Death of the car tax disc: UK road tax changes and how they affect you

Tax disc
18 Sep, 2014 10:38am Steve Walker

The paper tax disc will be scrapped on October 1st 2014. RAC warns tax-dodging could cost £167m

Over 93 years the little paper roundel in the corner of our car windscreens has become an essential part of UK motoring life but now the tax disc is getting the chop. 

On October 1st 2014, the traditional UK tax disc will be unceremoniously phased out as part of an overhaul of road tax arrangements that promises to make paying your car tax easier and the whole system cheaper to run. 

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The new road tax set-up should also make things tougher for those seeking to avoid paying road tax. Rather than the visual check that the tax disc made possible, the authorities will rely on numberplate recognition cameras to determine that a vehicle has been taxed.

Meanwhile, the RAC claims that the ending of the paper tax disc could lead to tax evasion - costing the economy £167million a year. The company believes that the number of tax-dodgers could equal the number that try to avoid paying motor insurance.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: "We could be looking at around £167million of lost revenues to the Treasury, far exceeding the £10million that will be saved by no longer having to print tax discs and post them to vehicle owners."

An RAC survey showed that 36 per cent were unaware of the scrapping of the paper disc; while 47 per cent did not know when the change was due to take effect.

The poll also showed that 63 per cent feared there would be a rise in the number of untaxed cars on the road, while 44 per cent reckoned the change would actually encourage people to break the law.

What do the road tax changes mean for you?

The new car tax system isn’t being phased in gradually, from October 1st 2014 you’ll no longer need to display a road tax disc on your car windscreen.

Even if you have time left to run on your car tax, the little disc can be removed and binned, framed for posterity or disposed of in a burning longboat on the garden pond, whatever you feel is appropriate.

This doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay car tax though. The DVLA will send you a reminder when your road tax is up for renewal in the time-honoured fashion, you can then pay your road tax online, over the phone or at the Post Office.

Tax Disc

The road tax price bands will remain the same, as will the existing options of paying for 12 or 6 months tax upfront but from November 1st there will be the option of paying your car tax monthly. This new monthly option arrives in tandem with the facility to pay your road tax by Direct Debit. 

Drivers paying in monthly instalments from their bank accounts will be subject to a 5% surcharge on top of the road tax price itself. That’s less than the 10% that’s added when you pay for six months tax, an option currently used by 23% of motorists. Only the one-off annual payment comes with no extra charges. 

The key advantage of paying your car tax by Direct Debit is that the DVLA will continue taking the payments until you tell them to stop. It means that you’ll no longer need to remember to renew your car tax, it'll just happen and you can get on with more exciting stuff - like remembering your MOT.

What happens to your road tax when you sell your car?

Under the new car tax system, the process of selling your car will change. Any remaining road tax will not transfer to the new owner with the vehicle.

Instead, the seller will be able to get a road tax refund on any tax remaining on the vehicle, while the buyer will have to pay to re-tax the car.  

The tax refund on a sold car will be sent automatically when the DVLA receives notification that the car has been sold, scrapped, exported or taken off the road with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).

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Sellers are expected to inform the DVLA of any change of ownership straight away or face a £1,000 fine. If they don’t, they could also still be liable for speeding or parking fines incurred by the new owner.

Information on whether or not a car is taxed is available online via the Government website. All you need is the make and model of the car plus the registration number.

What will the tax disc changes mean for policing road tax?

It’s already the case that most inspectors patrolling the roads in search of un-taxed vehicles use automatic number plate readers instead of visually checking the tax disc. The police also rely heavily on number plate recognition cameras to catch untaxed drivers out on the road so in that respect, very little will change.

What the new system will bring is an estimated saving to the tax payer of £10million per year.

The tax disc has had a good innings. More than 1.7 billion of them have been issued since 1921 and in 2013 a total of 42.2million were issued by the DVLA. You can’t stop the relentless march of technology though and the new system promises real improvements in the UK road tax system that should benefit motorists and save money.  

12-year-old tax disc collector vows to continue his hobby

For most 12-year-olds, the death of the tax disc won’t mean much, but that’s not true for Jude Currie. Jude, from Cobham, Surrey, has a collection of 12,000 tax discs with his oldest dating back to 1926.
“I don’t think it’s a good thing. It’s like taking away stamps,” he said.

Car enthusiast and Auto Express reader Jude started collecting tax discs in 2009 after spotting one on the windscreen of an abandoned Fiat advertised online. Since then he hasn’t looked back, often picking up discs from scrapyards. The 1926 disc – a present from his parents – is now worth around £100.


“I like all classic cars and the Metro is probably my favourite, I can’t wait to learn to drive” said Jude. But why the tax disc? He added: “I saw the tax disc on the abandoned Fiat and thought it would be an interesting thing to collect. I never had a target but the collection has just gone up and up – I never expected it to be so big.” 

But is it now the end of the road for his collection? “No, I’m going to hold onto it and add to it,”he explained. “More people will be giving the old ones away now, too.”

With thanks to Confused.com

Goodbye to the tax disc: video

The DVLA produced the above video advertisement to raise awareness of the demise of the tax disc but a recent survey by Money.co.uk suggests that 50% of motorists are still unaware that the tax disc change is imminent. The survey also found more than half of those who were aware of the road tax changes didn’t know when it was happening.  

Car tax changes: key questions answered

Where can i buy my car tax?

Online, by post, or at a Post Office. Monthly payment is now an option but it’ll cost more in total. You’ll still get a reminder.

Can i transfer my car tax?

No, tax will be automatically refunded when you sell or scrap the vehicle and notify the DVLA via the V5C.

Can i see if a car is taxed?

You can check the status of any car tax via the Government website. Visit gov.uk/check-vehicle-tax and enter the reg number.

How will car tax be monitored?

Police cars are fitted with number plate recognition cameras already and the cameras are used across the road network.

What do i need to do?

If you’ve already got tax, the only thing to do on October 1 is remove the disc from your car. Maybe frame it for posterity.

Click here to read our guide on car tax bands...

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