Tax-free cycle purchase (and free cycle training?)

No doubt many people are aware of a government Green Travel Plan that includes a scheme to encourage cycling to work.

A number of us who work for Cambridge University have grumbled in recent years that the University had not joined the scheme although some other large employers have used it for a considerable while. Earlier this summer I heard that a pilot scheme was underway, and finally on 3 November the University announced that the scheme would now be available for the majority of staff. We should all be pleased that Cambridge University has now joined this Green Scheme.

So what is the scheme?

It is a ‘Salary Sacrifice’ (or Tax avoidance) scheme. You lease a bike of your choice from your employer to assist you in your travel for or to work, and the payments can be taken from your salary BEFORE you pay tax and national insurance. At the end of the period you are given the option of buying the bike, at a value normally significantly less than a dealer would offer.

Of course you mustn’t take my word for this. Further details of the national scheme are at: www.cyclescheme.co.uk/a031b4 with details of the Cambridge University scheme at: www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/hr/staff/benefits/cycle/ .

And what was that about free cycle training? I asked why, especially as the principal objective of the national scheme was to get more people cycling to work, they did not include ‘Bikeability’ training within the scheme? The answer was simple, at least for Cambridge University staff: ‘Cycle Cambridge provide free 1:1 or small group cycle training for all Cambridge University staff, tailored to the needs of each participant’. For details of this offer see: www.admin.cam.ac.uk/cam-only/offices/safety/cycle/ .

For those who don’t already cycle this scheme gives good benefits as it also includes such things as locks, helmets, panniers etc.

If you have friends you think may be considering starting cycling to work, show them this scheme, and if they work for the University they can also get free cycle training; for others it is a mere £5 per hour.

Are there problems? Read the small print, and you certainly need to check that you’ve insurance that will cover you in case of theft, as otherwise you are liable for the loss.

My only grumble about this and other salary sacrifice schemes, is that the better off are even better off. I, as a standard rate taxpayer will save standard rate tax, but my boss, who I know is considering a new bike, can save even more than me as he’s in the higher band.

And yes, this is perfectly legal tax avoidance. Tax evasion is for all those company car owners who claim that ‘private’ mileage was actually ‘company’ mileage.

Jim Chisholm