Company cars are usually leased to conserve liquidity. This financing option is not only possible for new cars, but also for classic cars. Vehicles that are more than 30 years old are defined as classic cars and may thus carry an H license plate (for historical). Therefore, whoever has a soft spot for posh classic cars, should definitely compare the figures for leasing a new car versus a classic car. In addition to the individual factor, the leasing of a classic car has a few other thoroughly interesting advantages.
When imposing tax on company cars for private use, the revenue office does in general not distinguish between a leased new car and a leased classic car. The only requirement is for the tax authorities to recognize the classic car as a company car. For this purpose, it must be used as a commercial vehicle and also be suitable for its respective use.
If the use of a driver’s logbook is not opted for, the financial benefit arising for private purposes must be determined according to the “1% method” as a rule. This means that for private use a lump sum of 1% per month of the domestic gross list price at the time of initial registration, plus cost for possible optional equipment, is estimated as the calculation basis. Whether the vehicle already had one or more previous owners is thereby irrelevant.
When comparing the gross list price of a medium-sized car of today, which can easily be 80,000 euros, and the 1% taxation incurred thereon, a financial benefit of 800 euros per month, thus 9,600 euros per year is taxable. The gross list price, for example, of a 50-year-old Mercedes SL was in those days about 25,000 euros (DM 50,000), however, so that the taxable financial benefit is only about 250 euros per month, consequently 3,000 euros per year. A tax saving of over 6,000 euros per year, besides the fact that not everyone drives such a car, may therefore be definitely worth considering.
Just as in the case of a new car or any other leasing item, lease payments, insurance, repairs, but here also restoration cost, may be claimed directly as operating cost.
For historical vehicles, there are also special insurance policies, which are usually far less expensive than standard auto insurance. The usual car tax for vehicles with H license plates, irrespective of cylinder capacity or CO2 emissions, is a single flat rate of 191.73 euros.
Section 2(22) German Vehicle Registration Ordinance stipulates: “Classic cars [are] vehicles, which were put into service for the first time at least 30 years ago, which largely correspond to the original condition, are in a good state of preservation and serve to maintain the motor vehicle technical cultural heritage ....”
For the application to the Road Traffic Office for registration as a classic car with the desired H license plate, a classic car assessment must therefore be available as proof of authenticity, which assessment must be carried out beforehand by a recognized expert. The structural requirements for recognition and registration as a classic car are not definitively regulated, but in principle the car must correspond to the original in all of its main components. Alterations are only allowed if they were typical and contemporary. Lastly, the vehicle must be in a good condition. No major deficiencies or traces of use may be present.
If the vehicle is then to be registered with H license plates, it is otherwise subjected to less stringent regulations, such as the duty of the green sticker. That is, vehicles that have no catalytic converter, but are registered with H license plates, may, for example, even be used in environmental zones. A green sticker is thus not required.
What else is there to keep in mind?
Before a classic car is acquired and leased through the company, the suitability of a classic car as a commercial vehicle for one’s own company should be very critically questioned. The suitability is regularly the key precondition for tax recognition of a classic car as a commercial vehicle. If the revenue office has reason to believe that a private motivation is paramount for acquisition and use of a specific vehicle, this could justify inappropriate acquisition cost. The consequence would then be that cost associated with the classic car is not deductible as operating cost or only in part.
One should also be aware that classic car leasing in the past already every now and again has ended up on the radar of the tax authorities, has been litigated, and it was even considered to change the legal situation. Until now, however, this model is still working as long as suitability can be affirmed.
At the end of the leasing term also an interesting private investment
Besides the purely business aspects, a further very interesting option is usually offered to the owner at the end of the term of the leasing agreement. Individuals interested in classic vehicles and considering alternative assets for building up private wealth may as a rule acquire the classic car from the leasing company inexpensively, at the residual value calculated in the leasing agreement. Usually, this will be significantly below the actual (acquisition) value.
As a result, leasing of a classic car as a company car offers some tax and financial advantages compared to a new car, in particular, if there is a certain affinity to classics and individuality. In contrast, for individuals considering a vehicle only as purely an object of utility and having ambitions to always drive the latest model, this consideration will seem rather absurd.