1. If coca-cola in this instance specified on the P11D that they had given vans, how would this have arisen as a case? Seems like such a strange thing to have somehow got visibility that a van had an extra seat row?
The problem is that legislation as written is often anything but clear cut - the problem is that if there is a dispute between taxpayer and hmrc the outcome is decide on the toss of a coin - oops sorry i meant the balance of probabilities - so there is often uncertainty if something is acceptable practice or not.
It was always only a matter of time before some company got taken to task ref this very item - cola cola were probably in the wrong place at the wrong time - although one may take the viewpoint that they tried their luck and didnt get away with it.
Fleet manager Tom Sayers had told the tribunal in 2017 that employees were offered the choice between a panel van or a vehicle modified by a third-party contractor with rear seats, which could be used for their own private purposes.
It looks like coca cola didn't help themselves here when their own employee advised clients could have a van or "something else" - you would think if you are turning up ata tribunal you would at least use the phrase "modified van" rather than choose not to say it was a "van"
2. If the van is never given as a benefit in kind, and only used for business purposes rather than as a benefit does the P11D come into account at all?
When you say van do you mean car ? - presuming you are talking about the car then as long as it meets the pool car rules you would be absolutely fine - the problem is its highly unlikely that the pool car rules would ever be met so thats unlikely to solve this potential problem
One solution to the problem is probably go for a vehicle that is less likely to cause hmrc to chuck a wobbly and that is probably a double cab pickup that hmrc officially concede can be classed as a VAN subject to their specific rules in this regard - for some bizarre reason here taxes section are happy to defer to vat! - note the trick with double cabs is to enusre the 1 tonne rule is always met - i think sometimes adding a hardtop option can reduce the available payload - so you need to be very careful even here not to default to preusming it will be ok without checking the fine detail.