When a joke becomes reality
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.