Vehicle Excise Duty (commonly known as vehicle tax, car tax or road tax) must be paid on the majority of vehicles registered in the UK. Any motorist caught driving without it could be fined up to £1,000. However, according to the latest data from the Department of Transport, the number of untaxed vehicles has trebled since tax discs were scrapped in 2014.
Is it always illegal to drive without car tax?
According to the law, it is an offence to drive a vehicle on a public road in the UK without road tax. However, there are a couple of exceptions.
If you’re taking your car to a pre-booked MOT test, you can drive your vehicle on a road without it being taxed. The law doesn’t state how far you can travel, but if you stop off at the shops on the way or cover an unreasonably long distance it could be deemed that you’re using the vehicle for other purposes and the exemption won’t apply.
Drivers with disabilities may also be exempt from paying vehicle tax. Also, some vehicles that are electric, and historic motors may also be excused. However, it’s worth noting that you do still have to apply for vehicle tax even if you don’t need to pay it.
What happens if my car is parked on the road, but I don’t drive it?
The law states that a registered vehicle being kept or used on public roads must be both taxed and insured. It does not make a difference if that vehicle is being used or not.
If a car or vehicle is not being driven and it is kept off road in a garage, on a drive or on private land, it must be declared SORN. SORN stands for Statutory Off-Road Notification.
You can apply for SORN free of charge online or by using form V890. It’s important to remember that once a car has been declared SORN, it can’t be driven on the road until it’s cancelled. SORNs no longer expire automatically after 12 months.
Driving a car that has been declared SORN is a more serious offence than purely driving without tax. Unless you’re going to a pre-booked MOT appointment, you could face a fine of up to £2,500 if you’re caught driving while a SORN still applies.
What happens with car tax when buying a used car?
If you are buying a new car, any tax that the vehicle had left with the previous owner does not transfer to the new owner. As of the rules changing in October 2014, the DVLA will refund any full months of tax left over to the previous owner. So, whenever you buy a used car, it will always be untaxed.
There is no longer a five-day grace period to allow for your new tax information to arrive in the post. The grace period was abandoned once the tax disc system was removed, and the new digital system was introduced. A vehicle must be taxed at the point of sale, so you could be fined if you drive off without it.
When you buy a second-hand vehicle, the seller should give you the green section of the car’s logbook, known as the ‘new keeper supplement’ or V5C/2. You can tax the car online or at the Post Office using the 12-digit reference number from the V5C/2 form. If the car is more than three years old, you’ll also need a valid MOT.
If you buy a used car from a dealer, they will usually tax it for you online or over the phone before you drive away. But it is very important that you double check this to avoid being caught out.
Failure to Notify change of keeper
If you sell and/ or transfer your vehicle, you have an obligation to notify the DVLA as to the new keeper, whether it be an individual, a motor trader, insurance company or salvage company. Failure to do so can result in a fine of £55. This fine can be reduced if paid within a certain timeframe. But if it is ignored, a Single Justice Procedure Notice will be issued, and the maximum fine is £1,000.
What if I’m stopped by the police for driving without car tax?
The police have Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras which are used to scan registrations and check them against information stored in the DVLA’s database.
If your vehicle is found to be untaxed, an officer may issue you with a fine.
The penalty for driving without car tax
The DVLA runs monthly computer checks of all vehicles registered in the UK. If the system flags up a vehicle as being untaxed and not declared SORN, an automated letter and fine of £80 will be sent to your address if you’re the registered keeper. You won’t receive any points on your licence and if you pay within 28 days, you should receive a 50% discount.
However, if you fail to pay the fine, you could be prosecuted, and the penalty could be increased to a maximum of £1,000 if the case goes to court. The DVLA also has the power to clamp your vehicle until the correct amount of tax for the vehicle is paid.
How can we help?
If you have received a letter telling you that you have a vehicle that is not taxed and want advice, we are here to help. We can provide you with our expert defence team to represent your case in court and help you avoid a potentially damaging criminal record.
Our driving offence solicitors will look at all the facts and decide what defence is best for your case. This will also include everything from the facts of the case all the way to whether your actions actually amounted to a criminal act.
Our team of litigators and advocates have many years of experience analysing complex factual scenarios and applying them to often novel areas of law. This ensures that we get the best possible results for our clients. Please do not hesitate to call us on 0208 059 0010 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to get expert legal advice for you and your case.