End of an Era for Motorists

The size, type and age of your vehicle, and in particular its emissions, determine how much vehicle excise duty - or car tax - you pay.

Each year, we pay our car tax having had the timely reminder from the DVLA and either pay a six-monthly amount or for the full 12 months. Gone are the days when we would queue in post offices to obtain the little paper circle to put in our windscreen, as most people now obtain their car tax over the phone or on the internet. The reward for paying our car tax (apart from the privilege of being on the road) was to receive the circular tax disc to place on our windscreen, and for those who looked forward to receiving that perforated document, it should be noted that due to a change in the law from 1st October 2014, the paper car tax discs are now a thing of the past.

Had the news been that tax was no longer to be paid on our vehicles, we would all be celebrating being significantly better off - especially if driving a large 4 x 4! Sadly, it is not, instead, what it means is that the little circle of paper that has been placed on our windscreens since 1921 will no longer need to be displayed.

The increase in electronic databases, payment by way of electronic direct debit, and the increase in automatic number plate recognition, mean that checks of vehicles to see if drivers have paid their vehicle tax can easily be done without the need for a police officer to look at the windscreen. Indeed, the number of visual checks undertaken by the police and the DVLA has reduced by three quarters over the last six years. Failure to pay your tax can still result in a fine of up to £1,000 as well as a requirement to back pay what is owed.

From 1st October 2014, we will continue to receive a reminder to pay our tax which can be done over the phone or online by providing the 11 digit reference number on the letter or in the vehicle’s log book. The offer of direct debits will be introduced so that from 1st November 2014, the ability to pay by instalments rather than just a maximum of two six-monthly payment will be available. However, paying by instalments will not be available to first registration vehicles or HGVs.

There are some further important changes to note, in particular, if you sell or transfer your vehicle. From 1st October 2014, you must notify the DVLA of change of ownership and you will automatically get a refund for any full calendar months left on the tax. If you buy a vehicle from that date, you will not have the vehicle tax transferred with the vehicle. The advertisements for “full MOT and five months tax left” will go, and instead you must factor in when you purchase a vehicle the need to obtain the tax for your car. You will be able to tax the vehicle using the New Keeper’s Supplement (V5C/2) online or by phone, and this will be available 24 hours a day, seven days per week. It will therefore be important to ensure any change of address is notified and, for businesses that run large fleets, to ensure there is a system in place to receive the paper reminders from the DVLA because the regular reminder of looking at the vehicle and seeing the date of the tax disc will no longer be there.

The DVLA state there is no evidence to suggest that getting rid of the paper tax disc will make non-payment of vehicle tax more prevalent. In fact, they estimate that vehicle excise duty evasion is just 0.6%. It is highly likely, however, that due to peoples’ busy lives and the loss of the ability to view the little piece of paper on their windscreen that has worked as a sound reminder since 1921, may lead to inadvertent non-payment of tax and see an increase in what the DVLA describe as ‘excise duty evasion’. Will the cost of those errors negate the savings the DVLA are expecting to make through saving paper?

The DVLA describe the removal of the paper tax disc as the removal of administrative inconvenience for many millions of motorists having to obtain or display tax discs. This is clearly moving in the direction of a fully electronic process but, for now, it is still going to be possible for motorists to visit a local post office branch to pay for their road tax.

For further information or advice, please contact crime and regulatory solicitor Mike Hayward in Milton Keynes on 01908 202150.