HMRC has clarified that the cycle to work tax-free bike purchase scheme can now be used for safety equipment only, without including a bike in the request. Some brands have already revealed details of how they'll be making the most of the news, but what about the rest of the trade? BikeBiz asked key players in the sector whether this is a game changer for the industry…
Mark Brown, Head of Ride2Work, Evans Cycles:“It’s really good to get this clarification as it really broadens the appeal of the cycle to work scheme.
"However it is still early days to fully assess the impact on scheme participation. Don’t forget we’ve been telling people they have had to get a bike for the past ten years, so this update will take some time to filter through.
"We do know from a client perspective that employers think this is an improvement to the benefit. Certainly those customers who have a bike, either through the scheme or not, can take advantage of the equipment only option to keep riding to work.”
Jolyon Baker, Tax Free Cycle Manager, Cycle Surgery: “I think that initially the effect will be negligible as most people that cycle to work will already have the necessary equipment.
"Over time, when it has been more widely advertised, we should see an increase in the number of people using the scheme for equipment only, that already have a bike. I suspect those who have already used the scheme and understand the benefits of it are more likely to use it for equipment only, to replace or upgrade old equipment, than those completely new to it.
"There definitely needs to be more clarity over what is deemed to be ‘safety equipment’ as I have already been asked this question numerous times in the short period that it has been available.”
Steve Edgell, Director, Cycle Solutions: “The important thing is that people who already commute by bike can get access to a great range of safety commuter equipment through the scheme. At Cycle Solutions we have always held the view that those employees who already ride to work should not be excluded from the savings and benefits available through the cycle to work scheme. That’s why we took the matter up with HM Revenue & Customs over three years ago.
"The truth is that this is nothing new. HMRC hasn’t issued any fresh guidance. In fact, following the conversations we held with the Revenue in 2010 they issued minutes confirming that the tax exemption was available equally to employees who only take up the offer of the loan of a cycle, those employees who take up the offer of both the loan of a cycle and the loan of cyclist’s safety equipment, and also to those employees who only take up the offer of the loan of cyclist’s safety equipment.
"Since then we have been making sure that the organisations that Cycle Solutions works with, and their employees, know that there is no minimum value to the amount of equipment an employee can obtain through the scheme. You don’t have to get a bike, so if you’re perfectly happy with your current ride you shouldn’t be forced to upgrade. There is absolutely no reason why a bicycle commuter can’t take advantage of the tax savings on a £20 helmet or a £15 light set. If it makes their commute safer it has got to be a good thing.
"The challenge is to make commuters aware that the UK Government wants to promote safe cycling to work. All of the major political parties are behind the cycle to work scheme so we should be promoting the benefits to all.
At Cycle Solutions we raise awareness by offering discounted safety equipment bundles. Many of our customers benefit from increased savings of up to 50 per cent on these equipment bundles and we promote them at road show events, online and in the marketing we produce.
"To say that you have to spend £100 in order to qualify is not at all helpful. Cycling has got to be one of the most accessible modes of transport so let’s not restrict access to just those that want to spend big bucks on bikes and kit. A £20 helmet can offer a similar level of protection to a £100 lid. The important thing is for the bike industry to promote the safety equipment available through the scheme. If people see the great range of hi-viz and protective equipment available to them they are more likely to take up cycling.
“At the end of the day, the cycle to work scheme is there to make cycling to work accessible, and as safe and secure as possible. The scheme is not intended as a way for cycle enthusiasts to get access to the latest gadgets and gizmos. Stick to the safety equipment and commuter accessories allowed on the scheme and everyone will benefit.
"If in doubt, scheme providers like Cycle Solutions can provide clear advice and support to customers selecting their kit.”