There has been a marked increase in the number of untaxed vehicles on UK roads in the last two years.
New figures from the Department for Transport show that an estimated 719,000 vehicles are now being driven without tax - an increase of 85,000 compared with 2019.
Drivers forgetting or deliberately avoiding paying car tax - more correctly called vehicle excise duty - are thought to cost the Government more than £110 million a year, a figure that has risen sharply in the seven years since the paper tax disc was scrapped.
According to the DfT data, just over half (55%) of vehicles remain untaxed for less than two months, suggesting that most drivers have forgotten to renew their tax rather than deliberately decided to avoid paying. So to help you avoid a fine, here’s how to check your car’s tax status and how to tax your car online.
How to check car tax status
Before it was abolished, the paper tax disc was a handy reminder of when your tax was due for renewal but it was scrapped in 2014 in an effort to save money.
Since then, the DVLA has sent reminder letters to vehicle owners, informing them of the date their tax expires and how much it will cost to renew it. However, the reminder often comes in weeks before it’s due and it’s easy to misplace or forget about it.
If that’s the case you can use the Government’s tax checking service to find out if your vehicle is taxed and when it’s due for renewal.
To do so, all you need to do is enter the vehicle’s registration number into the checker and you’ll get an instant record of its tax and MOT status.
You can also check the tax rate for your vehicle by entering the 11-digit reference number from the V5C keeper’s logbook.
How to tax a car online
If you discover your vehicle’s tax has expired or is due to be renewed soon, you can do so online.
To do this you’ll need either the reference number from a recent reminder letter from the DVLA, or the document number from the V5C or green “new keeper” slip from the logbook.
You can then enter them into the DVLA online system and pay for your tax by credit or debit card or set up a direct debit.
Even if your car is exempt from VED, for example if it is classed as a classic, you will still need to “tax” it every year.
What are the punishments for driving without tax?
If you fail to tax your vehicle or make a statutory off road notice (SORN) then you are liable to a fine and potentially losing your car.
Failing to tax a car or other vehicle will generate a “last chance” warning and if you ignore this you will be fined £80. If you fail to pay this and are taken to court the fine can reach £1,000.
The DVLA also has the power to clamp or impound untaxed vehicles. In such instances you will have to pay a release fee of between £100 and £200 and daily storage fees of £21. If you can’t prove the vehicle is taxed you will also have to pay a “surety fee”, which is £160 for motorbikes and cars, and between £330 and £700 for larger vehicles.