Disc-Free Car Tax – What Does it Actually Mean for You?

Disc free tax changes

How’s life after tax discs panning out for you? Some predicted that doing away with tax discs would spell an epidemic of tax evasion and lost revenue. The RAC predicted that it could cost the Government as much as £167 million a year. Others suggested that going digital would encourage people to break the law. 

The DVLA have dismissed these claims as nonsense, comparing the new paperless tax disc system to that of the TV licence. But since 1 October last year when paper tax discs became redundant, have any of these predictions actually come true?

The ‘good old days’

First, let’s take a little trip down memory lane and reminisce about what many consider the ‘good old days of road tax’. The circular tax disc has been part of motoring life since 1921. Costing £1 for every horsepower, the first black and white discs bore little resemblance to the final version which was printed on water-marked paper and embellished with holograms, bar codes and perforated shapes.

Now these paper discs are a thing of the past and we are in the age of online road tax. Motorists still apply for their road tax in the same way – at a Post Office or online – the only difference is that they are no longer issued with a round piece of paper to display in their windscreen.

So what’s changed?

But is that really the only difference? 
Prior to the new rules coming into force, when you bought or sold a car, the road tax would automatically transfer along with it. However, this is not the case under the new system. When you buy a car you cannot use any remaining tax left on the vehicle and have to tax it yourself before you can get behind the wheel. 

Meanwhile, if you are selling a car, you are now only entitled to a refund on any full remaining months (not parts of months). This has got many drivers up in arms angry that they are not entitled to a full refund of the entire period. This DVLA money-spinner is angering motorists by the car-load. 

Dubbed the ‘stealth tax’, the DVLA is now able to pocket double the amount of road tax for any month a vehicle is sold. For example, if a vehicle exchanges hands on 15 June the buyer has to tax it from the start of that month and the vendor cannot claim a refund as it is not a full month. Plenty of people are displeased and the result is a petition calling for the end of double car tax. 

Another thing to bear in mind is that surcharges are non-refundable, so if you are paying in instalments you may stand to lose money. And if you are selling a car make sure you let the DVLA know immediately to avoid a £1,000 fine.

So what does it all mean for the UK’s motorists? 

Well, more of us are finding our cars have been clamped as a result of the new rules. According to The Guardian, the number of vehicles clamped by the DVLA since October 2014 has risen from around 5,000 to more than 8,000. However, while some of these drivers may have been deliberately flouting the law, many others will have simply been unaware of the tax disc changes.

Beware of scams

But it is not just the DVLA profiting from the new rules; there are plenty of scammers out to make a tidy sum too. One scam comes in the form of copycat websites asking users to pay a fee to renew their road tax (something the DVLA does not do). Despite the joint efforts of the Government and Google to ensure such sites do not appear in search results, it is something of a game of cat and mouse. 

Other fraudsters are cashing in on the confusion surrounding the new rules by sending bogus emails to unsuspecting drivers claiming they are due a refund on their road tax. Unfortunately, if recipients hand over their bank details they are more likely to see money go out of their account than come into it. 

And if criminals don’t get the better of us, the worry is that our memory (or lack of it) will. A question on the lips of many people concerning paperless road tax is ‘How will I remember to pay it?’ The circular disc has always been the perfect reminder when payment is due. Luckily, the DVLA will continue to send out reminders before a driver’s tax is due to be renewed.

For many of us, old habits die hard; according to the AA, around 70% of drivers still have a paper tax disc on display in their cars. However, slowly but surely, these paper relics will be removed and we will realise that life after paper tax discs isn’t that bad after all…