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Driving Without Road Tax (Will I Be Fined?)

  • 3 minute read
  • Last updated: 12th August 2019

Driving without road tax is an offence in England and Wales. If you own a vehicle registered in the UK for use on public roads, you are required by law to pay road tax.

This article covers:

The rules are applicable to every category of vehicle, and this is inclusive of those that have a nil rate of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) or are exempt from payment of road tax.

If kept off road, a vehicle must be declared SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) and you are still required to tax the vehicle.

What are the penalties for driving without road tax?

Driving without road tax carries the following penalties:

  • Driving without road tax will result in a DVLA-imposed fine of £80, which can be reduced by half if paid in 28 days. However, it could result in a fine of up to £1,000 or five times the annual road tax fee if the case goes to court.
  • Those caught driving a car without road tax by police face a fixed penalty notice (FPN) of up to £1,000, which is payable on the spot.
  • Allowing someone to drive without road tax could mean a fine of up to £1,000, or £2,500 if the vehicle carries 8 passengers or more
  • Driving a vehicle that is liable to a higher rate of road tax could result in a penalty of £1,000 or five times the difference between the tax rates calculated at the annual rate
  • Your car may also be clamped or impounded, resulting in a fee for release. If your car is clamped, the requisite tax must be paid within 24 hours or a release fee of £100 will be charged, as well as a “surety deposit” of between £160 and £700 depending on the vehicle. This deposit is then refunded if the tax is paid within two weeks. The fees are even higher to release an impounded car and prosecution costs and fines may also apply.

A penalty could impact on your financial situation and livelihood, so it is important to seek impartial legal advice to see if there is a possibility of reduced the fine.

It is also important to note that offenders may also be liable for court costs if they are successfully prosecuted, which is also why it is important to contact a legal expert who knows the system and law on driving without road tax.

How to pay your road tax

If your road tax is reaching the expiry date, the DVLA will send you a renewal reminder (titled a V11 or V85/1), detailing the time you have to renew it, and instructions of how to make the necessary payment.

Since November 2014, you are no longer required to display a paper tax disc in your vehicle. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) now store all vehicle data on a database that records all vehicles and tax details. Those details are available to the police for on-road checks and investigations.

It is has become extremely difficult to avoid paying tax due to monthly database checks carried out on all vehicles. You will be fined if you are found to be driving without road tax, and, if you do not pay, a County Court judgment can be issued or authorities may clamp, tow or even crush your vehicle.

What does SORN mean and how do you register your vehicle as off road?

If you intend to keep the car off road and not drive it, you need to inform the DVLA and register a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN). You could face the same penalties imposed for driving without road tax if you do not do this when your tax expires. Furthermore, due to the data available to the DVLA, it is very easy for the authorities to know you have committed an offence. There is no grace period. Once your road tax runs out, you must either renew or declare the vehicle SORN immediately.

If you wish to declare your vehicle as SORN, you can complete a form online using either the 16-digit reference number on your vehicle tax renewal letter (V11) or the 11-digit reference number on your logbook (V5C). You can also call the DVLA, or send a SORN application (form V890) to them alongside a letter explaining your situation. If you are going abroad for any reason, you can register your car as SORN two calendar months in advance by post.

Driving a new vehicle without road tax

When buying a vehicle, you must ensure that the vehicle is taxed before driving it. Changes in the law mean that time remaining on a tax disc can no longer be transferred over to the new owner, and new owners must make the purchase prior to driving the new vehicle. There is no grace period.

When selling a vehicle, any full months remaining on the road tax will be refunded once form V5C is completed and returned.

Road tax and insurance

It is important that you take into account the fact that if you forget to pay – or purposely avoid paying – road tax then your car insurance may be null and void.

If you are involved in an accident while your vehicle does not have road tax, you are classed as uninsured and will be subjected to all penalties and charges associated with driving an uninsured vehicle. It is important to check the terms and conditions of your insurance policy for details.

What do you do if facing a penalty for driving without road tax?

If you are facing a penalty for driving without road tax, take legal advice immediately to establish if you have a defence. Possible challenges could include:

  • You were still within the grace period following expiry of your previous road tax
  • You were not the keeper of the vehicle
  • The vehicle was stolen

A specialist motoring solicitor can advice on your options and support with any resulting legal proceedings.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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