The Tory leader of Horsham District Council Ray Dawe this week confirmed he is supporting ‘no change’ to the taxing of councillors’ travel expenses from home to the authority’s offices in North Street.
The tax authorities - HMRC - have said reimbursement of home to work mileage of councillors must be treated as taxable. This relates to travel between home and the council offices which are considered to be the main place of work.
Claims for travel to other locations, for example for training courses or for other official visits, are not subject to tax and National Insurance.
But Mr Dawe said that the counter-argument from the Local Government Association (LGA) was that members’ main place of work is in fact their home.
He said: “Councillors do not have their own offices or even desks at council offices and only attend there for meetings and thus do the major proportion of their council work at home dealing with paperwork and answering phone calls and emails.
“Most councillors also give their home address and home phone numbers for constituents as their point of contact and council correspondence is sent to their homes. It appears that HMRC now wishes to ignore all such activity and only recognise time actually spent ‘seeing’ constituents at home.”
In response to a question from the County Times, he added: “I certainly don’t regard myself as ‘championing’ this since the argument is one being put by the LGA to HMRC and will either be accepted or it won’t.
“In fact the matter started in response to an email from the LGA to all group leaders nationally. They asked if HMRC had contacted the council re. the tax changes. I replied saying that they hadn’t but the council was nevertheless adjusting the tax members paid based on what was happening In other councils.
“I supported the ‘no change’ or pre-existing arguments they were putting to HMRC regarding the manner in which councillors carried out their duties. Advice was then sent by the council’s finance department to all members explaining that there was to be a change in the way any mileage was taxed. Roger [Arthur] then raised his query saying how he felt that it disadvantaged members who live away from the council offices.”
According to HDC’s website district councillors driving a vehicle with a 1.2 litre engine or bigger can currently claim 60.1p per mile for the first 8,500 miles and 14.2p thereafter.