Tax disc abandonment – a false economy?

Posted on February 24th, 2016 by Rob Marshall


I was rather fond of the tax disc. I always felt that I had something tangible to display on my car, after making my annual contribution to the Treasury’s coffers. It also provided an instant reference, compared to the ‘convenience’ of having to check online, for me to verify the tax status of any car residing at Chez Marshall.

I understand that the Government had to slash departmental spending and the cost of printing/mailing out paper discs was considerable. Businesses that ran fleets of vehicles also voiced a sigh of relief, in the administrative saving. Owners of multiple stored vehicles also appreciated that the SORN off-road declaration had to be made only once and not renewed annually. I also praise DVLA staff for speeding-up the rate at which tax refunds are given, under the new system. At one point, it could take over three weeks. My most recent refund, for example, took only a few days to arrive.

However, a year on, getting rid of the paper disc has not been fool-proof. It has removed the opportunity for a road traffic officer to make a quick glance for the presence of a disc, at a roadside inspection. Instead, databases have to be consulted and my own experience, of those that relate to the taxing of vehicles, is that they are not updated speedily enough.

Recent research has led to news that the number of untaxed vehicles on the road has doubled, making a mockery that ANPR cameras alone can catch the evaders. Reports have suggested that the loss to the treasury has risen from £35m in 2013, to £80m. Yet, a DVLA spokesman has been reported as stating that “…almost 99% of all vehicles on the road are correctly taxed, that’s around £6bn in vehicle tax being passed to the treasury every year.”

However, some revenue has been clawed back, some people have argued unfairly, by it being possible for a vehicle to be taxed twice in the same month, when it is sold. This is due to a change in the law, meaning that the vendor must reclaim any full remaining months of tax but the buyer must renew the tax from the start of the current month. According to, 45% of motorists still do not understand the new vehicle tax rules, when buying/selling a car and are committing tax evasion unwittingly.

Therefore, if you are looking to buy a car, especially one in a high VED tax bracket, consider taking delivery at the start of the month to make the most of your annual tax bill.