Over 900 pages on the correct treatment of expenses might not be every finance director and fleet manager's idea of a good bedtime read but we found it surprisingly interesting. Did you know that if the employee is already subject to car benefit, no additional tax charge will arise from the employer's purchase of a personalised number plate, no matter how high the cost?

Anyone involved in the provision of company cars and other benefits will find that most of the tricky taxation issues are comprehensively covered by:

  • a well written guide through the principles in Volume 1
  • coverage of the more complex benefits and expenses in Volume 2
  • reference to the law, identifying the relevant section in the legislation
  • key points from relevant cases 
  • the EIM guidance note number 
  • and often an example or two to aid understanding

The split into two books solves the problem of whether it is better to take an A-Z approach or to put things in context and cover areas in detail. The authors do both and this works well if the reader is browsing through. On some subjects it is less successful because an outline statement in one volume can only be understood in context by finding the background in the other volume. For this reason I don't think that buying just one volume to save money is likely to be worthwhile.

The books can be dipped into to research a particular problem, but equally lend themselves to being read through to gain a full understanding and update on much wider areas regarding benefits. A significant proportion of the material deals with company vehicles as there are many complexities to cover, and for many companies this will be the largest element of the P11ds. Other benefits are covered in full too, so HR and Payroll departments will find useful references.

Value for money at £138.50? Certainly. One could spend a great deal of time searching the HMRC website on a particular issue before gaining confidence that all the links and references have been followed up, and you still would not see case law and detailed examples. This guide has a better structure and the reader will feel more confident that that they have covered the information available on a particular topic. 

The tone is very much about providing information rather than advice, as is to be expected from any professional nowadays. You will come across the occasional use of adjectives or phrases to highlight absurdities or confusion in the tax system. However the books can only take you as far as existing information allows.

In conclusion these books are likely to be a useful addition to those increasingly smaller spaces we have in our paperless offices called "bookshelves"; not just for reference but also a good browse through to discover gaps in our knowledge of the correct tax treatment of benefits and expenses.