The number of vehicles being driven on UK roads this year without paying tax has reached an all-time high. Evasion levels are now up three times as much than they were seven years ago, when paper discs were discarded.

New figures confirm that Vehicle Excise Duty is being evaded by nearly 750,000 cars, trucks, and vans driving on Britain’s roads.

The number of untaxed vehicles in the UK has risen from 1.6 per cent in 2019 and is significantly higher than the 0.6 per cent non-compliance level in 2013 – the last full year before paper discs were abolished in a bid to save the DVLA millions of pounds every year.

The move has clearly had the opposite effect, with the Treasury now missing out on £119million in lost revenue from unpaid vehicle tax each year.

Dodgers: Car tax evasion rates have more than tripled since the paper disc was abolished by the government in 2014, new Department for Transport stats show

Dodgers: Since the abolishment of the paper disc in 2014 by the government, car tax evasion has more than tripled. New Department for Transport statistics show.

The last year in which motorists required to present a valid tax disc on paper, around 210,000 motors that were not subject to taxes were 2013.

This is less than one third of all vehicles driving with an unpaid VED. Nearly half of 50 cars are on the roads today without being taxed. Official figures from the Department for Transport’s latest bi-annual report confirm this.

That also takes into consideration that estimates for motorcycles have – for the first time – been left out of the DfT’s report due to ‘insufficient sample size’, though it  caveats that the impact is ‘very small’ on overall compliance rates.

When the paper disc was ended in October 2014, the Government said it would eventually save the DVLA around £7million annually.

But, since the internet moved the tax system for cars online, there has been an increase in evasion. This has hurt the Treasury’s bottom line. Despite the widespread availability of ANPR camera, the higher level for evasion has not been surprising.

Drivers are also losing out as some of the car tax earnings go to improving the roads in the UK. 

This DfT chart shows the higher level of vehicle tax evasion since the paper disc was axed in favour of the current only system in 2014

This DfT chart provides an indication of how much vehicle tax fraud has increased since paper discs were replaced with the only current system in 2014.

When paper discs was scrapped in October 2014, the government said it would save the DVLA around £7m annually. Instead it is costing the Treasury £119m a year in lost revenue

When paper discs was scrapped in October 2014, the government said it would save the DVLA around £7m annually. Instead it is costing the Treasury £119m a year in lost revenue

Commenting on the figures, RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: ‘It’s hugely concerning that we’re seeing ever greater numbers of unlicensed vehicles on the roads with the total number now standing at nearly three-quarters of a million. 

‘While we’d like to think the abolition of the paper tax disc back in 2014 isn’t responsible, the fact remains evasion has increased significantly since then to the point where a shocking two in every 100 vehicles on the road aren’t taxed. 

‘The cost from VED evasion in 2021 alone is set to be a whopping £119million, a substantial sum that should be spent on improving our road network.

“We ask the DVLA for more enforcement, and do everything in our power to reduce evasion. It is not fair to those who pay to be on the roads.”

The AA believes that the increase in tax evasion might be related to the increased number of vehicles given a Statutory off Road Notification status (SORN) during various Covid-19 lockdowns. There were approximately 260,000 cars declared off the road by December last year. 

Jack Cousens (spokesman for the motoring group) stated, “Some of these vehicles will have to be put back on road with their owners either wrongly or deliberately forgetting the DVLA,”

He said: “High inflation, especially with high pump prices, despite large falls in wholesale costs, always pressurizes many low-income drivers into running the gauntlet to not pay their taxes. 

“It would be foolish of them to risk their arms, because there are severe penalties and even the possibility of having their car destroyed.

In the final year motorists had to display a valid paper tax disc - 2013 - approximately just 210,000 motors on the road were believed to be untaxed. Now it's around 750,000

The final year was when motorists required to present a tax disc on paper. In 2013, approximately 210,000 vehicles were thought to have been untaxed. Today it is around 750,000

Regional analysis showed that the highest rate of VED evasion is in Northern Ireland, at 2.7%, followed by Scotland with 2.1% of motors untaxed

An analysis of regional data showed that Northern Ireland had the greatest rate of VED evasion at 2.7%. Scotland followed with 2.1% untaxed motors.

The vast majority (55%) of all motors without tax have not had it for up to 2 months. However, 13% of untaxed cars have not had VED paid by their owners for over a year

The majority (55%) of motors not subject to tax hasn’t had it in excess of 2 months. However, only 13% of non-taxed vehicles have had VEDs paid by owners in excess of a year.

DfT data revealed that the evasion rate for passenger and light goods vehicles, such as vans and private cars, was higher than other types of vehicle at 1.9%. 

An analysis of regional data showed that Northern Ireland had the highest VED evasion rate at 2.7%.

The next is Scotland (2.1%), where the evasion rates exceed average. Some 1.5 percent of vehicles in England or Wales are not taxed. 

Government records indicate that more than half (55%) of the vehicles not showing tax had been unlicensed for less then two months.

Amazingly, 13% of the unlicensed users (13%) had not been licensed for over a year. 

The vehicles that are most frequently untaxed in terms of their age include those older than 10 year old (38%), and newer models (9%) less than 2 years ago. 

Any motorist caught driving without valid vehicle excise duty can be fined up to £1,000. 


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