31 July 2011
BECTU is insisting that the tax exemption on the occasional use of taxis late at night is 'not a perk for rich bankers, but a necessity for diligent and mostly low-paid workers'.
The appeal comes in the union's submission to the Treasury consultation, (launched in May 2011) into plans to abolish 36 tax reliefs.
In these situations, there is normally no alternative to taking a taxi; where there is an alternative is it risky and often dangerous
Amongst them is the relief which allows staff to take the occasional taxi home from work - late at night when normal public transport has ceased - without payment of tax or national insurance contributions on the cost of the taxi.
The document explains that:
'Many of our members use the late night taxi exemption when they have to return home after an unexpected overrun, when there is a special all night or 24-hour performance, in the event of some emergency or accident, or when public transport stops earlier than normal on bank holidays.
"In these situations, there is normally no alternative to taking a taxi; where there is an alternative is it risky and often dangerous."
Staff pay and safety will be compromised
The submission warns of the 'unexpected hit on their take-home pay' which workers in the entertainment sector, will suffer if the change goes ahead. Also highlighted is the risk to employment if employers, many of which are dealing with cuts in funding, decide that they cannot meet the extra Class 1A National Insurance Contributions and decide to remove the provision of this late-night transport altogether.
BECTU also highlights the additional safety risk for vulnerable groups including women, the disabled, the elderly and those who are (or perceived to be) gay or bisexual of having this facility withdrawn.
"In short, the withdrawal of the relief is unfair and disproportionate, especially for a mostly low-paid workforce providing services to a vital UK industry," says BECTU.
The union's submission includes direct evidence of the kinds of business need which give rise to the use of the occasional taxi late at night. Staff working in a variety of entertainment venues across the country - theatres, cinemas, concert halls - as well as staff working in production for tv and film cite the clear practical and safety benefits of the current system.
One respondent said:
"The occasional taxis grant the staff and the employer peace of mind. The staff can safely wait in the building until the taxi arrives and be dropped off at their front doors. No waiting 30 minutes to transfer night buses in the middle of nowhere. No walking through the dark. No worries."
Enquiries about BECTU's submission should be sent to Andy Egan, research officer.