The DVLA has launched a big campaign to track down and penalise people who are dodging paying car tax (also known as vehicle excise duty – VED). The measure comes after the department admitted that revenue from VED fell by £93 million in the year following the abolition of the paper tax discs. It turns out that plenty of drivers used the change to chance not having tax on their car – many of them successfully.

Getting tough

According to the DVLA, the new campaign will highlight what can happen to drivers who haven’t paid their car tax. It will run on radio, catch-up TV and online, as well as in newspapers throughout November. While the supermarkets and other retailers paint an idyllic picture of Christmas in between TV shows, the DVLA will be running an advert featuring a hand-painted car that looks transparent, to show that even if drivers think their car is invisible, it can still be found and clamped.

The RAC welcomed the new scheme, saying that it is good to see that the DVLA is publicly warning drivers about the penalties for not taxing their cars. Untaxed vehicles are often also uninsured. These are a nuisance to society and cause higher insurance premiums for everyone. Thus the RAC welcomes all steps taken to cut down on the number of untaxed vehicles.


(Credit – Dafydd Vaughan)

In the figures

According to figures released by the DVLA, around 10,000 untaxed vehicles are clamped or impounded every month. In 2016, 106,000 untaxed vehicles were immobilised or impounded for dodging car tax. The figure was almost double that of 2014 (at just over 57,000), and a notable increase on the 2015 figure (of 85,000).

Dodging car tax is one of the big reasons for the dip in revenue and the rise in impounded vehicles. However, the DVLA also says that the push towards low emission vehicles has played a part. Overall, it will collect around £147 million less in 2016-17, compared to the 2014-15 period.

A further consideration is that in 2014, new reforms were brought in that meant car tax couldn’t be transferred from one owner to another when a vehicle was sold. Even if a car had a good number of months remaining on the tax, the new driver had to re-tax the vehicle and the seller had to get a refund for the unused time from DVLA. The change caught many buyers off guard and no doubt led to many vehicles going untaxed in error.

The DVLA points out that it has never been easier to tax a vehicle, so drivers have no excuse for not doing so. The online system is available 24 hours a day and you can spread the cost with monthly Direct Debit payments, so there’s no need to pay in a lump sum.

2017 car tax reforms

Reforms in 2017 further changed the car tax system, with greater rewards for lower emission drivers. From 1 April 2017, only electric cars that produce zero emissions and were valued at less than £40,000 are exempt from car tax payments.

Any car worth more than £40,000 will need to pay a £310 surcharge on top of the normal cost of car tax. Cars registered after 1 April will pay a standard rate for their car tax after the first year. This depends on the type of car and fuel used:

  • £140 a year for petrol and diesel vehicles
  • £130 a year for alternative fuels such as hybrids
  • £0 for zero-emissions vehicles such as fully electric cars

This means that a vehicle in the 120g/km band for emissions has gone from paying £30 under the old system to paying £160 for the first year and then £140 a year thereafter under the new system.

Push towards electric

The new, higher tax rates for all types of vehicles (apart from electric) show the real-world application of the government’s big push towards zero emissions vehicles in coming years. At the same time, those who chance leaving their vehicle without tax now face an even greater chance of being caught. This could potentially lead to them losing their vehicle entirely.

Will the new DVLA campaign result in more drivers taxing their vehicles? Or has the switch to an electronic system created loopholes for drivers to hide in? Share your views by leaving a comment. 


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