Number of untaxed drivers risking £1,000 fine leaps since end of paper discs - how to check you’re not breaking the law

The number of drivers caught without car tax has increased dramatically since paper discs were abolished more than five years ago, new figures have revealed.

According to official figures, the DVLA took around 1.2 million enforcement actions against motorists last year – up from 623,000 in 2014.

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The figures, obtained by motoring association MotorEasy, include cases where the DVLA has issued penalties for vehicles clamped at the roadside, late licensing penalties, made out-of-court settlements and where unlicensed vehicles have been detected in use on public roads.

They don't relate to individual drivers but to the number of actions, meaning one vehicle could have multiple actions taken in relation to it. However, they still represent a significant increase since the end of physical tax discs.

Paper tax discs were abolished in October 2014 and the Government estimated that the move would save the taxpayer £14m a year. However, the shift to an all-digital system, appears to have brought a dramatic increase in the number of drivers failing to pay the car tax - or VED.

Even if you have no intention of driving your car you must either tax it or make a statutory off-road declaration. Failure to do so will see you automatically fined £80, although this is reduced to £40 if you pay within 28 days. However, if you continue to use your car without tax you could be taken to court where you can be fined up to £1,000.

The DVLA also has the power to clamp or seize an untaxed vehicle until any outstanding charges are paid and it is taxed.

Knock-on effect

The DVLA has the power to clamp untaxed cars (Photo: Shutterstock)

Duncan McClure Fisher, CEO of motoring association MotorEasy, said: "Vehicle tax is levied as an excise duty and must be paid for vehicles driven or parked on UK roads.

“Modernising the way it’s handled had to come at some point, but it seems overall there’s been a bit of a bump in the road – with a large increase in the number of people not paying last year compared to 2014.

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“This means an exercise designed to save money on printed discs has resulted in a huge loss in tax revenue for the UK government, which has a knock-on effect on public services such as road maintenance. If fines have doubled you can be sure the number of untaxed vehicles has also grown significantly.

“It may be that people think they can avoid paying vehicle tax because they don’t have to display a disc, or because they don’t have that physical reminder of their expiration date.

“However, the DVLA does still send out reminder letters – similar to MotorEasy, who provide drivers with a free account displaying all their relevant vehicle data.”

How to check if your car is taxed

You should receive a reminder through the post around three weeks before your car’s tax is due. However, if you’re unsure whether your car is tax you can use the DVLA’s online tool. All you need is the car’s registration and the site will tell you when the tax is due as well as when the next MOT is due.

Since the abolition of the paper disc vehicle tax has not been transferred with the sale of a vehicle, meaning you will need to tax any car before you begin to drive or risk being hit with a fine.

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