Is a personalized number plate tax deductible?

The name of your company as a number plate on your vehicle… Nice publicity. It is possible for 1,000 euros. But what does the tax authorities think?

What is and isn’t allowed

Did you know that 11.021 personalized number plates were reserved by the end of 2021? Compared to 7.976 in 2020 and only 5.949 in 2018. The rules of the game are quite simple:

The personalized combination must always contain at least 1 letter. Only numbers are not allowed. All letters are possible.

The personalized number plate contains 9 positions, of which 1 place has already been filled in (with the relief stamp on the left of the number plate). It therefore contains a maximum of 8 free places.

Letters or groups of letters are separated from the numbers or groups of numbers by a dash. The dash also takes a place.

Furthermore, some combinations are not allowed. Combinations containing CD, X, Y, Z or TX are not allowed as they may cause confusion with other official number plates. For the same reason, you should also not go for combinations such as JAN-4444, AXEL-333, 007-BOND and 2014-BEL (3 or 4 letters or numbers, combined with 4 or 3 numbers or letters respectively), as they can cause confusion cause with the regular number plates.

You can check whether your dream combination is still available and allowed on the website

And what about the tax authorities?

A personalized number plate costs 1.000 euros (plus 30 euros administration fee).

If you now have the name of your company (or part of it) placed on your number plate, is that 1.030 euros tax deductible? The issue was raised in a parliamentary question.

The minister is, to say the least, hesitant. According to him, it is usually difficult for the taxpayer to prove that the expenditure of 1.030 euros was made or borne in order to obtain or maintain taxable professional income, as prescribed by the ITC1992. He does not see how such costs could have a publicity character.

Why no publicity?

Perhaps the minister does not have much imagination. If a company manager puts the name of his company on the number plate of his company car, why shouldn't that be publicity? What is the difference between a sticker with the company name on the door of the car and the company name on the number plate? Think, for example, of a funeral director who drives around with 'personalized' hearses and private cars. Or to a tour operator that personalizes the license plates of its coaches. A garage owner who gives his replacement cars a personal touch...

The ministerial answer is ammunition for the tax authorities to be difficult about an expense that can indeed be commercial. But what other reason than a professional reason could an entrepreneur have for putting the name of his company on his license plate? Hopefully tax inspectors have a better understanding.