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04 Jun 2020
Jamie Gibbs Nik Andreev

How to tax a car


Road traffic

You need to make sure your car’s been taxed before you can drive it away.

If you're buying your car from a dealership, they might well sort that out for you. But if you're buying privately, you need to ensure you're covered.

Here's how to get it sorted and check that your car is taxed.

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How do I tax my car?

When your Vehicle Excise Duty – or car tax if you want to dispense with formalities – is up for renewal, you should get a V11 reminder letter.

Just put this number into the online tax service and follow the steps. Job done.

If you don't have a V11 reminder, you can also use the number your V5C (log book).

Alternatively, if you've just bought the car and don't have a log book yet, you should have a number on your V5C/2 supplement given to you by the previous owner.

READ MORE: Company car tax

How do I know if my car is taxed?

The easiest way to find out is by using the government's vehicle enquiry service.

All you need is your car's make and the number plate, and it'll tell you when your tax is due for renewal as well as when your MOT is up.

If you have your V5C reference number to hand, you can also get tax rates and other information.

The cost will depend on the tax band your car falls into. Cars in the lowest band A are currently exempt from paying any tax.

READ MORE: UK car tax bands explained

Alternative ways to tax your car

If renewing your tax online isn't for you, there are a number of other options available.

You can pay for your tax by phone - just call the DVLA on 0300 123 4321 and have your V5C or V5C/2 to hand.

Certain post offices also allow you to tax your car in person. Put your postcode into the Post Office branch finder and select "vehicle tax" as your preferred service.

To tax your car via the post office, you may need to show a valid MOT certificate as well as your V5C or V5C/2.

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How do I pay for my car tax?

As before, you can pay for your car tax in one lump sum – either by cash, cheque, debit or credit card.

You have the option of paying via direct debit. These can be either annually, biannually or monthly – there’s a 5% surcharge for biannual or monthly payments.

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I just bought a used car. Does it come with tax already on it?

Not anymore, it’s impossible to transfer car tax. Back when paper tax discs were a thing, people could sell a car with a few months’ tax left on it.

Now whenever someone sells a car, any full months’ worth of tax left over are automatically refunded.

That means whenever you buy a used car, it will be untaxed. By law, the car must be taxed at the point of sale, and driving off without it could land you with a fine.

Anyone who tells you different is either mistaken or fibbing.

READ MORE: Your rights when buying a used car

What happened to the car tax disc?

The tax disc was introduced in 1921. Since then it was a legal requirement to display one - even in the case of vehicles that have been exempt from paying the charge. But since October 2014, car tax discs are no longer issued.

The DVLA said this was a cost-cutting exercise and that getting rid of printing and postage costs will save £10 million each year.

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How do I get a refund on my car tax?

If you no longer own your vehicle, or it's off the road, you can get a refund on any full months’ worth of remaining tax. 

You should let the DVLA know if your car:

  • is sold or transferred to someone else

  • is off the road. If you’re not using your car you will need a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).

  • has been written off by an insurance company or scrapped at a scrap yard.

  • has been exported out of the UK

  • is registered as tax exempt

If your vehicle is stolen, you’ll have to apply for the cancellation and the refund separately. 

When you've told the DVLA about this your tax will be cancelled, as will the direct debit.

You’ll automatically get a refund by cheque for any full months left on your car tax. To calculate this the DVLA will work out the remaining months left from the date they received your information. The cheque is then sent to the name and address on the logbook.

Unfortunately, you won't receive a refund for any credit card fees or surcharges. 

READ MORE: How to cancel your car tax and get a refund

First published 22 February 2014


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