Parking tax system could be 'abused'

Honest firms may find themselves penalised by the new Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) scheme, it has been claimed.

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) has said that the tax on workplace parking spaces could be abused by some unscrupulous firms because of the way it is to be managed, leaving law-biding businesses out of pocket.

Under the WPL scheme, businesses with ten or more parking spaces reserved for staff will be charged £185 a year for each. This figure could rise to £350 by 2014.

So far Nottingham City Council is the only local authority to express a wish in implementing the levy, although a number of other councils have indicated an interest in it.

The tax, when it is introduced in 2012, is expected to net Nottingham Council £11.3 million.

However, the FPB has questioned the fairness of the method of charging the tax.

Nottingham City Council will raise the tax according to the number of vehicles that businesses declare are on site at any one time.

This voluntary declaration, the FPB argued, leaves the levy open to abuse.

The FPB believes the system may legislate against firms that make an honest declaration of their parking provisions and reward unscrupulous businesses that claim fewer than ten parking spaces.

Under the Transport Act 2000, Nottingham City Council has the right to monitor businesses it suspects of lying about the number of parking spaces it provides employees and can take civil action against those it believes have cheated the charge.

But the FPB is contending that the process could be impractical, lengthy and expensive, one which the council will only be willing to implement against firms it knows will pay out.

Phil Orford, the FPB’s chief executive, commented: “We have repeatedly argued that the WPL scheme is little more than a stealth tax and will be highly unfair to small businesses.

“Now, after discovering how it will be administered, we are extremely concerned that unscrupulous businesses could easily get around it, giving them an unfair advantage over responsible firms who are honest about their parking provisions."

Mr Orford added: “Yes, the council can spent time and money monitoring businesses it suspects are dodging the tax, but it will be a very impractical process.

“Plus, civil action is only going to work against established, financially healthy businesses – not the fly-by-night rogue traders who often either disappear without a trace or are unable to pay even if taken to court.”