Three times more cars unlicensed after tax discs abolished

Campaigners have called for “stronger enforcement” after the number of untaxed vehicles tripled in three years.

Nov 16, 2017

Campaigners have called for “stronger enforcement” after the number of untaxed vehicles tripled in three years. Department for Transport (DfT) figures show around 1.8 per cent of all road traffic – 755,000 cars – in 2017 was unlicensed. The rate is triple that recorded in 2013 and coincides with the abolition of car tax discs just one year later. Twelve per cent of untaxed vehicles had previously been declared to be off the road, up from just one per cent in 2015. The Government estimates the increase means £107 million of tax revenue could be lost each year, despite initially claiming the abolition of the paper tax disc would save £10 million. The RAC said the increase is “extremely concerning”. “It appears that having an visual reminder was an effective way to prompt drivers into renewing their car tax – arguably more drivers are now prepared to try their luck and see if they can get away with not paying any vehicle tax at all, or are simply forgetting to tax their vehicle when they are due to,” said public affairs manager Nicholas Lyes. He added: “The principle of abolishing the tax disc to introduce greater efficiencies has, so far, evidently failed. More must be done to educate drivers about how and when to tax their vehicle, coupled with stronger enforcement to genuinely make drivers who evade vehicle tax feel that they are going to get caught.” Since October 2014 it has no longer been a requirement to display paper tax discs in a vehicle’s windscreen. However, despite the loss of in-vehicle reminders of the tax expiry date, drivers are still sent reminders before the renewal is due. A vehicle’s licence status can also be checked online. Just 0.6 per cent of vehicles were unlicensed the year before the change was introduced, but this rose to 1.5 per cent in 2015 and 1.8 per cent this year. The tax evasion rate among motorcyclists was even higher at 5.8 per cent. Levels were highest in the West Midlands (2.1 per cent) and the North West (two per cent). The East of England had the lowest rate at 0.8 per cent, but there was little variation between the remaining regions. The £107 million in lost revenue accounts for 1.7 per cent of the total due in Vehicle Excise Duty. The DfT said some will have been recovered through enforcement activity. A spokesperson added: “The vast majority of motorists tax their vehicles correctly and we have made it easy to do it online – and to spread the costs using direct debit. “As the DVLA’s current campaign stresses, driving a vehicle without taxing is breaking the law and the DVLA will continue to crack down on drivers who do.”

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