When a joke becomes reality

I operate a Toyota Aygo, which because of its low fuel usage and emissions and because of when it was first registered, attracts an annual car tax of zero. (The system of car tax takes emissions into account: it was made less generous in 2017 and again this month but the changes were not retrospective for cars first registered during the period when some very low emission vehicles paid a zero rate of car tax. Those vehicles still attract a zero rate.)

But the government still needs to keep tabs on such cars, and check what vehicles are being operated, by whom, and that they have been insured and if necessary have an up-to-date MOT. They use the tax database to manage this.

So I still get an annual reminder from DVLA telling me that I have to go through the regular procedure of confirming that I have the vehicle - by taxing it at a tax rate of zero.

And essentially it  has not been worth anyone's while to redesign the paperwork for registered keepers of zero tax cars from that sent to other drivers, except that the reminder has the words "even if you don't pay" added after "tax your vehicle."

(I've just had a quick look through my old car paperwork and a similar reminder for a car on which I did have to pay tax doesn't have those extra words, although interestingly it does have the words "if applicable" after the reference to the payment required in the list of what you need to bring with you if you tax the car at a post office rather than online.)

So although the actual point of the document was the perfectly reasonable aim of making sure my vehicle is registered -

it is still true that the government sent me a legal notice threatening serious consequences unless I paid an outstanding tax bill of £0.00 by the end of this month.

Incidentally, those threats have teeth. If you own a zero-tax car, you can expect such a letter, and when it arrives you do need to go through the process of "taxing" the car or you risk getting into trouble.

So I've just been on the DVLA website, put in the appropriate reference numbers and carried out a process which was described as paying tax of £0,00 (although they didn't bother asking me for credit card details or actually take any money off me.)

One part of my brain - the part which has been a councillor for 25 years and dealt with various government departments in a range of capacities - understands exactly why this happened and keeps trying to tell the rest of my brain that it's not even an unreasonable requirement, just a poorly worded one.

But it was still a surreal experience - like one of the urban legends in which a badly programmed computer threatens legal action unless an outstanding bill of £0.00 is paid.


Jim said…
(The government tries to give people an incentive to go for less polluting vehicles.)

Really, well my wife operates a 2015 1.6 Honda civic diesel, which is free road tax

I operate a 2018 Toyota Auris Hybrid, which produces much less CO2 than hers, and of course far fewer particulates, it sepends a lot of its time in EV Mode not using any fuel at all, but, has a £130 per year road tax on it.

hmmm, I am calling rubbish on your statement there.
Jim said…
in fact for the highest road tax, you can pollute all you want to and get away with £140, you only have to pay the premium (which is a lot) for the first five years if your car cost over £40,000 to buy.

Yes, I can see how that is an incentive to go green
Chris Whiteside said…
I don't pretend that the implementation of the policy is perfect.

I stand by the statement that the government TRIES to give an incentive to go for less polluting vehicles.

That is how it is meant to work, even it is not always the case in practice.
Jim said…
I would argue they USED to TRY to give an incentive to go for less polluting vehicles, but that is not the case any more and has not been since 2017.

all cars (execpt pure electric 0 emission cars) cost £140 per year. Hybrids are eligible for a £10 discount (thus mine costs £130)

But does not stop there, if the car cost £40,000 or more, or cost less but you add options to push it over the £40,000 then there is an extra charge of £310 per year for 5 years on top of the tax price.

Thus we can see a Zero emission tesla which costs over £40K will cost £310 to tax, rather than the previous £0

Something like your Aygo will cost £140 rather than the previous £0

And a Ford mustang 5.0L V8 (£38,000 to buy) will cost £140 rather than the previous £515

So whilst i would agree that the government once tried to provide incentives for lower polluting cars, that is not the case any more.
Jim said…
The one thing i did like about the new road tax system is at least Hammond was honest. He basically said that the green incentive is unsustainable (too many manufacturers not only met but exceeded the limits, so too many cars were free to tax)

At he had the honesty to admit that it was never about less pollution, it was always about raising the most money.
Chris Whiteside said…
The tax changes introduced in 2017 and 2018 were not retrospective for cars first registered when they attracted zero tax which is why I had this situation yesterday of paying a zero tax bill.

However, as you rightly point out the tax system has changed and I have modified the wording of the post to reflect that, and in the process took out the comment discussed above because, as you say, it's not really up to date.
Jim said…
Thank you, good to see constructive debate works.

But yes, we have the same Pay £0.00 or else note each year when Ange's civic wants it tax

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