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How to use salary sacrificing to buy a car

Find out how salary sacrificing can help you get a new car as well as reduce what you pay in tax.

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Salary sacrificing is a financing option that lets you make car repayments out of your pre-tax salary, reducing what you pay in tax and automating your repayments. It can be a good alternative to buying the car outright or getting a car loan.

If you're willing and able to reduce the amount of money you receive from your employer, you can make substantial savings on your overall amount of liabilities.

What is salary sacrificing?

Salary sacrificing (sometimes called salary packaging or salary exchange) is exactly what the name suggests: it's a sacrifice of part of your salary for some other benefit. These benefits are called fringe benefits and, along with your salary, are what make up your total remuneration package.

Salary sacrificing is an agreement between you and your employer. The benefits that you can salary sacrifice for are fairly broad, but the main point is that you forgo some of your pre-tax pay to receive it.

The main benefit of salary sacrificing is that it reduces your pre-tax income, and therefore the amount of tax you must pay. For example, if you were to salary sacrifice $2,000 but receive a $2,000 laptop as a fringe benefit, you won't pay tax on $2,000. The laptop still cost you $2,000 but you weren't taxed on it first.

How can I use salary sacrificing to get a car?

By using a novated lease you can salary sacrifice to buy a car. In a novated lease, car repayments will be deducted from your gross salary by your employer and paid to a third-party financing company.

The lease repayments include fuel and servicing costs, so you will have no other bills relating to the car. Once the lease term expires you can purchase the car or simply commence a new lease with a new car. Novated leases are available for between one and five years for both new and used vehicles.

The actual benefit of salary sacrificing for a car will depend on your earnings, the number of kilometres you drive each year and your marginal tax rate.

What benefits will I be able to take advantage of?

Here's a list of the benefits of salary sacrificing to buy a car:

  • Reduced income tax liability. By making repayments from your pre-tax salary you are reducing the amount of income that is liable for taxation. The higher your tax rate, the greater the benefit.
  • Avoid or eliminate GST on new vehicles. Vehicles purchased through a novated lease program can be GST-free, which means the cost won't be passed on to you through your lease repayments.
  • GST-free maintenance. Operating costs can also be GST-free as your employer will claim an input tax credit for them.
  • Fixed repayment costs. The cost of owning and maintaining a car usually has an element of uncertainty due to changes in costs and unknown future expenses. However, with a novated lease you only pay one amount straight from your pre-tax income, making it simpler to budget and plan for.
  • No major upfront deposits. If you are buying a car outright you need a lump sum. Salary sacrificing avoids this because you are making lease payments over a period of time.
  • Includes petrol and servicing costs. Your novated lease agreement will be based on an estimated annual kilometre allowance. It covers all petrol and servicing costs within these limits, which means you can drive without worrying about changing prices.
  • Some novated leasing companies offer benefits. For example, Stratton Finance offer discounts on fuel using its card.

What is the employee contribution method?

A novated lease usually includes the running costs associated with owning a car. The employee contribution method (ECM) allows you to pay certain costs from your post-tax income, instead of salary sacrificing for them.

When you receive a fringe benefit, such as a car, there are tax consequences. Your employer must pay fringe benefits tax on the amount of benefit you receive, which they will generally take back from you. By using the ECM you effectively offset the amount of fringe benefit you will have received and be required to pay tax on.

As the fringe benefits tax rate is current 47%, it's beneficial to most people to offset this with their post-tax income which will have likely been taxed at a lower rate.

What are the drawbacks of salary sacrificing a car?

Salary sacrificing is more beneficial for people who earn mid- to high incomes. Here are some of the drawbacks of salary sacrificing a car:

  • You don't own the car. Although you will have full-time access to the car, you don't technically own it. This may be more of an issue for some people than others but consider how you will feel using an asset that you don't truly own.
  • You are liable for the car. Although you don't fully own the car, you are completely liable for it. Should you lose your job the car is still your responsibility, including the repayments.
  • Less pay in the bank each week. It may be cheaper overall to salary sacrifice a car, but you will receive less take-home pay because of it.
  • Your employer must agree. Everyone is eligible to salary sacrifice, but ultimately you will need your employer to agree to it.
  • More complex tax affairs. If you have a relatively straightforward tax situation and can complete your own tax returns, salary sacrificing may make it more complex and possibly too difficult for you to do alone.

difference between with salary sacrificing and without it

Car salary sacrificing for employers

Here's how to set up salary sacrificing for your employees and the pros and cons.

How to set up novated leasing for employees

Have a word with your finance and accounts team. Let them know you're looking to start working with a novated leasing broker. Some companies, like Toyota, offer this as part of their fleet management services.

Pros and cons of setting up salary sacrificing for employers

Pros of car salary packaging for employers:

  • Entice talent to your business and build staff loyalty
  • "Boost" value of salary packages
  • Simplify administration with one monthly invoice (when using broker)
  • No effect on your finances
  • Using a novated lease expert can help you use your time efficiently
  • Risk level is relatively low (when using a novated leasing agent)
  • Reduce the size of a company fleet and the related upkeep
  • No worry if an employee leaves or is made redundant – responsibility for the vehicle transfers to them

Downsides for employers:

  • Salary packaging might only attract higher-tax-paying employees
  • Time spent researching different leasing companies and offers
  • Not available for some utes and minibuses
  • May insure fringe benefits tax liabilities, depending on deal
  • Accountants may have slightly more work to do and have to charge you more
  • Depending on your set-up, there might be some additional admin to do

How do I apply for this type of finance?

Most novated leases are managed by an independent company that coordinates between you, your employer, the dealer and the financier.

If your employer offers salary sacrificing for a car, you should contact a novated lease provider to get the process started. You will need to know what type of car you would like and how many kilometres you expect to travel each year.

Everyone can use salary sacrificing, but it is an agreement between you and your employer. Your employer must agree to offer a car through salary sacrificing before you can take advantage of it.

What types of car are eligible for salary sacrifice?

We spoke with a novated leasing specialist, who said there are no particular limits on makes or models of car that qualify for salary sacrificing.

However, there were some conditions, namely that:

  • The vehicle has fewer than 9 seats
  • The payload is under 1 tonne

As long as the car meets those criteria and your financial advisor says it qualifies, you're okay. That might exclude some commercial vehicles, like heavy-duty utes, or minibuses.

Some car manufacturers, like Jaguar and Toyota, have web pages dedicated to novated leasing.

Frequently asked questions about salary sacrificing to buy a car

Is there a restriction on the car's value? Or the amount I can salary sacrifice?

We asked a novated leasing specialist, who said there's no limit on the salary you can sacrifice.

They stated that above-the-cap benefits aren't restricted and they don't incur fringe benefits tax (FBT). Obviously, you must discuss the purchase with a financial advisor or professional accountant.

What happens if I lose my job or leave?

A novated leasing specialist told us that if you lose your job, repayments are taken from your post-tax income. Leaving your job nullifies the three-way agreement between your employer and the leasing company. With the employer out of the equation, you have a straight agreement with a car leasing company.

If you took out loan termination insurance (also called novated lease protection insurance), check the terms. These might allow you to hand the vehicle back or make a claim, in the case of you being made involuntarily redundant. Some will pay the lease for a period of up to 180 days.

Is there an age limit on the cars that can be salary packaged?

Yes. Most commonly, novated leases require a car be no older than 8 or 12 years old at the end of the agreement.

However, some leasers might consider classic and vintage cars that retain or accumulate value.

Who pays for the car's upfront and running costs?

As part of a salary sacrificing agreement, most running costs are rolled into the repayments.

This includes:

  • Car purchase price
  • Dealer accessories
  • Dealer delivery fees
  • First year's rego and CTP
  • Stamp duty
  • Novated lease set-up charge
  • Personal property security registration charge
  • Luxury car tax (on qualifying models)

Operating costs:

  • Mechanical maintenance and repairs
  • Fuel
  • Fully comp insurance (through a fleet insurer)
  • Roadside assistance
  • Rego and CTP renewal
  • Tyre replacement
Some leasing companies even suggest it's possible to incorporate car washing costs.

However, toll charges, insurance excess (in the event of an accident) and fines/tickets are not included.

What records do I need to keep?

Odometer readings (the distance you travel); you'll be asked for this at certain times of the year, such as 31 March, but also if the car is written off or the lease term is due to expire.

Compare car loans to buy a car

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Variable3 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
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OurMoneyMarket New Car Loan
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Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $300,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.52%
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Comp. Rate (p.a.)
6.95%
to 23%
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$395
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$0
Monthly Repayment
$625.27
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You'll receive a fixed rate from 6.52% p.a. depending on the lender you are approved with.
Apply for up to $300,000 and use cash or trade in a vehicle to use as a deposit. Optional balloon payment available.
Verified Lending Used Car Loan
Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $200,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
7.1%
to 18.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
8.06%
to 22.99%
Application Fee
$395
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
$630.67
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loans.com.au - New - Fixed Rate Special
Fixed3 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.99%
to 8.19%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
8.11%
to 9.3%
Application Fee
$400
Monthly Fee
$8
Monthly Repayment
$637.8
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You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
Finance a new car and benefit from features such as fast approval, no ongoing fees and an optional balloon payment.

OurMoneyMarket Used Car Loan - No Vehicle Age Limit
Fixed1 - 7 Years $2,001 - $75,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.57%
to 18.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
7.19%
to 21.78%
Application Fee
$250
min.
Monthly Fee
$0
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loans.com.au - Variable Rate Used Car < 3 years
Variable3 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
7.74%
to 7.74%
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8.85%
to 8.99%
Application Fee
$400
Monthly Fee
$8
Monthly Repayment
$644.82
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Stratton Finance Used Car Loan
Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $300,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.52%
to 18%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
6.95%
to 23%
Application Fee
$395
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
$625.27
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You'll receive a fixed rate loan from 6.52% p.a. with a comparison rate of 6.95% p.a.
A used car loan of up to $300,000 with quick approval times and balloon payment options.
loans.com.au - Variable Rate Used Car < 5 years
Variable3 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
7.74%
to 7.74%
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Application Fee
$400
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loans.com.au - Fixed Rate Used Car < 5 years
Fixed3 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
7.79%
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Application Fee
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loans.com.au - Fixed Rate Used Car Loan (6 to 7 years)
Fixed3 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
9.09%
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10.2%
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Interest Rate (p.a.)
12.79%
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