New restrictive regulations on use of non-EU registered company vehicles within the EU

The EU has introduced more restrictive regulations on the use of non-EU registered company vehicles within the EU by EU residents. The new regulations, which came into force on 1 May 2015, will affect thousands of cross-border commuters who use company vehicles to return home from Switzerland to an EU country, often also using such vehicles for private purposes (holidays, shopping trips etc) and employment contracts allow such use.

The changes mean that for company vehicles registered in a non-EU country (such as Switzerland), any private use by an EU resident within the EU is now strictly forbidden. The use of such a vehicle is restricted to the direct route between the place of residence in the EU and the place of work in the non-EU country. Furthermore, only the employee is allowed to drive the vehicle in the EU.

If a non-EU company vehicle is used for official business trips within the EU by EU residents, it must be clear from the employment contract of the individual driving the vehicle that such trips form part of their official business activities and are necessary for the fulfilment of the tasks expected of them. If the vehicle is transporting goods or equipment which require a border crossing into the EU, the company should clarify with customs in advance whether the items are subject to any tax duties.

It is not clear how strictly the customs authorities will enforce these new regulations. However, it is clear that if a company vehicle which has not been cleared through customs is used for private purposes by the EU resident, the vehicle might be confiscated by the authorities of the respective EU state and the customs duties may have to be paid. Furthermore the non-EU company might be required to register for VAT.

It is expected that company vehicles travelling in the EU that are registered in Switzerland and owned by a Swiss employer will be checked on a regular basis. There are also similar rules in place for entry into Switzerland of a vehicle registered in the EU by an employee resident in Switzerland.

What companies need to do:

  • immediately inform employees resident in the EU who use a company vehicle;
  • advise EU resident employees to avoid the use of a company car for any trips in the EU which are not employment related with the exception of the shortest route between their home address and the address of the company domiciled in Switzerland;
  • review and adapt their employment contracts with EU resident employees to ensure that they meet the requirements of EU regulation 2015/234;
  • advise EU resident employees to carry a photocopy of their latest employment contract in the vehicle at all times; and
  • review company vehicle policies and make any necessary adaptations to meet the amended regulations.