Car tax refunds: how to claim yours

We guide you through the rules around getting a refund on your road tax when you sell your car

Tax disc

At one time, if you were selling your car you could offer the buyer a sweetener on the deal by mentioning how many months' road tax was left on the vehicle. If it had a 12-month tax disc in the window, there could be a couple of hundred extra quid in it for the seller, while buyers could negotiate a discount on a car that was due to have its road tax renewed in the coming months. Those days are over. 

If you sell your car with road tax remaining on it today, you get the outstanding amount paid back to you in a car tax refund. It happens when you inform the DVLA that you no longer own the car using the V5C registration document. This also applies if you have taken the car off the road (using a Statutory Off Road Notification, or SORN), if it's been written off by your insurance company, if it's been scrapped, stolen, exported from the UK, or if it has been registered as tax exempt.

The key thing to remember is that any remaining road tax will not transfer to the new owner with the car. It is the new owner’s responsibility to re-tax the vehicle when they take ownership of it. It’s also important that the DVLA is informed straight away of the change of ownership or a £1,000 fine may be incurred by the original owner of the vehicle. You can do this online via the DVLA website and you’ll get an email confirmation.  

How much road tax can I get refunded?

Once you've told the DVLA that you no longer need road tax on the car, it will be cancelled and you will automatically get a refund for any full months that are left remaining on your vehicle tax.

If you pay for your car tax by Direct Debit this will be cancelled automatically, while a cheque for the refund amount will be made out and sent to the name and address on the vehicle's V5C registration document. The amount reimbursed will be calculated from the date that the DVLA receives the confirmation of cancellation. As that's the case, it's best to notify the DVLA as soon as possible so you don't risk losing a months' worth of money unnecessarily.

If you've paid by credit card, paid the direct debit surcharge when you applied for the road tax or paid the 10 per cent surcharge for the one-off six-month road tax payment, then these won't be refunded. Of course, if you own a car which is over 40-years old or a fully-electric car, you will not be paying any road tax so you will not qualify for any road tax refund.

When will my road tax refund arrive?

You should receive a cheque for your road tax refund amount in the post after six weeks. If you haven't, then you need to contact the DVLA tax enquiries department. You can do this by calling the DVLA contact number 0300 790 6802, Mon to Fri (8am-7pm), or Sat (8am-2pm).

You can also E-mail the DVLA or get in touch by post at: Vehicle Customer Services, DVLA, Swansea SA99 1AR.

Due to the sheer number of enquiries and cases the DVLA has to deal with, you may need to remain patient. It can take a few weeks for the DVLA to process an application, so you should wait for at least four weeks before you get confirmation that your vehicle is SORNed, and six weeks for a car tax refund, before getting in touch.

Have you had problems getting your road tax refunded? Tell us about it in the comments section below…

Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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