Road tax explained

Image of model engine by Bill Nicholls Road tax is often very much misunderstood, so today we’re going to bust some myths to help you get clued up on what it is, who pays it, how much they pay and what it gets used for.

Firstly, it isn’t actually ‘road tax’ at all – the disc in your windscreen represents Vehicle Excise Duty, which is a tax on your car rather than a fee for using the road.

There hasn’t been a ring-fenced pot of cash dedicated to maintaining the road network since 1937, when the Road Fund was abolished. As such, the money you pay for a tax disc will ultimately end up in the hands of the Exchequer – which can spend it on anything it likes.

As such, it’s no longer the case that this tax goes towards maintaining the roads. Many are in the hands of local authorities, which are particularly short of money at the moment – that’s part of the reason why Britain’s roads have been so tatty for so long. The recent spells of bad weather that have cause many pot holes to appear have only made this situation worse for the UK’s drivers.

Who pays?
The vast majority of car owners need to tax their cars. There are some exceptions, so if your vehicle falls into the following categories you could be in luck:

• Snow ploughs and gritters
• Lifeboat vehicles
• Mine rescue vehicles and fire engines
• Ambulances
• Vehicles that cannot convey people
• Trams

There are more exceptions (check here if you’re unsure), and if your car was built before 1973, you no longer have to pay road tax.

How much?
Nearly everybody else must pay somewhere between £20 and £490 to tax their car each year.

You can use the official government website to calculate how much tax you need to pay. If your car was first registered before 1 March, 2001, the amount of tax you will need to pay will depend on the size of its engine – £140 per year for an engine under 1549cc, £225 above that.

If your car was first registered on or after the same date, the car will be taxed based on its emissions and fuel type. The amounts for each ‘band’ of car are available on the official vehicle tax rate tables. Owners of new cars (registered on or after 1 April 2010) don’t have to pay for their tax disc for the first year.

When and how does it need to be paid?
You can pay online or over the phone if you have the requisite information to hand. Otherwise you will need to visit a Post Office branch that deals with tax discs – check here for your nearest. You’ll need to buy a new tax disc every year.

There are fairly serious penalties for not buying a tax disc. These can include fines and having your car impounded.

What if I don’t use my car?
You can get a Statutory Off-Road Notification (usually referred to as SORN). Follow the instructions here if you want to notify the DVLA that you will not be using your car and therefore do not need to buy a tax disc.

As a legal obligation, a tax disc is one of those things that you have no choice but to buy. Just like with car insurance you could be fined or your vehicle could be impounded if you don’t display a valid tax disc – it isn’t work running the risk! Therefore, it is worthwhile to keep in mind when your tax disk is due to be renewed and similarly if your car insurance is up for renewal then you should check out these offers from More Th>n.

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