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Company car charges for personal use

Discussion in 'Employment, Labor, Work Issues' started by DinCali14, Jul 31, 2020.

  1. DinCali14

    DinCali14 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
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    I work as a technical support specialist for a company that provides company cars for those that routinely travel for work. Some travel to customer sites everyday and put 10s of thousands of miles on their cars every year. I do not. I work from home about 60-80% of the time. When I do have to travel for work, I drive to a customer site maybe 3 or 4 times a year and to a factory I support perhaps once a year. Otherwise, I tend to drive to the airport, then back after I return from my business trip. Most of us, including me, are paid hourly (yes, the company does a good job adhering to the 8-12 hour 1.5x and 12+ hour 2x pay rule for California). I have always been paid "door-to-door", even on business trips, meaning I am on the clock as soon as I leave my home or hotel until I get back (sans lunch time). I have a personal car, so I that's what I use to visit friends, go to dinner, etc.

    The policy is that we are supposed to drive 7500 business miles each year to justify having a car. I typically have driven somewhere around 5-6 thousand. My role is changing slightly, so now I may only drive about 4000 miles.

    Here's the legal issue... my company is instituting a monthly $150 flat fee for personal use. We always had to report how many total miles driven and distinguish how many were for business and personal. Typically, I put zero for personal, since I have my personal car.

    The company policy is now saying that the distance from home to the first stop and from the last to home are considered personal use. The nearest customer site I have visited is only about 10 miles away, but they are more typically between 30 and 120 miles. The nearest factory I support is nearly 400 miles away. I would yearly make a drive to a factory just to try to get up to the 7500-mile limit, but still would fall short by 1500-2500 miles each year. I do not commute to an office (there is no local office where I live). I only know of a handful of people who use a company car to commute to/from a local office (we are a gigantic company. over 70K people worldwide).

    So, the questions are:

    Can my company force me to pay this personal use fee?

    Can my company force me to claim that a 40-mile trip to/from the airport for a business trip is personal?

    Can my company force me to claim a 400-mile trip to a company factory is personal?

    Can my company claim I'm tallying personal miles when I'm on the company time clock as working?

    If they take my company car away from me, can the company force me to use my personal car as opposed to taking a Lyft to the airport or renting a car to travel 100 miles each way to a customer site?

    Thank you very much in advance for any advice you may provide.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
  2. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    I suspect you'd get more precise and useful answers to your questions if you'd only address them to your HR Representative or management.
     
  3. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    It is the company's car, not yours. If you do not agree to their terms of use them do not use their car.

    If you should opt to use ride sharing programs or rent a vehicle you will be assuming that cost yourself. Don't expect the company to pay it.

    You can also use your own vehicle and keep mileage records for a traditional tax writeoff.
     
  4. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Yes, the company CAN "force" you to do all of that. It's called "obey the rules or be out of a job." If you don't like the rules you seek employment elsewhere. It's really that simple.
     
  5. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    No. You have the choice to decline the use of the company car. But then you'd have to see what the company will offer to pay for the business expenses you incur. California law is fairly unique in that it requires an employer to pay for the business expenses its employees incur. So the employer cannot make you pay business expenses out of your own pocket. But the business can regulate the method you use to carry out that business. In other words, it can tell you that it will only pay for the least expensive way for you to travel for business. If you want to do it some other more expensive way, you'd eat the difference. What you'd likely find is that the employer would say it would reimburse you for the use of your personal vehicle using one of the three methods allowed by California law: actual expenses, standard mileage rate, or lump sum. If you want to take Lyft, the employer is likely to still only reimburse based on using your own car, e.g. standard mileage rate rather than the Lyft charge.

    Note that under both California labor law and California and federal tax law, commuting miles are considered personal expenses. Commuting miles are generally the miles you drive from home to your main or regular place of business. Even though you do a lot of work from home, if you still have an office in the company's space that might still be considered your regular place of business. If you have no regular place of business, then your miles from your home to your first stop for business during the day within your metro area and the return from your last stop home, again within your metro area, would generally be considered commuting miles. It may be that the $150 charge the employer wants wouldn't even cover those commuting expenses you incur with their car; if so, you are still getting a pretty good deal here.
     
    DinCali14 likes this.
  6. DinCali14

    DinCali14 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you very much for your response.

    The 'commuting' rule is what has my attention, mostly. There is no local office. I have no office in any of our facilities. While there are "Level 1" support people who typically support within a metro area, many of those L1 people also support customers in neighboring states (perhaps 7 hours away). I, however, am Level 3. My team and I provide national (and sometimes international) support. If I were to drive to a customer site or a company facility, it is far more likely to be 100-400 miles away than 30. In most cases I have to fly.

    The $150 is apparently just the down payment. We still tally how many business miles vs personal miles and can incur additional charges. Anything over the value, based on $0.575/mile gets added. Also, I'll be getting charged regardless of whether I actually drive anyway. I haven't visited a customer since maybe February and am under a COVID travel restriction, so I can't even fly unless there is a significantly good reason. The car is just sitting outside of my home, yet the $150 charge will still happen.
     
  7. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    Given your situation I'm not sure that there's much, if any, advantage to you in having a company car.
     

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