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20p per mile is too much says TaxPayers' Alliance...

Where their expenses are concerned, MP-bashing has become something akin to a national pastime in the past couple of years.

Under the previous system much of it was thoroughly merited, but with a new system in place is it fair for the media to target our elected representatives for claiming expenses when they choose to cycle rather than use public transport or their cars? Metro clearly thinks so and today its front page lead is devoted to York’s Labour MP Hugh Bayley’s £4.80p expense claim for cycling. Naturally, the Metro's stablemate, the Daily Mail also runs the story.

MPs are entitled to claim 20p-per-mile for using their bikes in the course of their duties – although not for commuting – so the backbencher has done nothing wrong. He has, however, been singled out because, erroneously, Metro say he is the only MP to make a claim for travelling by bike. We counted five other MPs who have claimed for cycling and two who have claimed for their staff’s cycling mileage

The Metro article quotes the Tax Payers’ Alliance’s Emma Boon who said: “Lots of taxpayers cycle to work to reduce their commuting costs, so if MPs cycle why should taxpayers pay them?”

According to Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), the independent body which administers the parliamentary expenses system, Mr Bayley has made no claims for commuting to work.

Ms Boon also took issue with the 20p rate. “I don’t think 20p a mile for riding your bicycle is a reasonable expense,” she told road.cc. “You can claim 40p a mile for driving your car and one of the reasons is because you have to put petrol in your car. If you have a bicycle you have associated costs but clearly they are nothing like the costs of running a car.”

But surely, we said, encouraging MPs out of their cars and onto their bikes, thereby setting an example, is a good thing, even if it means incentivising the practice by making it financially more attractive.

“Our issue is not a green issue. Our issue is; do we want 20p a mile of taxpayer’s money spent on the MP cycling to and from his work or cycling around his constituency? The TaxPayers’ Alliance view on that is, no we don’t.”

She continued: “Quite frankly giving people 20p a mile - and the very fact that they had the nerve to claim it - is just ridiculous. I don’t see why taxpayers should pay for that.”

We didn’t get as far as asking what the TaxPayers’ Alliance considers to be a “reasonable expense” for cyclists because Emma hung up on us – though in a very polite sort of way.

The 20p-per-mile rate is, in fact, the standard rate set by Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs for cycling expenses for any public or private sector organisation and not an arbitrary figure which applies solely to MPs. So if you work in the public sector the chances are that you are entitled to claim the same rate for business travel.

We spoke to Hugh Bayley MP who said that as far as he is concerned the money is irrelevant.

“The money is neither here nor there, I put in a claim to signal that this facility is there for MPs and that it is used. The Metro piece is wrong, I’m not the only MP who has claimed for cycling but unfortunately it is a very small number.

“It’s good for MPs to set an example by cycling rather than using their cars. If I were to use my car it would cost the taxpayer more and there are environmental benefits to cycling plus it’s good for my health. But there are also symbolic advantages and people like MPs should lead by example.

“I campaigned for York to become a Cycling City and want to show my practical support for that by riding. In the last quarter I claimed £4.80 in total but it’s more to signal my support for a policy which encourages people to cycle.

“Each of the claims is for a meeting which the IPSA says I am entitled to claim for and if I chose to take my car it would cost the tax payer 40p per mile plus parking charges. But I’m doing it to promote the environmental and health advantages of cycling and I understand that it is something that the BBC also offer their employees.”

IPSA would not comment in detail on this case but a spokesman said.” There is no suggestion that the MP involved has done anything inappropriate. The claim was processed and paid because it was within the rules.”

So there you have it. An MP made a legitimate claim for cycling while carrying out his parliamentary duties, he saved the taxpayer some cash, and signalled to fellow MPs that they have this option available to them but is held up for ridicule as a result.

We feel there is a clear issue of double standards here. Had Mr Bayley used his car or public transport for the journeys in question – at a higher cost to the taxpayer – the matter would not have been deemed newsworthy.

Or perhaps you agree with the TaxPayers' Alliance who believe that, commuting or not, 20p-per-mile is far too generous for what they describe as “a little bit of wear on your saddle.”

 

 

24 comments

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OldRidgeback [2588 posts] 5 years ago
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Typical hysterical reaction from the Daily Mail in other words - what a horrible paper.

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Jon Burrage [998 posts] 5 years ago
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a lot of major companies also offer cycle allowances of this value, it is the maximum, tax free allowance allowed for travel by bike.

Hey, its this sort of paper isnt it, dont listen. Their readership is ageing and subsequently reducing, they wont be around forever.

Also, does it really cost 40p per mile to run a car? I mean, I have a 2.2diesel and its 13p per mile, max.

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withnails [78 posts] 5 years ago
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Although the Daily Mail is a vile paper, I'd say this is less of an anti-cycling rant, but more about the pettiness of someone claiming such a small amount. I know the Mail have got form when it comes to vilifying cyclists so perhaps I'm giving them too much credit.

And re Jon's comment about the cost to run a car - when you factor in depreciation, wear and tear and the cost of business-use insurance, then 40p a mile doesn't cover the costs of using a car. Still, anything that makes people consider ditching their car is to be supported.

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thereverent [398 posts] 5 years ago
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Of all the MPs expense claims the Metro choose to put this one on the front page!
Some of the media will squeeze an anti-cyclist story out of anything.

I hope The TaxPayers’ Alliance are consistant and oppose expense claims for using a car.

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Aidan [55 posts] 5 years ago
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Its the Daily Mail. Enough said!

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andylul [410 posts] 5 years ago
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I cycled from Crawley to Southwark and back on business and tried to claim my mileage - there was no facility to 'register my vehicle'

I had to be content the the shock and awe of my colleagues, all of whom had claimed in excess of £20 to travel to London in peak travel time, that I'd even cycled there, let alone decided to cycle home.

Not sure everyone would consider doing a metric century to a team meeting and on reflection, I did get to cycle all day at my company's expense but I bet I was home quicker and with less stress than others that day (even though I cycled the A23 around the A3 junction - London cyclists, you are mental)

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Jonty79 [26 posts] 5 years ago
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Nothing like an ill informed ignorant attack on cycling to round the week off.

Claiming mileage allowance for cycling is nothing unique to MP's. Perhaps Road CC would like to draw the attention of Emma Boon from the tax payers alliance to the HM Revenue & Customs P87 form. This is a standard form which allows any taxpayer that is an employee be they an MP or cleaner to claim back legitimate cycling expences stipulated at 20p a mile. Many employers simply offer the 20p rate meaning employees dont have to fill in the p87. Sometimes HM customs will ask for logs of your journey as proof but thats a side issue. Still why should facts get in the way of a a good rant!

I use this form to claim relief on the business miles I do on my bike. This opens up a new question. As I'm being paid to cycle can I class myself as a pro-cyclist!!?

P87 Form
http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/forms/p87.pdf

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Rob Simmonds [251 posts] 5 years ago
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As usual the Tax Dodgers Alliance has nothing useful or sensible to say on the matter. They are a right-wing spin machine, please ignore them.  14

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plodalong [4 posts] 5 years ago
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I thought we can all claim mileage allowance for riding our bikes for (but not to and from) work? I do, so why shouldn't an MP?
I hear no complaints about tax payer's millions being poured into massive roundabouts covering space that's of no use to anyone.
My borough spends half a million to subsidise car travel for their staff.
Let's just get some perspective here.

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Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 5 years ago
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Jonty79 wrote:

Perhaps Road CC would like to draw the attention of Emma Boon from the tax payers alliance to the HM Revenue & Customs P87 form. This is a standard form which allows any taxpayer that is an employee be they an MP or cleaner to claim back legitimate cycling expences stipulated at 20p a mile. Many employers simply offer the 20p rate meaning employees dont have to fill in the p87. Sometimes HM customs will ask for logs of your journey as proof but thats a side issue. Still why should facts get in the way of a a good rant!

I use this form to claim relief on the business miles I do on my bike. This opens up a new question. As I'm being paid to cycle can I class myself as a pro-cyclist!!?

P87 Form
http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/forms/p87.pdf

Mark did try, but she hung up on him… maybe it was a tricky line of questioning, or possibly she just doesn't like talking about tax

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james-o [234 posts] 5 years ago
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I would happily see my income tax being used to encourage anyone to not use a car to drive to work and claim 20p per mile to ride a bike. we have to offset the reliance on fuel taxes to encourage non-motorised transport; think of the lowered burden on the NHS 5-10 years later if it was widely taken up.

maybe they could put a max of £2-3 a day claimed for long-distance commuters who are likely to be keen riders anyway, to limit a big bill from the converted, but in principle it sounds like a sensible policy to me.

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a.jumper [846 posts] 5 years ago
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More to the point, shouldn't they incentivise cycling by paying more of the maintenance cost by saying the same rate as for cars?

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dmc [68 posts] 5 years ago
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you put fuel in your car if you drive ! and you have to put fuel down your throat if you cycle ! 20pence per mile is pretty cheap really. or am i missing something ?

I think ms Boon should maybe try cycling and then tell us that 20 pence per mile is too much.

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OldRidgeback [2588 posts] 5 years ago
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My motorcycle is insured for business trips while my car isn't. That's because my wife uses the car but doesn't use the bike. Claiming mileage for the bike at my firm was tricky. No one had ever done it before. In the end, I was allowed half the rate for a car, barely more than the bicycle rate.

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 5 years ago
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I'd be over the moon if more MPs were claiming this type of expense - the man is to be congratulated, not held up to ridicule.

Keep pedalling mate.

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pedalismo [59 posts] 5 years ago
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Never let facts get in the way of a story.

I might just put a claim in for my business trips next week. Brilliant tax advice - and another great piece of journalism road.cc  1

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Aimless King [38 posts] 5 years ago
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As a complete aside, and I may be wrong, but I think you're not allowed to claim mileage on a bike if the bike was obtained through cycle-to-work and ownership has not been transferred. Theory goes you don't need to buy fuel for it, and your employer owns the vehicle, so they've porvided everything you need for your journey.

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Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 5 years ago
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Interesting aside though Aimless King, and defo one we're going to check up on. Do employers pay for the servicing on company cars?

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PJ McNally [591 posts] 5 years ago
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a.jumper wrote:

More to the point, shouldn't they incentivise cycling by paying more of the maintenance cost by saying the same rate as for cars?

I think the idea is it should be a win-win situation, for the employer and employee both.

You should get enough to cover maintenance, consumables etc, at a reasonable rate (at least 10p a mile). The employer still saves money compared to if you took a car (23p a mile or more!). This is what's outlined in the "NHS Agenda for Change" document, a fairly progressive bit of guidance for NHS trusts.

I recently claimed mileage for working at another site 14 miles away. 28 mile round trip, 3 times a week, five weeks. 420 miles total. At 10p a mile, I received £42.

Not bad! Paid for the bananas, brake pads, and some new tyres  1

However, had I driven, it would have been 23p a mile, costing my work £96.60. So they were only too happy to pay it.

The thing that really annoyed me was the two categories, "small car" and "large car". They pay (i think) 50% more if you have a fat-ass 4x4 to drive your fat ass around, because it "costs more to run". Should have thought about that before buying it!

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Aimless King [38 posts] 5 years ago
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Hey Tony

Just to back up my earlier post, I was so sure I read it somewhere I went back to check. Here it is:
http://www.cyclescheme.co.uk/employee,faqs.htm
under the paragraph titled "Does the bike have to be used for commuting?"

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Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 5 years ago
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Thanks Aimless King food for thought there, so if the bike belongs to the employer shouldn't they be responsible for servicing and maintenance - I notice further up it says that this is the employees responsibility. I'd love to know if this is the same way things operate for company cars?  39

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FMOAB [261 posts] 5 years ago
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Why not let the Tax Payers Alliance know what you think of their ridiculous stance on this.

They have put their stance on their website so are presumably proud of their coverage. A little constructive comment never hurt -
http://www.taxpayersalliance.com/media/2011/02/metro-bike-mp-saddles-40p...

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Jon Burrage [998 posts] 5 years ago
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When Ive had company cars in the past I have had no responsibility for fuelling, taxing, testing or maintaining the vehicle. I have been taxed heavily for this.

With my previous employer, who was engaged with cyclescheme, since the terms change a few months ago they decided that after 12 months the bike would revert to the ownership of cyclescheme and the employee would then have to pay a fee to become the proper owner. In terms of allowances etc, while the bike was being paid out through salary sacrifice you were not entitled to any expenses, nor, if you ride a different bike but have a cyclescheme bike.

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alg [161 posts] 5 years ago
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...and on went the stupid arguments - I stopped reading after 2 paras - the rubbish we have to read on the train - how glad am I when I can get off at Waterloo, dump the Metro and pedal off to the office.
The truth is that the Govt has recognised and encouraged cycling as a means of transport for which expense allowances are permitted and the taxman has set allowable levels of reinbursement.
So be it and good for them and us if our MPs cycle to work.