Business Cars

If an employer provides a car at no value or below market value there is an argument that this is a "property" item. I donít buy it. Once the job disappears the car disappears and, hence, it is not what we generally think of as "property"---any more than the job itself is "property". See, by analogy, the discussion on health insurance plans.

However, I would argue these can/should be elements of income for purposes of defining a partyís child support or alimony obligation. The Michigan Child Support Guidelines recognize this, stating that "Income might be received in a form other than cash. Among the most common forms of such are use of a company carÖ" 2001 Guidelines, p. 14.The Guideline goes on to suggest "all such in-kind income should be priced at itsí market value (the price that a person not affiliated with the business would have to pay); the amount (if any) that was paid by the party for the goods or services out of his pocket should be subtracted; and the remaining amount counted as incomeÖ" Id.

I generally agree with this. However, consider a traveling salesman who is provided a Mercedes by the employer. The salesman, earning a modest income, would not ordinarily drive such a car since it is outside of his income range. Nevertheless, his employer insists or prefers that he drive this vehicle due to the image the company attempts to project. Does the salesman get "charged" (for support purposes) the fmv of the Mercedes? After all, he is receiving the benefit of driving the car. Or is it more reasonable to assume the fmv of some "ordinary" car consistent with the salesmanís general income and standard of living. I lean to the latter result. I havenít ever seen an appellate case on point, though I have had this issue on more than one occasion.