The number of car tax dodgers has fallen by 61% in the past five years. We look at the cause of this drop – and drivers' inventive excuses for not paying.
The number of drivers prosecuted for failing to pay car tax, or vehicle excise duty (VED) to give it its official title, has fallen dramatically over the past five years.
Almost 65,000 motorists were found guilty of keeping or using an unlicensed vehicle back in 2009-10, according to figures compiled by the DVLA.
But that figure slumped to 25,044 in 2013-14 with the 61% drop being credited to the tough measures used to deal with evasion.
Transport minister Stephen Hammond told the House of Commons that the DVLA now had more tools to tackle the problem.
Crackdown on car tax dodgers
These range from reminder letters and penalties through to court prosecutions, and the wheel clamping and/or removal of unlicensed vehicles.
"These measures have helped to improve compliance and the latest estimates show that vehicle excise duty evasion is at a historic low of just 0.6%," Hammond said.
Most on-road enforcement action is now based on using automatic mumber plate readers - cameras using the number plate rather than a visual inspection of the disc.
The police also have access to DVLA records via the police national computer.
Car tax dodgers - total number of prosecutions
- 2009-10: 64,408
- 2010-11: 53,648
- 2011-12: 44,159
- 2012-13: 29,035
- 2013-14: 25,044
Drivers' excuses for not paying car tax
Despite the encouraging fall in prosecutions, DVLA records reveal an array of inventive excuses by drivers who haven't taxed their vehicles.
One motorist claimed to have fallen out of a tree while fruit picking and breaking both arms - so couldn't fill in the forms.
Another put their lack of tax down to having man flu.
Other excuses include a dog eating the reminder, a motorbike being hidden behind the barbecue in the garage, and being out of the country and forgetting where the car was parked.
Another claimed: "My mate said that if the cost of the tax is more than what the car is worth you haven't got to pay it – it's not, so I didn't."
However, perhaps the award for cheekiest attempt should go to the motorist who claimed he'd taken so much Viagra that he was unable to leave the house.
The end of the paper tax disc
The fall in car tax dodgers comes ahead of changes that will mean from 1 October 2014 paper car tax discs no longer need to be displayed on a vehicle windscreen.
However, driving or keeping a vehicle on the road will still require vehicle tax to be paid which is why the DVLA will continue sending renewal reminders before it expires.
In addition, the tax will no longer be transferred when you buy a vehicle so the new owners will have to sort this out before using it on the road.
And anyone selling a vehicle after 1 October will have to notify the DVLA in order to get an automatic refund for any full calendar months left on the tax.
Pay car tax by direct debit
For vehicle tax starting from 1 November 2014, motorists will be able to pay by direct debit annually, biannually or monthly.
No additional handling fees will be added for annual payments but there will be a surcharge of 5% of vehicle tax for biannual and monthly payments.
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