing the number of personal kilometres by the total kilometres driven by employees during the year. Please take a look at the example on this slide to see how the payments to a third party are calculated to arrive at the amount that will be used to reduce the operating expense benefit.

Any employee expenses related to the business kilometres driven on the vehicle would have to be dealt with outside of the taxable benefit, whether it is through submission of expense reports or things of that nature.

However, any business-related payments to third parties, such as gas stations and oil change places, cannot be used to reduce the employee's taxable benefit. That's a separate matter.

Slide 27:

We have some great tools to help you calculate your employees’ automobile taxable benefit.

There is an automobile benefit online calculator and an automobile benefit work sheet (RC18 Calculating automobile benefits). The RC18 is available on our website under forms and publications

Once you have all of the information you need, you simply go to the automobile benefits calculator and plug the numbers into the appropriate areas.

If you've never calculated an automobile benefit before and you're doing it for the first time, it's best to print off the work sheet RC18.This worksheet really helps put things into perspective - you're able to see behind the scenes of the automobile calculator and are able to make sense of the calculation.

It can also be useful if you have to explain to an employee why a particular benefit is higher than what the employee expected.

It is a good idea to use the worksheet at least once so you are familiar with the calculations and the conditions. Some of the information is only available on the RC18 form. 

Slide 28:

Contrary to popular belief, there is still a benefit for the personal use of certain motor vehicles (such as motor homes, buses, and trucks) that do not meet the definition of an automobile contained in subsection 248(1) of the Act. 

Just because a vehicle is not an automobile doesn't mean that there isn’t a benefit. In the world of automobile and motor vehicle benefits, zero is not an option whenever there has been personal driving.

No matter how the vehicle is defined, whether it's an automobile or a motor vehicle, multiple places of employment, regular place of employment, what is personal driving, and what isn’t apply to motor vehicles too. As does the need to keep records.

Here is a quick and simple rule to help you decide which calculation to use.

Slide 29:

Calculating the motor vehicle benefit is not as complicated as calculating the automobile benefit. Remember with automobiles - you had to calculate a standby charge and an operating expense benefit. You don't have to do that to calculate a motor vehicle benefit.

The calculation will simply be a reasonable estimate of the fair market value (FMV) of the personal kilometres driven on that particular vehicle. You can estimate the FMV by finding out how much it would cost to rent a comparable vehicle and adding the expenses for driving that vehicle for that same period of time.

Slide 30:

On this slide you will see the different options available for calculating the motor vehicle benefit. These options only apply to motor vehicles that are not automobiles as you can see at #1 in each of the columns. Let’s take a look at these options.

Option A is based on the legislation which is the fair market value of the personal use of the vehicle. The FMV is a reasonable estimate of the amount the employee would have to pay in an arm’s length transaction for the use of a comparable vehicle over the same period. 

Option B is administrative. This option can be used in situations where a motor vehicle is essential to the employer's business operation, and its only personal use is to provide transportation between an employee's residence and the employer's business premises. If one of the conditions in Option B are not met, Option A must be used to calculate the employee’s taxable benefit. We’ll look at the cents per km rates on the next slide.

Option C is also administrative. The rates in Option C are lower than Option B. In order for the employer to use the lower rates to calculate the employee’s taxable benefit, we added more conditions that the employee must meet. If the employee does not meet one or more of the conditions, the taxable benefit can be calculated using Option B if they meet those conditions or Option A if no conditions are met.

It’s important to note that the employee would have to show there has been no other personal use in Option B or C.

Slide 31:

For option B, the rate per kilometre is 54 cents a kilometre for the first 5,000; and 48 cents a kilometre thereafter. These are the rates under Regulation 7306 of the Act.

If there's any travel in the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, or Nunavut, 4 cents a kilometre is added on top of that.

For option C, the rate in regulation 7305.1 is 26 cents a kilometre.

Slide 32:

We’ve created some calculation comparison for you using options A, B, and C.

Shawn, an employee, uses a permanently modified company owned van valued at $20,000 all year. Based on the logs, 13,000 of the 32,000 kilometers driven are personal.

Let’s take a look together at the different calculations using the options mentioned at the previous slide.

Under option A the fair market value: we arrive at $8,125. The way we calculated that is we took the $20,000 x 13,000/32,000 kilometres.

Option B or Regulation 7306: we arrive at $6,540. The way we calculated that is 5,000 kilometres x $.54 + 8,000 kilometres x $.48.

Option C under Regulation 7305.1: we arrive at $3,510. That’s 13,000 x $.26.

As you can see, there’s a difference in the amount of the benefit depending on whether you use the legislation (the fair market value), or whether the employee meets the conditions set-out in option B or C.

Option A is the most expensive option for the employee. However, when the conditions are met, the benefit is reduced.

Slide 33:

It is the employer's responsibility to determine the value of the taxable benefit on automobile and motor vehicle and report it on the employee’s T4 slip.

The benefit is subject to CPP contributions and income tax deductions. It's a non-cash benefit because you're just determining a value.

Non-cash benefits are not insurable, so no EI premiums are deducted from the value of this taxable benefit.

The employer must remit these deductions along with the employer's share of CPP contributions to the CRA by the remittance due date. Taxable benefits are included in box 14 along with other employment income that employees received during the year.

Employers also need to report the value of the taxable benefit in the ‘Other information’ area on the T4 slip. The code you need to use is code 34.

Slide 34:

Our final topic in today’s webinar is allowances.

Do you give your employee an allowance to use their own vehicle for work? If so, in this section we will talk about the different types of allowances that an employee can receive and whether you should include the allowance in the employee’s income.

So what is an allowance? An allowance is money, in addition to salary and wages that the employee receives from the employer.  A reasonable vehicle allowance does not have to be included in the employee’s income. Let’s take a closer look at reasonable and unreasonable allowances.

Slide 35:

Whether any particular allowance is reasonable is always going to be a question of fact. It will depend on the circumstances in which the allowance is paid.

For an automobile or motor vehicle allowance to be reasonable in the context of the Act, it has to be paid on a per-kilometre basis. Therefore, it has to be a reasonable per-kilometre allowance. This means it can only be paid for business driving.

If any part of the allowance is used to pay for personal driving or the employee receives a different type of allowance for the same use of the vehicle, there is a taxable benefit for the employee.

If the allowance is reasonable, it's not included in the employee's income and it does not have to be shown on the employee's T4 slip. We use the rates in 7306 of the Regulations as a guideline to decide what a reasonable rate is. So that brings us back to the 54 cents a kilometre we talked about a couple of slides ago.

Records need to be kept in order to make sure that it is a reasonable per-kilometre allowance, and that it's being paid for business use only. Also, records must be kept because the employer needs to support the business kilometres driven and the per kilometre amount paid.

Slide 36:

Unreasonable allowances, are amounts that are too high or too low, and must be included in the employee’s income as a taxable benefit.

For example, if you pay 10 cents per kilometre and use Regulation 7306’s 54 cents as a guideline, the allowance would definitely be too low. What is too high or too low really depends on the circumstances.

If you, as the employer, pay a higher rate than the rates in 7306, you have to be able to justify why that higher rate is reasonable. As long as you're able to do that, it can be excluded from the employee's income.

Unreasonable allowances which are added to the employee's income may allow the employee to claim motor vehicle expenses on their personal income tax return. But the employee would want to check with the CRA to see what kind of expenses can be claimed.
Slide 37:

Another type of an allowance that employers may pay their employees is a flat-rate allowance. This is not reasonable.

The employer can pay a flat rate for any number of reasons—ease of administration is the one thing that comes to mind. It could simply be a matter of $500 a month or maybe the employer pays $6.50 for every trip the employee makes within a five-kilometre radius of the office. Whatever it is, if it's a flat rate, the allowance is income to the employee.

Flat-rate allowances have to be included in the employee’s income as a taxable benefit. The employer cannot, at the end of the year, average the allowance by dividing it by the number of personal kilometres, to see if it's reasonable.

Slide 38:

The employer may also provide a combination of the two allowances.

For example, the employee can be paid a flat rate allowance and a reasonable per-kilometre rate.

If for example the employer pays a flat rate to offset fixed expenses and a reasonable per-kilometre for each kilometre driven to offset the operating expense benefit, both have to be included on  the employee's T4 slip as a taxable benefit, because both allowances are for the same use of the vehicle.

However, it can be treated differently where the allowances can be separated and looked at apart and the reasonable per-kilometre and flat rates are paid for different uses. A good example of this is a situation where the employer pays a reasonable per-kilometre rate for the employee’s travel outside the city and a flat rate for the employee to travel inside the city. The employer can separate those two allowances, and only include the flat rate in the employee's income as a taxable benefit.

Slide 39:

The employer is responsible to determine if the allowance is taxable, which part of it is taxable and to include it in the employee's income at the end of the year.

The employer must deduct CPP, EI, and income tax from the allowances as they are paid throughout the year. Because they’re paid in cash, allowances are insurable. That's why you see the EI as one of the deductions on this slide.

The employer must remit these deductions to the CRA by the remittance due date.

The taxable allowances are included in box 14 along with the employee’s other employment income, and code 40 is used in the other information area of the employee’s T4 slip instead of code 34.

Slide 40:

If you are looking to expand your knowledge on any of the items covered in today’s webinar, there are resources available to help you on the CRA website.

Go to and visit our web pages for businesses.  You can search automobile and motor vehicle benefits and keeping records to quickly find out information about today’s webinar.

You can also find the following publications on our website:

Also, don’t forget to use the automobile benefits online calculator available on the CRA’s website.

Thank you, again, for joining me today. I hope that this webinar has provided you with a better understanding of automobile and motor vehicle benefits and allowances.

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