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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