Bloody tax-dodgers! (And there’s millions of ‘em)

Bloody Tax Dodgers

Some motorists feel they own the road because “they pay for it”. Some hate on cyclists for being ‘tax-dodgers’ even though roads are paid for by general taxation not road tax, which was finally abolished in 1937, a process started by Winston Churchill in 1926. [It's car tax, not road tax].

Those motorists who think road tax still exists must be awfully confused by cars which pay £0 VED. Here’s a class of car which looks like any other class of car but which, like cyclists, “doesn’t pay for the roads.”

Warning Tax Dodgers

In 2006, there were just 350 of these tax-dodging cars on the roads of the UK. Now there are nearly 50,000. According to a report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (New Car CO2 Report, March 2011), there were 40,000 vehicles on Britain’s roads which emit under 100g/km so are exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty. According to the latest registration stats from the Department for Transport, there are 57,000 cars in VED band A.

Additionally, 38.2 percent of new cars have emissions of less than 130g/km so that’s 474,000 vehicles which pay no VED for the first year of ownership.

This means there are an awful lot of ‘road tax’ dodging cars driving about. Perhaps they might like our iPayRoadTax jerseys? But wait, there are many more ‘tax-dodgers’ out there. Millions, in fact.

Cars built before 1973 are classified as historic and are exempt from VED. In 2006, there were 307,407 such vehicles on the road.

Those ex-soldiers in receipt of war pensioners’ mobility supplement, are exempt from VED, and there are at least 18,340 individuals who have a VED-waiving WPA442 form.

Disabled drivers are also exempt from VED. in 2007, 1.12 million Vehicle Excise Duty exemptions were granted to disabled people.

American soldiers operating in Britain pay no VED on their imported cars. Emergency vehicles don’t pay VED, either. And that includes police cars, fire-engines, and ambulances and other health-service vehicles, of which there are 450,000 on the roads.

Road construction vehicles and gritters are also exempt from VED.

And guess what, QEII pays zero VED. It’s not just the Queen who gets away with it, other Royals do, too: no Crown vehicles pay Vehicle Excise Duty.

Ministerial cars don’t have to cough up, either. The entire fleet of vehicles operated by the Government Car and Despatch Agency (873 cars in 2008, 30 of which would be in the highest, most CO2-emitting car tax bands) is exempt from paying Vehicle Excise Duty.

Even been stuck behind a farm tractor on a rural road? That tractor doesn’t pay VED. In fact, agricultural vehicles are supplied with free tax discs. There are about 17,000 new tractors sold per year in the UK, with many thousands of older ones on farms across Britain.

All this means there are millions of officially-sanctioned “road tax dodgers” out there, benefitting from Britain’s road system yet not paying a penny of road tax. [There are unsanctioned “tax dodgers”, too. According to The Times, more than a million motorists choose to use a loophole in the DVLA’s payment system to skip some of the annual payment].

And these “road tax dodgers” are heavily subsidised by those who pay full whack for VED. According to a Freedom of Information request submitted to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the cost of a tax disc is £1.47 for those bought at a Post Office, and 95p for those bought online.

Let’s keep it simple and say the cost to print, distribute and sell each VED disc is a quid. There are about 2 million vehicles which don’t pay VED. That’s two million quid of subsidy to get tax discs to those who don’t pay for them. Those motorists who want cyclists to “pay road tax” need to realise that bicycles, as non-polluting vehicles, would be classified as Band A vehicles and hence would have to pay nowt. With 25 million bicycles in ownership, that would be £25m to get each bicycle a valid tax disc. Do motorists really want to pay a lot extra for their VED to subsidise registration and duty compliance for millions of bicycles?

Of course, the Queen, disabled people, war pensioners and Government ministers do pay for roads. All UK tax-payers, not just motorists, pay for Britain’s roads. Gulp, even cyclists.

Roads are paid for from general and local taxation. This site aims to get organisations which ought to know better to stop calling VED, road tax. They should call it ‘car tax’, because that’s what it is.

So, why call the site The reasons are here. And why does this all matter? Because a minority of mindless drivers don’t just vent their spleen online, they sometimes take out their aggression in the real-world, with their heavy, lethal vehicles. Motorists often swerve in front of cyclists; part of this is rage against the non-motorised machine but some of it is due to a nagging feeling that freeloaders should pay, or should get off the damn 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.


NOTE: The cartoon included in the graphic at the top of the page – click for large version – is from Punch magazine, 1920.

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  • carltonreid

    The article says “vehicles imported into the UK”, not vehicles bought in the UK by US service men and women.

  • G Freestone King

    @seg – you say:n@a81cfc0f846f5deb34c604301d30aab6:disqus “While you are right that VED is sucked into the government coffers and nof course everyone’s taxes go towards road maintenance, it is still the ncase that *most* car owners pay an extra tax which other road users do nnot. This makes it rather unfair. And the (correct) fact that “cyclists nare no more tax dodgers than the Queen, disabled drivers or war npensioners” does not make it right – does it?”nnYour case fails on seveal points, not least of which is that most adult cyclists also pay VED – if you accept that they can’t both ride & drive at the same time, then they are paying a rather inflated rate of duty for the use of their zero-emmission bicycles. nnI pay the VED on my car – in full. My wife drives it occasionally, not having paid towards the VED. Is she a tax dodger? No – such factors are all parts of the disparities inherent in any system that is designed purely to redistribute wealth.

  • G Freestone King

    Yeah, but do we *really* want yet another bit of governmental databasing and interference in our lives? Do we want the marginal cost added to the public purse? Is registering a commodity which in this day and age is often seen as disposable a good idea?u00a0 What about all those vendors of Bicycle-Shaped Objects who just swap one bike for a new one when you take your original purchase back under complaint within the warranty period – how much chaos is that going to cause? It all start to look like a complicated and expensive way of winning what is a non-argument to start with …

  • carltonreid


  • D Landers

    There’s one weak point in your argument. The government collects data about road use and compiles statistics showing the cost to the road network caused by each class of VED paying vehicle. It then calculates the VED rates to ensure that each class of vehicle ‘pays its way’. So the government itself is maintaining a link between VED payment and road use – ie. ‘road tax’. Incidentally, the figures prove that, on this basis, motorcycles and cars pay for themselves many times over; HGVs only just cover their costs.

  • carltonreid

    VED is a blunt instrument and is only weakly an ‘environmental’ tax but motor vehicles only pay a fraction of their actual costs, see elsewhere on this site for this info.
    VED is *not* a fee to use roads, again this is amply demonstrated elsewhere on this site.
    This site doesn’t have one argument, it has many.

  • SP1

    Sorry but you are wrong to say road construction vehicles are VED exempt. I am a director of a surfacing company and can assure you that even pavers and road planers have to be taxed and registered at £150.00 a year.
    With hundreds of miles of cycle routes being constructed all over the country perhaps its time cyclists dipped into their pockets to contribute, How about a one off tax payment on all new adult cycles, say £100. After all cyclists are the first to wine about potholes in the road

  • carltonreid

    Most new bikes and accessories *do* pay a levy, the Bike Hub levy. This is an industry fund that pays for childrens’ cycling programmes and other things.

    Cycle paths are paid for in the same way that roads are paid for – out general and local taxation. If cyclists paid a special tax for the cost of “their” cycle paths, motorists would have to pay a special tax for “their” roads (i.e. motorways) – is that what you want? Lots of extra taxes?

  • Peter Hicks

    Cars are taxed on co2 and that’s it , I can fit an item on to my car that cuts down its co2 output,the same tech is being fitted to diesels to cut down the nxo but you car is just put into a bracket and that’s it , I had the device on a 1988 escort 1.6 auto the guy at the MOT station had to test it twice because he could not believe the results it also gives better mpg but it won’t get me a cheaper road tax because its not about the planet or cleaner air it all about the money and taxes !

  • Peter Hicks

    I’m waiting for them to start taxing our legs ,mine are fked due to my spine but could get a reduction if I pass an Atos medical that is dependent on government contract farmed out to an overseas contractors corporation that does not pay any taxes at all !

  • Peter Hicks

    Well you could clone a CD number plate and save a few thousand !

  • Peter Hicks

    They only had tax discs when we all had to have one,so when they pull you up for no tax you can’t do the one about calling the kettle black ,they also don’t have any insurance either if they crash into your car you have to sue the chief constable I think they do their own MOT as well !

  • Timothy Collins

    Using the three cars that are parked outside my house right now as my sample, I estimate that 67% of all cars on the road either don’t have tax (VED) or MOT. If you include all the vehicles that are exempt from VED, that percentage might be as high as 80%. So, only 20% of us are paying the tax for all the others. Isn’t that rather unfair?