What is the correct treatment where an employer provides an employee with a company credit card, and it is used to pay for roadside charging of an electric company car?
There will be no taxable benefit on the employee and no NIC charge.
A credit card is not a specific means or facility for providing electricity but rather a credit token under section 92 ITEPA 2003 and an exemption is provided by section 269 ITEPA 2003. Remember that electricity is not a fuel for fuel benefit purposes by reason section 149(4) ITEPA 2003. This exemption prevents there being a benefit under section 94 ITEPA 2003 which applies to payments under credit cards or other credit tokens. See EIM23035.
This is not to be confused with the provision of electricity by an employer via a workplace charging point. This is exempt under section 239 ITEPA 2003 as a specific facility or means of providing electricity to a company car. The specific facility or means of providing electricity is not considered a fuel benefit under section 149(4) ITEPA 2003 as and such is included in the exemption under 239(4) ITEPA 2003 as a liability in connection with a taxable car.
The liability for class 1 NIC exists where the credit card is paying liabilities for the benefit of the earner per section 6 SSCBA 1992. See NIM02090 which explains that no Class 1 NIC arises on business expenses (exempted under Schedule 3 SI 2001/1004) or where a strange pre-purchase performance is given by the employee whereby the employee informs the seller that they are purchasing the goods or services on behalf of their employer. This principle was established in the ‘Overdrive’ case which held that the effect of telling the seller that the fuel is being purchased on behalf of the employer means that, rather than purchasing the fuel personally, the employee is now effectively acting as an agent for the employer. By purchasing the electricity on behalf of the company, they are no longer using the company credit card to pay for a personal liability but rather are being provided with fuel by their employer. Of course, Overdrive was a 1991 case regarding the purchase of petrol and so pre-dates the now more common usage of electricity for cars. As with the income tax rules, electricity is not a fuel for NIC purposes per paragraph 7D Part VIII Schedule 3 SI2001/1004 and so this pre-purchase performance does not need to be undertaken!
HMRC do have a helpful table on electric cars at EIM23900 but, understandably, this is a work n progress and may be subject to changes.