Friday 29th August 2014
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From 1 October 2014, the DVLA will no longer issue paper tax discs, instead, as in the way of all things now, the system will become paperless – digital!  Motorists will be obliged to pay their vehicle tax (for vehicles that they drive and keep) by Direct Debit or through the Post Office.  Anyone who doesn’t pay their vehicle tax will incur a £1,000 fine. For more information please visit:

Road tax disc abolished

Absent or expired tax discs always indicated a lack of vehicle tax payment  so how will parking attendants know after 1 October if tax has been paid or not? A new system will come into force whereby cameras that are equipped with automatic number place recognition (ANPR) will be installed on our streets. It does smack a bit of Big Brother is watching you now.

However, the DVLA claim that the new system will have many advantages:

  • As they have access to our vehicle insurance and MOT records the camera system can cross-reference with the number plate to check if the car’s insurance and MOT are valid.  This will help to identify uninsured drivers and vehicles that may not be road worthy – highlighting some dangerous practices.
  • Motorists will gain more flexible payment options.
  • It will be harder for tax dodgers to drive untaxed vehicles.
  • The taxpayer will save about £7 million each year through the removal of administrative costs as the tax discs will no longer be created, issued and posted.
  • The abolition of the tax disc will benefit people who own vehicles for business purposes around £7 million per year on aggregate.

But the new system also raises a lot of questions:

  • What happens in rural areas where there are less cameras?
  • Will the ANPR system link into the police and private companies?
  • Some car parks already operate ANPR systems and sometimes these machines break down what happens in the event of the machinery going wrong?
  • What about the risk of fraud – duplicate number plates could be attached to several identical models?
  • If you borrow a vehicle to drive how do you know it is taxed and therefore legal to drive on the road?
  • The paper tax disc serves as a reminder to pay the tax, without it how will people remember when to renew?

Also, when buying a used car people could look at the tax disc to see how much time was left before the road tax had to be renewed and paid.  A lot of people prefer to buy cars with a lot of time left on the tax disc date to save them having to pay the tax in the near future.  Once tax discs disappear the transferability of road tax will be gone so that buyers no longer obtain the outstanding balance of road tax and will have to pay new road tax immediately. Sellers will be able to claim back any unused tax as a refund from the DVLA. This does add on more inconvenience for the buyer and seller but the DVLA think it will help to reduce the risks of people driving untaxed vehicles. Another downside is that refunds will only be given for complete unexpired months and not part months.

The new system will put the onus on used car sellers to inform the DVLA of the change of ownership of the vehicle. Sellers who don’t inform the DVLA could be fined and even be held liable for speeding or parking fines and unpaid vehicle tax for cars that they no longer own.   It will be important for sellers to send the V5C to the DVLA and not risk relying on buyers to do so.  Also, if they scrap a vehicle they should get the Certificate of Destruction from an authorised treatment facility to ensure that they are no longer held liable for the road tax.

This will be a huge psychological upheaval for many as tax discs were introduced as far back as 1921 and are so ingrained in our everyday driving lives that it is going to take a while for everyone to get used to the new system, particularly the people who have to implement it!  The ordinary motorist is going to have to be a lot more savvy as they will need to think about what impact this will have when buying or selling a vehicle.  Hopefully, the new system once it is embedded will generally improve the lives of motorists.  But it is another old British tradition, like the now extinct red phone boxes, disappearing in the name of progress.  It makes you wonder what will go next!