For many years, the AA’s landing page for Vehicle Excise Duty hedged its bets and said ‘road tax’, as well as VED and ‘car tax’. The ‘road tax’ part of that page has now been dropped, a recognition from Britain’s main motoring organisation that roads are paid for by general and local taxation not a tax that was abolished in 1937.
Many organisations – including the Post Office and the DVLA – now refer to Vehicle Excise Duty as ‘car tax’ and not ‘road tax’ (and this despite the fact motorbikes, vans and trucks also pay ‘car tax’).
VED is a tax on the vehicle, not a pot for collecting monies to be spent on road building or road maintenance. The distinction between ‘road tax’ and VED is very important, much more important than most people think. It’s possible that lives have been lost because of the use of an antique phrase. Some motorists believe ‘road tax’ pays for roads so cyclists, as freeloaders at best, tax-dodgers at worst, shouldn’t really be on “their” roads at all. This sometimes leads to ugly and dangerous aggression against cyclists, with some motorists taking the ownership of the roads fallacy a little too literally.
Which is odd, really, considering other “tax dodgers” include members of the Royal family, disabled drivers, and owners of electric cars.
It’s but a short step from “ownership” of the roads to “protection” of said ownership. Many cyclists have been nudged by cars; steered at by bus drivers. Much of the aggression is no doubt fuelled by gridlock-induced frustration but at least some of it is fuelled by the belief that cyclists have less rights to be on roads paid for by motorists. In fact, roads are paid for by general and local taxation, not ‘road tax’.
The AA joins a growing list of magazines and organisations which have now relegated the use of ‘road tax’ to where it belongs: history. The Plain English campaign, Which?Car magazine, the DVLA, the Post Office and others all now use the term ‘car tax’.
The iPayRoadTax campaign produces cycle jerseys featuring approved-by-DVLA fake tax roundels. Edmund King, president of the AA, is a keen cyclist and last year said the iPayRoadTax jersey was “ironic, iconic and probably iconoclastic.”
Does the wilful misuse of the term ‘road tax’ bother you? Wear the iPayRoadTax jersey and tell the world!