Law firm drums up biz with entitlement syndrome car tax disc holders

Vantage Law, a “young, eager, professional and enthusiastic” firm of personal injury solicitors in Liverpool, is promoting itself on the company Facebook page by promising tax disc holders for those who ‘like’ the posting.

The tax disc holders have been available on eBay and Amazon for some years. 2618 have ‘liked’ the image posted by Vantage Law.

Some motorists – and, it appears, no-win-no-fee law firms – really do believe ‘road tax’ pays for roads. The fact that it’s local and national taxation that pays for roads, including the mending of potholes, seems to elude an awful lot of people, leading to entitlement syndrome where tax-dodgers – such as cyclists, yet, oddly, not drivers of e-cars – have to get out of the way of the supposed fee payers.

Here’s a fix for the error on the tax disc holder but as it’s nowhere near as hilarious as the original – facts don’t tend to be funny – it won’t be picked up by law firms looking to spice up their social media offerings.

"Yes I have paid my income tax & council tax now go fix some potholes"

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ipayroadtax toastie jersey

Road tax doesn’t exist. The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys.

Why do people hate cyclists?

One of the reasons, of course, is because cyclists are deemed to be “free-riders”, and don’t pay their fair-share for use of the road. This erroneous belief is easily batted out of the park but it’s mentioned time and time again in newspaper letter pages, newspaper columns and on radio phone-in shows. The BBC is hosting just such a programme tonight and is asking “Why do people hate cyclists.” Mark Ames of ibikelondon is going up against Keith Peat, the former policeman who hates cyclists with all of his being (his multiple twitter feeds attest to this and he also writes to local newspapers, sometimes getting banned when making insensitive comments about cyclists killed by motorists). [[EDIT: After complaints on Twitter and elsewhere, the BBC has now amended Tom Stafford’s article: “13/02 UPDATE: We’ve changed a sentence in the third paragraph that readers said implied all cyclists break rules. This was not the intended implication of the original line, and we thank the readers who pointed this out.” Apparently, Stafford is a cyclist and didn’t mean some of the things he wrote.]]

{{A FURTHER UPDATE: Writers with platforms – such as blogs and columns hosted by the BBC – will always be scrutinised more closely than the loons who spout cyclist hate on Twitter or in local newspapers. Loose thinking is quickly pounced upon, and dissected to a degree that perhaps surprises the original author. This seems to be the case with Tom Stafford, author of the now-heavily-revised article which can be read below. To his credit he has penned a mea culpa on his own blog. “I screwed up,” he admits. “Unfortunately, I included some loose words in my article that implied things I don’t believe and wasn’t arguing.” Stafford added: “I should have been a lot clearer than I was…Lots of people thought I was a frustrated driver who hated cyclists. In fact, the bike is my main form of transport…For this article I was trying not to sound like the self-righteous cycling proto-fascist I feel like sometimes. I obviously succeeded. Perhaps too well.”}}

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The first answer should be an easy one for Mark. If somebody hates a large group of human beings, that’s irrational and should be lumped in with racism and all the other -isms. The BBC wouldn’t air a programme titled ‘Why do people hate Muslims?’

Perhaps the programme is linked to a rather strange article on BBC Worldwide? It’s not available to UK viewers but I’ve cut-and-pasted a chunk of it here. [[Also now available, in full, here.]]

It shows that the BBC can commission an article from an otherwise sensible, sane academic who – one assumes – wouldn’t come out with this kind of loose thinking on other topics. Tom Stafford, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Sheffield, appears to be talking about prejudices held by others but it seems rather obvious that he shares the belief system he’s writing about.

Why you really hate cyclists

The psychology of why cyclists enrage car drivers. By Tom Stafford.

Something about cyclists seems to provoke fury in other road users. If you doubt this, try a search for the word “cyclist” on Twitter. As I write this one of the latest tweets is this: “Had enough of cyclists today! Just wanna ram them with my car.” This kind of sentiment would get people locked up if directed against an ethic minority or religion, but it seems to be fair game, in many people’s minds, when directed against cyclists. Why all the rage?

I’ve got a theory, of course. It’s not because cyclists are annoying. It isn’t even because we have a selective memory for that one stand-out annoying cyclist over the hundreds of boring, non-annoying ones (although that probably is a factor). No, my theory is that motorists hate cyclists because they think they offend the moral order.

Driving is a very moral activity – there are rules of the road, both legal and informal, and there are good and bad drivers. The whole intricate dance of the rush-hour junction only works because everybody knows the rules and follows them: keeping in lane; indicating properly; first her turn, now mine, now yours. Then along comes a cyclist, who seems to believe that the rules aren’t made for them, especially the ones that hop onto the pavement, run red lights, or go the wrong way down one-way streets.

You could argue that driving is like so much of social life, it’s a game of coordination where we have to rely on each other to do the right thing. And like all games, there’s an incentive to cheat. If everyone else is taking their turn, you can jump the queue. If everyone else is paying their taxes you can dodge them, and you’ll still get all the benefits of roads and police.

In economics and evolution this is known as the “free rider problem”; if you create a common benefit – like taxes or orderly roads – what’s to stop some people reaping the benefit without paying their dues?

So now we can see why there is an evolutionary pressure pushing motorists towards hatred of cyclists. Deep within the human psyche, fostered there because it helps us co-ordinate with strangers and so build the global society that is a hallmark of our species, is an anger at people who break the rules, who take the benefits without contributing to the cost. And cyclists trigger this anger when they use the roads but don’t follow the same rules as cars.

Now, cyclists reading this might think “but the rules aren’t made for us – we’re more vulnerable, discriminated against, we shouldn’t have to follow the rules.” Perhaps true, but irrelevant when other road-users perceive you as breaking rules they have to keep. Maybe the solution is to educate drivers that cyclists are playing an important role in a wider game of reducing traffic and pollution. Or maybe we should just all take it out on a more important class of free-riders, the tax-dodgers.

This piece is stuffed with half-baked untruths that you’d think a psychologist would spot from a mile away. It assumes all motorists are law-abiding and play by the rules (we know that’s not true) and that a majority of cyclists don’t play by the rules (stats show that it’s a minority who run reds etc, and let’s face it, when High Court judges run reds in their fast cars, doing 64mph in 30mph zones, there are no newspaper columnists readying ‘I hate all motorists’ pieces).

If the BBC wanted a psychologist to do a good piece on why *some* motorists hate cyclists, they should commission Ian Walker. In an interview in The Psychologist Prof Walker said:

For a long time I wondered if the outgroup status of cyclists was compounded by two other known social psychological factors: norms and majority vs. minority groups. Not only are cyclists an outgroup, they’re also a minority outgroup. Moreover, they are engaging in an activity that is deemed slightly inappropriate in a culture that views driving as normative and desirable and, arguably, views cycling as anti- conventional and possibly even infantile.
But even adding these factors into the mix does not explain all the anger that cyclists experience. It’s easy to identify other minority outgroups whose behaviour similarly challenges social norms but who do not get verbally and physically attacked like cyclists do: vegetarians, for example. So there’s clearly one or more important variables that we’ve not identified yet. Any social psychologists looking for a challenge are very welcome to wade into this.

The lack of understanding of the cyclist outgroup seems to produce measurable changes in other road users’ behaviour. A few years ago I did a study which showed that changing the appearance of a cyclist led to notable changes in how much space drivers left when passing the bicycle. The specific changes seen make sense given the small body of research on non-cyclists’ stereotypes of cyclists. The two extant studies – the Lynn Basford et al. one, and research by Birgitta Gatersleben and Hebba Haddad, in 2010 – both found that non-cyclists view bicycle helmets as an indicator of an experienced rider, and in my data we saw riskier behaviour from drivers when they passed a cyclist who was wearing a helmet, which fits the idea they saw the rider as more capable.

The positive lesson from this, I feel, is that drivers do adjust their behaviour to the perceived needs of the non-drivers they are interacting with. The problem is that they do not always understand how to read these other people and judge their needs.

It’s give and take out there, but some motorists are better at taking than giving. As we all have to share the road it would be nice to think common decency overrode these destructive feelings of hatred of one group.

Not all cyclists are angels, just as not all pedestrians (or motorists) are angels. But there’s zero room for hatred on the roads. And might is never right. Here, from another of my sites, is an illustration of why sharing a finite space (roads) sometimes makes people angry and full of irrational hatred:

"Get Off The Road!" Fougasse 1935

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ipayroadtax toastie jersey

Road tax doesn’t exist. The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys.

Wannabe UK citizens are told ‘road tax’ exists

‘Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship’ is the official test book, published by The Stationery Office, and written by the Home Office Life in the UK Advisory Group, the group which sets the citizenship test, one of the requirements for anyone seeking Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK or naturalisation as a British citizen. Failing the test is easy (scoring 58 percent, I just failed), especially if you use factual information such as “some of the information in the census is released soon after the completion of the census and not 100 years hence.”

Historian Seth Alexander Thvoz said of the test:

The test takes the form of 20 multiple-choice questions, which one can only revise for by buying the official Life in the UK handbook from the Home Office (RRP £9.99) and the accompanying revision guide (RRP £5.99). One cannot simply take the test using common sense, because the Life in the UK book is so riddled with factual errors that if I were to give the correct answers, I would fail the test. I could only pass the test by memorising erroneous material.

From the Life in the UK handbook I learned many new and interesting things. Apparently, Magna Carta was signed in 1316, some 101 years later than is commonly thought, and Hitler invaded Russia in 1942 – which must have come as a shock to those Russians fighting the invading Wehrmacht in the summer of 1941. Being a political historian, I naturally homed in on the fact that every single description of who was allowed to vote at various times in British history was comically wrong. Had it been an essay I was marking for my students, I I would have given it a Fail.

The test also fails on “road tax”, as revealed by Gareth Visagie.

The “road tax” error may be a seemingly minor one, given there’s a plethora of howlers, but it’s one of those “it said it in this official document so must be true” errors. Not good. And not helpful.

Many motorists – perhaps even the majority? – still believe that ‘road tax’ exists, and often demand that the duties paid by motorists should be ploughed into fixing potholes, widening dual carriageways and adding to the UK’s motorway network. In reality, everybody pays for Britain’s roads via general taxation.

Motorists do not pay for use of the roads, motorists are taxed on buying and using their vehicles. Home Office, speak to the DfT, they’ll tell you that Vehicle Excise Duty is not a fee to use roads, it’s a tax on emissions: cars which spew the most CO2 pay the most ‘car tax’. Cars which spew less CO2, pay less car tax. Cars in VED band A pay zero duty.

Motorists are not the only users of public roads. Pedestrians, cyclists, and horse-riders also use public roads. So do farm tractors but, even though they’re heavy and so damage roads, they do not pay Vehicle Excise Duty. They have to display tax discs, but these are issued free of charge. Motorists have been filmed attacking cyclists for “not paying road tax” yet there are no known cases of motorists attacking farmers for the same perceived ‘crime’. And nor do motorists attack band A cars, disabled drivers, the Royal family, or other “road tax dodgers” out there, of which there are millions.

UK motorways and trunk roads are paid for with cash supplied by the Highways Agency via the Department of Transport via the public purse via all UK tax payers; all other roads – that is, 87 percent of all the roads in the UK – are paid for by local authorities. Local authorities get some grant aid from national Government, but most of the cash for local roads is raised locally, via council tax. Non-motorists pay the same for roads as motorists.

THE OLD CHESTNUT: ‘ROAD TAX’ IS A FEE TO USE THE ROAD
Those who believe VED is fee to use roads sometimes use the seemingly-convincing ‘off-road’ argument:

“Doesn’t matter what you call it, VED/car tax/’road tax’, it’s a fee to use the public road because if you don’t pay it, you can’t drive on the public road. For instance, if I elect to use a vehicle off-road, I don’t need to pay VED. If I then choose to use the vehicle on a road, I would have to pay VED. If the vehicle emitted a certain amount of CO2, then yes that VED is currently free, but I would still have to get and display a tax disc in order to use the car on the road.”

But car tax is very much a tax on car emissions. Many cars, which use the public road, do not pay any ‘car tax’ because they emit less than 100gms of CO2. If car tax was a fee to use roads, electric cars and low-emissions cars wouldn’t be able to drive on UK roads.

Nor is it true that vehicles that will be driven off-the-public-highway – on private roads – don’t have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty.

VED is charged under section 1 of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, as amended, “in respect of every mechanically propelled vehicle that … is used, or kept, on any public road in the United Kingdom”. For England, Wales and Northern Ireland ‘public road’ is defined in section 62(1) of the 1994 Act as “a road which is repairable at the public expense”; for Scotland a public road is defined in section 151 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, as amended, as “a road which a roads authority have a duty to maintain”. However, the DVLA has powers to clamp vehicles that are not on the public road if they are in breach of the VED continuous registration requirements. The explanatory notes to the Vehicle Excise Duty (Immobilisation, Removal and Disposal of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/2266) state:

The policy intention is to prevent evaders of vehicle excise duty from using off-road areas such as unadopted roads, commons, public car parks or roads maintained by Housing Associations to place themselves beyond the reach of the enforcement authorities.

Farmers can get ‘agricultural use’ exemptions from VED for their Land Rovers, so long as they only travel a mile or so on public highways. And in one special circumstance, cars which emit loads of CO2 can still drive on UK public roads without paying car tax. But only for a short distance. When a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) vehicle is going to a pre-arranged MOT test, and the vehicle has valid insurance for the journey, it can be driven on public roads without paying a penny for use of those roads.

Furthermore, if a car is registered in the UK but is never driven in the UK it still has to pay the UK’s Vehicle Excise Duty. So, a UK-bought car driven in France by a UK-born person who’s moved to France permanently, may never drive on UK roads but the car still has to pay VED. This is because it’s a tax on the car, not a fee to use the roads.

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ipayroadtax toastie jersey

Road tax doesn’t exist. The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys.

Sunday Times columnist calls for booze taxation to be spent on bigger pubs

Mike Rutherford in the Sunday Times writes that motoring taxation pays for roads

How can a motoring journalist get this far into a career without knowing how roads are paid for? Why does the Sunday Times give him money for writing articles with such factually incorrect information? At least Clarkson is a parody and often quite funny (Rutherford’s Swampy ‘joke’ is too weak for even the cheapest Christmas cracker). Or does Rutherford genuinely believe that motoring taxation should be spent only on roads? If he does, does he also advocate for other taxation ring-fencing: should the billions raised from sales of booze and fags be spent on bigger and better pubs, and swankier tobacco emporiums?

The tax on fags and alcohol goes into the national coffers, just as the taxation raised from motoring – or from incomes – also goes into the ‘consolidate fund’ i.e. direct to the Treasury. Taxation ring-fencing is heretical. The dedication of the revenue of a specific tax for a specific expenditure purpose is rare. The main UK example is the TV licence fee, a ring-fencing of funds for the BBC.

While it’s patently daft to argue that booze and fag taxes should be spent on improving pubs and building bigger tobacco shops, the exact same argument is wheeled out by some motoring organisations and by motoring journalists, all of whom ought to know better. Their argument that the taxes levied on motorists should be spent only on…motorists, is just as daft as requesting bigger pubs for drinkers.

Motoring orgs often wheel out the rogue stat that £47bn is raised in motoring taxes but only a fraction of this is “spent on roads”. It’s a favourite stat of the Road Users’ Alliance. The RUA has been using the same basic ‘only a fraction spent on roads’ stat since the alliance was founded in 2002.

“The Government raises almost £50 billion from motorists, and returns less than one fifth of this in spending which directly benefits the road user,” is the standard ring-fencing refrain from the RUA.

What the RUA fails to stress – an error repeated by motoring journalists on a frequent basis – is that the money generated by motorists is NOT a fund to repair roads and build new ones; it’s money that goes straight into the national pot, the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund, the public purse.

Airline passengers pay taxes when they fly from British airports but nobody suggests all this money should go to building more runways. Ditto for pubs and tobacconists. The pub analogy used above isn’t new. Winston Churchill railed against ‘Road Fund’ ring-fencing in much the same way. In 1925, when Chancellor, Churchill said:

“Entertainments may be taxed; public houses may be taxed; racehorses may be taxed…and the yield devoted to the general revenue. But motorists are to be privileged for all time to have the whole yield of the tax on motors devoted to roads. Obviously this is all nonsense…Such contentions are absurd, and constitute…an outrage upon the sovereignty of Parliament and upon common sense.”

The ring-fencing had been started by Lloyd George in 1909, with ‘road tax’ and fuel duties pumped into a hypothecated Road Fund. For 17 or so years, motorists paid into a protected fund which helped pay for some road crust improvements and a handful of road realignments.

Winston-Churchill-grunge2018

But such ring-fencing was always controversial; to the Treasury anathama. Churchill wanted to quash the Road Fund. He – and the Treasury – plotted against it. Churchill famously made ‘raids on the Road Fund’ in the mid-1920s, all but killing it off. By 1937, the Road Fund – which had been fatally wounded ten years previously – was finally abolished. Amazingly, the concept of a Road Fund, paid for by ‘road tax’ (still, wrongly, believed to be a payment for the upkeep of roads) has lingered on in the folk memory of motorists.

Many motorists – perhaps even the majority? – still believe that ‘road tax’ exists, and demand that the duties paid by motorists should be ploughed into fixing potholes, widening dual carriageways and adding to the UK’s motorway network. In reality, everybody pays for Britain’s roads via general taxation.

Motorists do not pay for use of the roads, motorists are taxed on buying and using their vehicles. Vehicle Excise Duty is not a a fee to use roads, it’s a tax on emissions: cars which spew the most CO2 pay the most ‘car tax’. Cars which spew less CO2, pay less car tax. Cars in VED band A pay zero duty.

Motorists are not the only users of public roads. Pedestrians, cyclists, and horse-riders also use public roads. So do farm tractors but, even though they’re heavy and so damage roads, they do not pay Vehicle Excise Duty. They have to display tax discs, but these are issued free of charge. Motorists have been filmed attacking cyclists for “not paying road tax” yet there are no known cases of motorists attacking farmers for the same perceived ‘crime’. And nor do motorists attack band A cars, disabled drivers, the Royal family, or other “road tax dodgers” out there, of which there are millions.

UK motorways and trunk roads are paid for with cash supplied by the Highways Agency via the Department of Transport via the public purse via all UK tax payers; all other roads – that is, 87 percent of all the roads in the UK – are paid for by local authorities. Local authorities get some grant aid from national Government, but most of the cash for local roads is raised locally, via council tax. Non-motorists pay the same for roads as motorists.

[Come to think of it, those who pay the most council tax really ought to have more rights on roads than those in cheaper council tax bands. So, Merc drivers who live in big posh houses ought to have priority lanes on local roads and those motorists who drive cheaper cars from cheaper houses should be corralled in slow lanes.

And, of course, bankers and others on Britain’s rich list pay more tax than mere mortals so should get preferential treatment in NHS hospitals. Rich people involved in road smashes, and who need emergency care, by rights, should get that care long before poor people. But why stop there? Means-testing could be expanded to expensive drugs, too. Bankers should get life-saving cancer medicine when they need it because they pay more in annual taxation. Tis only fair. ]

Externalities
Rutherford wrote that railways are subsidised but that roads aren’t. This is not so. There are many external costs of motoring. In effect, Britain’s motorists are subsidised to drive.

The 2009 Transport Select Committee report, Taxes and Charges on Road Users, calculated the total taxes and charges on UK road users as £48 billion per annum. The report quoted the typical annual expenditure on roads as about £8-9 billion.

In the same report, the Department for Transport estimated that the average marginal external cost of driving a car an additional kilometre is 15.5 pence allowing for the congestion (estimated at 13.1 pence per kilometre), infrastructure, accidents, local air quality, noise and greenhouse gases. This compares to 3.6 pence per kilometre paid in fuel duty and VAT.

However there are other costs to society as a result of our existing car-dependent transport patterns. In 2009 a Cabinet Office Strategy Unit report on urban transport attempted to quantify the costs of our existing urban transport patterns. Working with the Department for Transport, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department of Health and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), they arrived at the costs shown here:

Costs of driving

The figures are based on the best available evidence sources, adjusted to 2009 prices. Where there is uncertainty or disagreement, they have stated the likely range as shown in lighter shading in the bars. The conclusions changed policy makers’ understanding of the situation. Previously, congestion had been thought to represent the majority of transport’s external costs to society. Now the combined costs of accidents crashes, air quality, physical inactivity, greenhouse gas emissions and noise at £27-38 billion per annum represent 71-78 per cent of the total.

The total cost for the English urban areas is estimated at £38-49 billion. Given that the Cabinet Office’s report states that this covers 81 per cent of the population, scaling up the appropriate impacts gives an estimate of £43-£56 billion for the whole of the UK.

It is important to note that the report makes no attempt to quantify the external costs of negative social impacts, despite referring to reduced social cohesion and interaction as a result of traffic. Yet research in Norway estimated that the cost of community severance (the ‘barrier effect’ due to transport infrastructure such as busy roads) is greater than the estimated cost of noise and almost equal to the cost of air pollution.

The Cabinet Office report also excludes the impacts of noise pollution on health, productivity and the ecosystem and does not attempt to quantify ‘quality of life’ impacts of the built environment. However it acknowledges that all these areas could represent significant additional costs, mentioning for instance an additional £4-5 billion for noise impacts on health and productivity alone.

Alternatively, estimates of the marginal costs of road transport provided in a report commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions result in a higher total cost figure of £71-95 billion (in 2006 prices). This excludes the costs of physical inactivity and other as yet un-monetised costs such as severance effects and loss of tranquillity. According to the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Natural England, the monetary values for landscape and loss of countryside have not been calculated.

The Campaign for Better Transport extrapolates from the Government research on marginal external costs to reach a total cost of externalities of £70 billion–£95 billion per annum at prices for 2006.

The Sustainable Development Commission, a non-departmental public body (2000-2011) responsible for advising the UK Governments, concluded:

“So it would appear that the overall costs imposed on society by motoring outweigh the revenues obtained from motorists, probably very substantially.”

And the externalities of driving costs don’t include noise pollution (£3.1bn); air pollution (£19.7bn – not including CO2); water pollution (between £1bn and £16bn); or obesity (£2bn).

Subsidy for driving

But there are other, hidden subsidies, too. Donald Shoup, Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA in the US, estimates that providing free off-street car parking in the US cost a whopping $386bn in 2002 (in the same year, the US government spent $349bn on defence). As UK town planners operate to similar rules to their US counterparts – in that any major development has to have a set number of parking places, most of them unfilled but there ‘just in case’ – UK drivers get similar parking subsidies. No doubt it’s in the magnitude of many billions of pounds.

HYPOTHECATION & WHY THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A TAXATION OPT-OUT
Taxes and Charges on Road Users of 2009 said hypothecation is “the establishment of a direct link between specific taxes or charges and specific expenditure. For example, taxes levied on alcohol might be earmarked for spending on hospitals. In the UK there is no such link for taxes.”

The report said:

“the Government opposes the idea of hypothecation of tax revenues. It argues that decisions about revenue raising and spending should be kept separate for two main reasons:

• if all income were to be hypothecated, it would create severe difficulties for those services that could not readily raise revenues, such as schools, hospitals, police and defence; and
• inefficiencies would result. For example, if a large sum was raised from road users, hypothecation would dictate that it was all spent on roads (or possibly other transport modes, such as buses), even if the public priority was for more investment in, say, education.”

There are no tax opt-outs
The argument about the Government raising £47 billion but returning “less than one fifth of this in spending which directly benefits the road user” is a weak one and motoring organisations – and journalists for respected national newspapers – do themselves no favours by wheeling out such an argument. Revenue ring-fencing is something vehemently opposed by Governments down the ages, and for very good reasons.

Motoring organisations and motoring journalists would be better off arguing about the many benefits of mass car ownership; the ‘we pay squillions, so ought to get squillions back’ case is easily swatted away, behind the scenes, by Treasury mandarins.

The money paid by motorists does not have to go back to motorists. If it did, all hell would break loose. Interest groups of all creeds and colours would start demanding “their” tax contributions should only go to fund “their” projects. Society does not work that way; cannot work that way.

There are no taxation opt-outs: married couples without kids cannot strike out the amount of tax that pays for schools; pacifists cannot strike out the amount of tax that goes on defence spending. And motorists can’t successfully demand that the money they give to the Government is given straight back to them in the shape of smoother, less congested roads.

Smoother, less congested roads would be wonderful for all road users, not just motorists, and such infrastructure – a shared national resource – is paid for by all taxpayers, not just motorists. The public highway is, by definition, for the benefit of the public, not a sub-set of the public.

THE OLD CHESTNUT: ‘ROAD TAX’ IS A FEE TO USE THE ROAD
Those who believe VED is fee to use roads sometimes use the seemingly-convincing ‘off-road’ argument:

“Doesn’t matter what you call it, VED/car tax/’road tax’, it’s a fee to use the public road because if you don’t pay it, you can’t drive on the public road. For instance, if I elect to use a vehicle off-road, I don’t need to pay VED. If I then choose to use the vehicle on a road, I would have to pay VED. If the vehicle emitted a certain amount of CO2, then yes that VED is currently free, but I would still have to get and display a tax disc in order to use the car on the road.”

But car tax isn’t a fee to use the road, it’s very much a tax on car emissions. Many cars, which use the public road, do not pay any ‘car tax’ because they emit less than 100gms of CO2. If car tax was a fee to use roads, electric cars and low-emissions cars wouldn’t be able to drive on UK roads.

Nor is it true that vehicles that will be driven off-the-public-highway – on private roads – don’t have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty.

VED is charged under section 1 of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, as amended, “in respect of every mechanically propelled vehicle that … is used, or kept, on any public road in the United Kingdom”. For England, Wales and Northern Ireland ‘public road’ is defined in section 62(1) of the 1994 Act as “a road which is repairable at the public expense”; for Scotland a public road is defined in section 151 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, as amended, as “a road which a roads authority have a duty to maintain”. However, the DVLA has powers to clamp vehicles that are not on the public road if they are in breach of the VED continuous registration requirements. The explanatory notes to the Vehicle Excise Duty (Immobilisation, Removal and Disposal of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/2266) state:

The policy intention is to prevent evaders of vehicle excise duty from using off-road areas such as unadopted roads, commons, public car parks or roads maintained by Housing Associations to place themselves beyond the reach of the enforcement authorities.

Farmers can get ‘agricultural use’ exemptions from VED for their Land Rovers, so long as they only travel a mile or so on public highways. And in one special circumstance, cars which emit loads of CO2 can still drive on UK public roads without paying car tax. But only for a short distance. When a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) vehicle is going to a pre-arranged MOT test, and the vehicle has valid insurance for the journey, it can be driven on public roads without paying a penny for use of those roads.

Furthermore, if a car is registered in the UK but is never driven in the UK it still has to pay the UK’s Vehicle Excise Duty. So, a UK-bought car driven in France by a UK-born person who’s moved to France permanently, may never drive on UK roads but the car still has to pay VED. This is because it’s a tax on the car, not a fee to use the roads.

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ipayroadtax toastie jersey

Road tax doesn’t exist. The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys.

TV quiz show host surprised at comeback after Wiggo-dissing “cyclists don’t pay road tax” rant

TV quiz show presenter Nick Knowles can dish it out, but he can’t take it. On Twitter he took potshots at cyclists – we all wear Lycra, apparently, we all run red lights and we don’t pay road tax – and was surprised when Twitter users replied, robustly. He’s now blocking Twitter users who point out his views on cyclists might not be terribly factual, helpful or fair. “Yawn,” he says when “cycling loonies” bore him “to death” with “rabid” views.

“Damn if another cyclist explains road tax being abolished in the 30’s – it’s like you’ve all got together to say the same thing,” he wrote when yet another “cyclist bore” pointed out that use of the phrase “you don’t pay road tax” is used by some motorists as a stick to beat cyclists with.

Sometimes it’s a verbal stick, sometimes it’s a car-shaped stick. On the same day I was pointed to Knowles’ diatribes against road users without engines, I was CC’ed in on a letter to Cambridgeshire County Council. @CyclingDadUK wished to lodge a complaint against a taxi driver who nudged him with his heavy vehicle. “Cyclists don’t own the road,” said the taxi driver after he’d tried to run the cyclist off the road.

Celebs who use their Twitter accounts – and newspaper columns – to rant about “cyclists not paying road tax” are helping to perpetuate this sort of anti-social behaviour from a minority of motorists, who often believe roads are for motor vehicles only and are under the misapprehension that the tax disc in the windscreen is a fee to use roads. (Yet, oddly enough, mouthy motorists don’t tend to shout “you don’t pay road tax” at owners of Band A vehicles which pay £0 for their vehicle excise duty).

Perhaps Mr Knowles thinks cyclists shouldn’t be on roads he seems to think motorists pay for? (We all pay for roads, roads are paid for by general and local taxation). Perhaps he thinks cyclists who get “nudged” by motorists are “Lycra bores” and should “get a hobby” rather than reply to his inaccurate, hate-inspiring Tweets?

@CyclingDadUK’s letter to Cambridgeshire County Council said the taxi number was 15 and that the driver ought to be given cycle awareness training at the very least:

“At around five past nine on the morning of the 19th of December I was cycling into town along Histon Road. Following a slower cycle in the cycle lane approaching the turn for Gilbert Road. I waited for a safe gap in the traffic, indicated and moved out into the main lane to safely pass the other bike. Before I had moved back into the cycle lane ahead of the other bike this taxi had started to overtake me. Realising there wasn’t room between me and the car I was following rather than wait for me to move back to the lane, or slow to move in behind me he decided to use the front of his vehicle to force me back over.

“He had no regard for my safety, the safety of the rider I was passing or the child passenger of the bike I was passing. I do not believe that this was anything other than an intentional attempt to – at best – scare me as he wound down his window to inform me that cyclists do not own the road. This is a bigoted reference to the commonly held misconception that the money paid on VED (based on CO2 emissions) for his vehicle gives him more rights on the road than a bike.”

Perhaps Mr Knowles thinks cyclists reply to “road tax” tweets from celebs because they are part of a Lycra-clad cabal? @lee_carson joked:

“Yes! All the cyclists in the UK get together in secret meetings and learn facts, mwaah ha ha haaaaaaa!”

Knowles’ got into the Twitter spat because he dissed Bradley Wiggins’ chances in BBC’s SPOTY. Does he not realise dissing Wiggo, now officially a national treasure, is a criminal offence? Nobody is allowed to talk up sports men and women who don’t ride bikes.

However, failing to comprehend that spouting off about a disparate group of road users – united only by their eschewing of engines to propel themselves – is not against the law.

Nor do you have to pass any intelligence tests to become a TV quiz show presenter (the answers are on the cards, not in the presenter’s head) but when writing tweets sure to offend a growing proportion of your followers it might help to be factual, and when your statements are shown to be fallacies – fallacies that can lead to violence – it would be good if you walked away from the keyboard before throwing in a ton more lazy canards.

Canards, it has to be said, that some motorists use to intimidate cyclists off the road. Another example from yesterday can be found on Ralph Dadswell’s Facebook page:

“I was riding through High Wycombe, and had just thoughtfully moved to the right-hand lane outside the Law Courts. I was overtaken by a Transit van, which rather oddly pulled back across in front of me after passing. He then slowed up, in what I now realise was a way of checking that I was actually turning right.

“I overtook him at the fire-station roundabout, with a slightly flashy bit of slaloming, but nothing worth going on about.

“He overtook me on the flyover. I overtook him at the bus-station. He overtook me again as he took his place in the queue for the lights at The Pastures. I passed him again, and after about a minute he was behind me on the West Wycombe Road.

“He overtook noisily, jammed his brakes on, and skidded to a halt across the carriageway. He was quickly out of the van, and he was angry. He unloaded a lot of random abuse at me. Eventually, he told me that I’d cut him up in town. He told me that cyclists were scum. He gave me quite a lot of advice, and I thanked him profusely.

“Then he told me that cyclists should pay Road Tax. I laughed at him, and (geekily) told him that Road Tax was abolished in the 1930s, and that if I had to pay something like Car Tax for my bike, I’d happily pay the Zero Pounds Zero Pence that would be the fee. He wasn’t happy, but continued to shout at me that I should get insurance. Hmmm, okay, but I’ve got plenty of insurance.

“I then picked up a whole load of sweeping generalisations about cyclists, and he informed me that I and my bike were just pathetic, and that if he could be bothered, he could easily out ride me. Yes, honestly.

“His next little idea almost made me shout “Bingo!”, as he produced yet another favourite. Cyclists should be registered and show number plates. His final tirade was based around the notion that cyclists have caused numerous accidents in London, and that they were a menace on the streets. He then repeatedly informed me where he felt I fitted in the food chain. I smiled sweetly, and (repeatedly) thanked him very much for his kind words.

“There was by now a substantial queue of traffic waiting to pass, and he finally got back in his van. When he drove away, he soon turned around and as he was still blaring away at me, I tipped my hat in his direction and continued on my merry way.

“Although it was a bit worrying at times, it was also strangely interesting to hear a Live Broadcast of all those views that seem to be inside some people’s heads.”

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Road tax doesn’t exist. It’s car tax, a tax on cars and other vehicles, not a tax on roads or a fee to use them. Motorists do not pay directly for the roads. Roads are paid for via general and local taxation. In 1926, Winston Churchill started the process to abolish road tax. It was finally culled in 1937.

The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys. Car tax is based on amount of CO2 emitted so, if a fee had to be paid, cyclists – who are sometimes branded as ‘tax dodgers’ – would pay the same as ‘tax-dodgers’ such as disabled drivers, police cars, the Royal family, and band A motorists, ie £0. Most cyclists are also car-owners, too, so pay VED.

Why aren’t cyclists required to sit tests before using the public highway?

It’s good to know that this site is getting its message across to those who believe in the existence of long-dead ‘road tax’. Cyclists tend to know that roads are paid for by general and local taxation; sadly, some motorists believe their graduated vehicle excise duty coughs up for provision and maintenance of the carriageway. Earlier today I got an email from a motorist who clearly stumbled upon the site via Google. He left with some facts (his email subject was “I have learned something”) but asked why cyclists don’t have to sit tests, as motorists do. I replied to his question with two emails (I’d missed out a pertinent fact in the first) and the correspondence is below.

I am a car driver and motorcycle rider. For both I pay vehicle tax. I have just come to renew my tax and came across your site.

I must admit that when I am commuting on my motorcycle, I am one of those people who mutter under my breath “pay some bloody road tax” to those cyclist that get in my way. Thanks to your site I now know better. I like to be educated about things (especially my prejudices) and would like to thank you for putting me straight on this.

May I make one suggestion though. Before I was allowed on the road, on a motorcycle, I had to spend a morning learning road proficiency followed by an afternoon of tutored on road riding. This was in addition to having to pass a theory exam. I realise that the administration of such a routine would be prohibitively expensive to administer and enforce for bicycle riders, but feel that a few incompetent cyclists are giving the rest of you a bad name.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

Yours (a little wiser),

Roger

Dear Roger

Thanks for letting me know that.

The law has tended to be quite clear on the testing issue: testing is proportional to power output. Adding a motor creates faster, more powerful vehicles so operators of motor vehicles are subjected to a form of test before being allowed to propel their machines on the public highway. It’s important to stress there’s no requirement for a motor vehicle operator to have formal lessons before starting to use the road under power, merely that they must sit an exam.

Road users propelled by engines often have a great deal of power at their disposal so, potentially, pose a risk of harming others. The compulsory examination of a motor vehicle operator happens just once and, as is plain for all to see, does not lead to automatic compliance with road laws. For instance, the majority of motorists admit to breaking speed limits and some do so habitually, at great risk to others.

Regrettably, cyclists also break road laws and, yes, such law breaking is often deemed to be behaviour common to all cyclists.

Given that cyclists do not have engines (apart from those who operate electric bikes, but that opens up a whole new can of worms) the law has not seen fit to require testing before cyclists start using the public highway, even though they operate what the law has considered a carriage since 1888. This carriage, ridden carefully by an unprotected operator who risks injury to their self, is deemed to be capable of causing little harm to others. In this respect cyclists are like pedestrians. Test cyclists who use the roads, and you’d have to test pedestrians who use the roads.

However, despite there being no legal requirement for cyclists to sit tests, a great many cyclists are given road training. Many children get Bikeability training at school and there are many cycle trainers around the UK who offer Bikeability training for adults.

It’s also worth pointing out that nearly ninety percent of cyclists own cars and so have passed the driving test.

Thanks.

Carlton

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Road tax doesn’t exist. It’s car tax, a tax on cars and other vehicles, not a tax on roads or a fee to use them. Motorists do not pay directly for the roads. Roads are paid for via general and local taxation. In 1926, Winston Churchill started the process to abolish road tax. It was finally culled in 1937.

The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys. Car tax is based on amount of CO2 emitted so, if a fee had to be paid, cyclists – who are sometimes branded as ‘tax dodgers’ – would pay the same as ‘tax-dodgers’ such as disabled drivers, police cars, the Royal family, and band A motorists, ie £0. Most cyclists are also car-owners, too, so pay VED.

What do motorists really mean when they say “cyclists should pay road tax”?

Mark Cavendish was victim of some road rage yesterday, while out on a training ride in Essex with Russell Hampton. Although the episode was mentioned on Cav’s Twitter account the story was billed as an “Exclusive” in The Sun and was then picked up by Yahoo/Eurosport. Naturally, the @cyclehatred lovers started piling in, accusing cyclists of causing danger on the roads and all the usual guff. And it wouldn’t be a hate-fest if there wasn’t a mention of “cyclists should pay road tax.” But this particular commenter is more honest than most: he lets slip why he wants cyclists to pay road tax, so there would be fewer cyclists on the roads. Nowt to do with financial fairness (everybody pays for the roads, not just motorists) and everything to do with wanting roads to be for cars only.

This, deep down, is what many road-tax fixated motorists probably want. They want us out of “their” way, off “their” roads. Cyclists are pesky and slow, goes the unthinking thinking. They ride two or more abreast; they wear Lycra; they slow down legitimate – ie motorised – road traffic.

Those who want cyclists to be registered, want them to display their registration details on big number plates. They may also want bikes to carry signal indicators. Maybe another two wheels would be good, too. And an engine. Oh, hang on, that’s a car.

When you hear a call for compulsory cycle training, bicycle licensing and excise taxes (“just pennies a day, why would you object to that?”) it’s not a call for fair-play, it’s a call to drive everywhere.

Those who want cyclists to be trained, registered, pay ‘road tax’ and apply for licences to cycle don’t want to share the road with lots of licensed, fee-paying, trained cyclists, they want less cyclists full-stop. The ‘no pay, no say’ crowd would use any payment as a “but you don’t pay enough” argument.

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Road tax doesn’t exist. It’s car tax, a tax on cars and other vehicles, not a tax on roads or a fee to use them. Motorists do not pay directly for the roads. Roads are paid for via general and local taxation. In 1926, Winston Churchill started the process to abolish road tax. It was finally culled in 1937.

The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys. Car tax is based on amount of CO2 emitted so, if a fee had to be paid, cyclists – who are sometimes branded as ‘tax dodgers’ – would pay the same as ‘tax-dodgers’ such as disabled drivers, police cars, the Royal family, and band A motorists, ie £0. Most cyclists are also car-owners, too, so pay VED.

For letters pages: free ‘who pays for roads?’ text

To some, ‘road tax’ is a stick to hit cyclists with. Sometimes the metaphorical stick is wielded on the road, but mostly it’s waved about on online forums and the letters pages of local and national newspapers. Should you wish to reply to those who bang on about motorists paying ‘road tax’, while cyclists don’t and so should get off the roads, feel free to use some or all of words below. No copyright problems, use as you see fit. (But definitely adapt and personalise so it’s not too boilerplatey). If you’re just after a page to link to there’s this light-hearted take-down of who does and doesn’t pay ‘road tax’.

EXAMPLE LETTER
A number of recent correspondents to [insert local newspaper here] have suggested that cyclists should pay ‘road tax’. However, road tax was abolished 75 years ago. It’s now car tax, does not pay for roads, and is not a fee to use roads.

Roads are paid for by local and national taxation not vehicle excise duty. Motoring taxes haven’t been ring-fenced to pay for roads since 1937 when the Road Fund and ‘road tax’ were abolished. The terms, however, have lingered and many people assume that the ‘road fund licence’ still exists and that ‘road tax’ pays for roads. This mistaken belief leads some people to think cyclists have lesser rights to be on UK roads because they do not pay ‘road tax’. In fact, motorists and cyclists have equal rights to be on UK roads.

Low-emission cars attract zero car tax. Bicycles do not have exhaust pipes so would fall into the same category and would also pay £0.

Motorists and cyclists are often the same people: most cyclists own cars. 87 percent of British Cycling members are car owners.

Should your readers wish to find out more about who and what pays for roads, and why organisations such as the AA, the Post Office and the Plain English Campaign never use the phrase ‘road tax’, they should visit s27697.p982.sites.pressdns.com.

Who should pay for cycle infrastructure?

No-brainer answer, really. Taxpayers should pay, and the money should come from the consolidated fund, i.e. the national coffers, as administered by the Treasury. This is how roads are paid for. All roads – including motorways – are paid for by all taxpayers.

Many motorists believe there’s such a thing as ‘road tax’ and that it pays for building and maintaining roads and is a type of fee to use roads; cyclists are deemed to be “road tax dodgers” even though many cyclists also own cars and millions of motorists don’t pay for their car tax discs ‘Road tax’ ceased to exist in 1936/7 and even when it existed it paid for mostly road maintenance rather than the building of infrastructure. Infrastructure for the exclusive use of motorists wasn’t built until 1958 and was funded from the national purse.

As motorists don’t pay directly for roads – vehicle excise duty and fuel duty goes straight into the consolidated fund – why should cyclists pay for cycle infrastructure? Do pedestrians pay for pavements? Infrastructure in the UK is paid for by the Government and local authorities, using monies raised by taxpayers. To suggest, even for a millisecond, that cyclists should be a special case and should pay for dedicated infrastructure is unworkable and unfair.


So why is The Times suggesting this? On a survey – ‘Have your say on the future of cycling’ – the ‘cycle safe’ section of The Times there’s an odd question: “How should cycling infrastructure be funded?”

Why even bother to ask this question? There’s only one answer, and that’s the top one: “Existing taxes.”

UPDATE 1: I DM’ed Kaya Burgess of The Times suggesting that ‘road tax’ wasn’t the best of terms to use and the phrase was quickly changed to ‘excise duty.’ My point still stands: cyclists shouldn’t have to fund cycle infrastructure and the whole question is spurious.

The rest of today’s ‘cycle safe’ coverage in The Times is top-notch, as I reported last night on BikeBiz.com. The new parliamentary inquiry is especially welcome, and the appointment of Professor Phil ‘Peak Car’ Goodwin to write the follow-up report is inspired.

I shall be submitting written evidence to this inquiry, seeking recognition that cycle infrastructure must be paid for out of the consolidated fund. Any talk of ‘road tax for cyclists’ or ‘corporate sponsorship of infrastructure’ is likely to lead us up the garden path. (I’m not against, say, the Nissan A19 cycle path but such sponsorship would ever pay for some go-use-the-path marketing, it would never be enough to pay for surveys, road building equipment, kerbs, tarmac, signage and on-going maintenance).

Untitled

UPDATE 2: DMs and snarky comments on surveys clearly work…The Times today carries a story about the funding of cycle infrastructure, and why this funding should be via existing taxes. Kaya Burgess wrote: “The maintenance of public highways is not funded by Vehicle Excise Duty paid by motorists but out of general taxation paid by everyone, including cyclists.”

Many people tell me that the issue of ‘road tax’ is small beer; that the ‘no pay, no say’ crowd is tiny and inconsequential; that criticising any parts of The Times’ brilliant cyclesafe campaign is snarkiness of the highest order. To that, I say the devil is in the detail: how to fund all the infrastructure being proposed by The Times will become a major issue. Let’s not get side-tracked by any talk of a special user-pays fund for cycle infrastructure. Proper cycle infrastructure, built to Dutch-standards, will cost billions of pounds. It’s national infrastructure, not infrastructure that could ever be paid for by users.

Upon reading an earlier version of the above, Girl in Train agreed with it, adding “But I might pay a toll for a high quality off-road path, in same way as I pay for Dartford Crossing or M6 toll in car.”

Good point. But does that mean we should have toll booths on high-quality bike paths? Is that how Dutch folks got such great cycle infrastructure, users paid for it directly? No. Anyway, the M6 toll isn’t exactly a rip-roaring success, and pay-infrastructure, such as the Dartford Crossing or the Tyne tunnel, is rare. 99 percent of the roads and bridges built in the UK were paid for by taxpayers and general and local taxation should fund future cycle infrastructure. While a full-on, Netherlands-style cycle infrastructure would cost billions, over a number of years, this would still only be a fraction of what the Government happily spends on infrastructure for cars.

As The Times rightly says “the bicycle is the future”. Some of the taxpayer cash that would have gone on cars should be diverted to measures that will tame cars, instead.

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Road tax doesn’t exist. It’s car tax, a tax on cars and other vehicles, not a tax on roads or a fee to use them. Motorists do not pay directly for the roads. Roads are paid for via general and local taxation. In 1926, Winston Churchill started the process to abolish road tax. It was finally culled in 1937.

The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys. Car tax is based on amount of CO2 emitted so, if a fee had to be paid, cyclists – who are sometimes branded as ‘tax dodgers’ – would pay the same as ‘tax-dodgers’ such as disabled drivers, police cars, the Royal family, and band A motorists, ie £0. Most cyclists are also car-owners, too, so pay VED.

Polite admonishment after a “punishment pass” leads to truck driver shout: “Road tax!”

Bike-cam wearing cyclist in ‘cycle lane’ on an A-road gets buzzed by a truck – the all-too typical “punishment pass” – and asks, politely, for a bit more consideration and space next time.

Reply from the Standard Scaffolding truck driver? “Road tax!”

That’s short for “you don’t don’t pay road tax, cyclists shouldn’t be on the road.”

I shall report back if Standard Scaffolding reply to my email asking what they plan to do about this driver.

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Road tax doesn’t exist. It’s car tax, a tax on cars and other vehicles, not a tax on roads or a fee to use them. Motorists do not pay directly for the roads. Roads are paid for via general and local taxation. In 1926, Winston Churchill started the process to abolish road tax. It was finally culled in 1937.

The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys. Car tax is based on amount of CO2 emitted so, if a fee had to be paid, cyclists – who are sometimes branded as ‘tax dodgers’ – would pay the same as ‘tax-dodgers’ such as disabled drivers, police cars, the Royal family, and band A motorists, ie £0. Most cyclists are also car-owners, too, so pay VED.