An increasing number of Brits could be driving without lawful car tax, following the scrapping of the tax disc on 1 October 2014.
The startling new findings by vehicle website Motoring.co.uk found that up to 30% of drivers do not know when their Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) is due for renewal.
Stunningly, this means that more than 13.5 million of the 45.5 million motorists who hold driving licences in the United Kingdom could fail to remember to pay for a fresh year’s car tax.
This is not the first time that alarms over the new car tax system have been raised. In September 2015, it was revealed that over one million car owners in the UK are already evading car tax. Worryingly, that number could climb spectacularly if this new survey is accurate – and there is no reason to doubt its findings.
Digital tax system "shortcomings"
What car users driving without legal tax need to know is that they could be fined up to £1,000 and face having their vehicle impounded.
All things considered, the outcome of the research would seem to suggest that the new digital system, set up by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), has shortcomings.
It was also found that on average, ‘road tax’, as it is also known, costs £170 per car. With this in mind, that means the DVLA could be losing out on approximately £170m per year.
However, a spokesperson from the DVLA has refuted the implication that its up-to-the-minute digital system is not up to the job, and said: “The vast majority of people tax their cars on time, with over 42 and a half million drivers taxing their vehicles since 1 October 2014."
You can then use the reference number on your V11 reminder letter to pay you VED on the GOV.uk website.
"Of these, more than 29 million have chosen to tax their vehicles online or by telephone. We also still send reminders to motorists when their vehicles are due to be taxed.
"We send V11 reminders to all motorists except those who have chosen to pay by Direct Debit – they would receive a Direct Debit reminder."
Lack of tax disc responsible for forgetfulness
Terry Hogan, CEO of Motoring.co.uk, said: "This latest survey reveals that the lack of a physical tax disc is a major factor in motorists forgetting to tax their vehicles. This means large numbers of drivers are failing to renew their car tax, driving illegally and liable to fines."
The RAC has also added its voice to the concerns, and says that if car tax evasion rises further, then action will have to be taken. But there is optimism, as RAC chief engineer David Bizley explains:
"Hopefully, much of the increase in evasion is due to the system being new, and these figures will reduce as motorists become more familiar with how it works."
The actual tax disc was, until last year, one of the most legendary yet loathed phases of UK motoring. From 1921, motorists would stick the diminutive circle of paper to the bottom left hand corner of the windscreen.
This would reassure law enforcement officers that you had paid your fair share towards the building and maintenance of the British road network.
While many people still refer to the road tax disc, road tax was actually binned in 1937 and replaced by Vehicle Excise Duty.
VED is a tax on cars, not roads, and it goes straight into the general Treasury fund to be used for whatever the government thinks most important.
These days, you’re obviously still required to tax your motor, but via the internet or phone. You can tax the vehicle using the new keeper supplement (V5C/2) part of the vehicle registration certificate (V5C) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Alternatively, you can do it at a Post Office.
The government says delivering more services digitally is helping it slash costs, and that is the sole reason behind the axing of the traditional paper disc.
The switch to digital tax cost £8m to set up, but will supposedly save £2m a year in administrative costs over a period of three years.