A longstanding icon of British motoring is set to disappear as the familiar paper tax disc disappears from our windscreens from October 1st. After this date, motorists can simply tear up their tax discs as the system goes online and an electronic database of road tax goes live. This database will keep a record of who has paid and who has not and those that have not will continue to face fines of £1,000. The change to the new electronic system has been planned for a long time but it seems that not all drivers are aware of it. In fact, a recent survey suggested that more than 50% of motorists had absolutely no knowledge of the new system.
The changes, in fact, are substantial but they are also simple. From October 1, drivers will no longer receive that traditional paper tax disc to affix to their windscreens. Instead, they will be invited to pay their road tax online at the DVLA website. Any drivers who do not have internet access will be able to pay for their road tax at the post office. For motorists with existing tax discs, there is no need to do anything at all but they can remove their tax disc from the windscreen from October 1 if they wish to. When the tax has expired, they can renew it online at the DVLA site.
The road tax system will now be policed by a network of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras, which will keep track of all cars and identify those who have not paid their road tax. The police can also continue to look up car registration numbers on the Police National Computer system, which will tell them whether or not a car is properly taxed.
One feature of the new system that is sure to cause controversy is the ending of the practice of passing on unused road tax when the car is sold. Under the new system, buyers of cars will have to tax them as soon as they purchase the car. The seller of the car will be able to claim back any unused whole months of road tax payments. The seller of the car will also be responsible for telling the DVLA about the change of ownership and they will be liable for a fine if they do not do so.
Some industry observers are less happy with the security aspects of the new system and have claimed that it will make it easier for cars to be stolen. They point out that the existing system must match the paper tax disc to the registration plate. Under the new system, it will be easier for thieves to use false number plates from cars that are properly taxed. If they use the registration plates from the same make, model and colour of car, the ANPR cameras will not be able to distinguish between the untaxed ‘ringer’ and the legitimate car.
Anyone can look up the tax status of any car on the DVLA website and registered owners will be sent a reminder when their road tax is due for renewal. According to the DVLA’s own figures, road tax evasion is a relatively small problem. The statistics suggest that only around 0.6% of cars in the UK are untaxed, amounting to around 200,000 motors. The DVLA says that the reason for the change to a digital system is not just about catching tax dodgers, however. They claim that the new system will streamline the road tax service and save British businesses millions of pounds in administration costs. Some observers have also suggested that the new system will result in a fall in car insurance premiums as the number of road tax dodgers is reduced.
The move to the new system has not been entirely without hiccups, though. The DVLA has reportedly got its sums wrong and has run out of the special perforated tax disc paper a month before the digital system is introduced. Any motorists applying for a tax disc between now and October 1 will therefore receive their tax disc on normal paper and will have to cut it out themselves.