Public falling foul of DVLA tax rules

Time 9:26 am, April 13, 2015

DVLA-Logo_0_0CAR dealers have never been slow to have a pop at the DVLA, on this website as well as in the magazine.

Now it seems the bad feeling has reached the general public, too…

Their anger is centred on the new rule that if a car changes ownership, the vehicle excise duty is automatically cancelled. And that’s the case, even if there is a valid paper tax disc in the windscreen.

The DVLA has not been slow in flexing its muscles, with increasing numbers of law-abiding motorists having their cars towed away and being charged fines of as much as £800.

Guardian Money has revealed DVLA clampings have risen dramatically since October, when the agency did away with paper vehicle excise duty discs. Before the changes DVLA was clamping about 5,000 vehicles a month. This has surged to more than 8,000. In total, says the paper, more than 100,000 vehicles are likely to be clamped this year compared with 60,000 the year before.

The Guardian adds: ‘The DVLA says it has worked with motor traders and written to new owners to make them aware of the change, but plenty of motorists have found their vehicles clamped or towed away after being given a taxed car by a relative, or even swapping cars within a family. Those who are caught out have no right of appeal to an independent body and say that the DVLA is acting unfairly.’

tax disc

Christopher and Marianna Webb decided to swap their already-taxed cars with one another. They wrote to the DVLA to tell it about the changes of ownership. But unbeknown to them, the DVLA had cancelled their tax discs when they swapped, as per its new rules. When the couple returned from a trekking holiday in Nepal, their Ford Focus had been towed and stored in a pound for non-payment of car tax, despite having a valid tax disc in the window. Only after a two-day battle, which saw the couple from Bridport, Dorset, hand over £822 to the DVLA, did they get the car back.

Another reader, Angus Walker, had to pay £465 to get his hybrid car back from the pound after it was towed by the DVLA, even though the car is not liable for vehicle excise duty due to its super-low emissions.

Another, from London, found the car he had been given by a relative who was emigrating was clamped and he had to pay £650 in fines and charges to the DVLA. He was staggered at the bill, because there was a valid disc in the window.

Critics have described the new rules as a bureaucratic nightmare. Buyers, in effect, have to retax a taxed car before they can drive it, with no period of grace. There are also claims it is a substantial money-spinner for the DVLA as it receives two payments for any month in which a car’s ownership is transferred.

A DVLA told Guardian Money: ‘We continue to operate a comprehensive package of measures which make vehicle tax easy to pay but hard to avoid. We know the vast majority of motorists continue to tax their vehicles on time with over 23 million drivers taxing their vehicles since  October 1, 2014.

‘The changes have been widely publicised and we write to every vehicle keeper to remind them of the new rules before the vehicle tax expires. We also write to every new vehicle keeper when they buy a used vehicle to inform them that they must tax the vehicle before they use it.’

You can read the full Guardian story here.

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Colin Channon's avatar

Colin is a former editor of Car Dealer. He left the magazine in August 2015.

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