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Out with the ‘tax-disc’ in the post note for Trotter: Road tax goes digital

Drivers can effectively tear up their tax discs soon, as a new road tax system replaces the tried and tested perforated paper circle. Instead, an electronic road tax database will keep track of who has paid – and those who don’t face a fine of £1,000. Specialist cameras installed throughout the land by the police and DVLA will rely on number plate recognition to see who has paid and who is trying to evade the system.

From October, motorists will no longer receive a paper tax disc when their road tax is due and will instead be asked to pay their road tax online, via the DVLA website. Drivers without access to the internet will be able to pay at post offices. In Northern Ireland, drivers will still need to display their MOT discs, but not their tax discs. The digital cameras on our roads will pick up our number plate registrations and feedback the information to the DVLAs database to check our road tax has been paid.

For those people who have already paid their road tax, they don’t have to do anything, although they can take their paper tax disc off your car windscreen if they want to. Any existing road tax will remain valid until its expiry date, at which point it can renew it using the new system.

Owners of cars which are exempt from vehicle excise duty will not have to pay anything, but they will still need to register each year on the DVLA website.

The new system will be enforced through automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras, which track all cars, will catch those who haven’t paid up. The police can look up registration numbers on the Police National Computer system. Offenders will face fines of up to £1,000.

However, car dealerships and businesses have expressed concerns about how the new number plate recognition and road tax laws will affect their sales of used cars. Indeed, this is where the changes will be felt most keenly. From October, vehicle tax will no longer be transferred with the vehicle. This means the buyer will not benefit if there are unused months left on the tax disc. They will have to renew the tax straight away.

The seller can claim a refund from DVLA for any full calendar months left on the vehicle’s tax. However, they are also responsible for informing the DVLA of the change of ownership and will face a fine if they do not do so.

Independent crime watchdogs are also concerned there could be further disadvantages to the new system. They believe car thieves will find it easier to operate undetected. They believe that the thieves will be able to easily fabricate a cloned set of number plates which have been copied from a properly taxed vehicle with the same model specifications.

However, money saving experts believe that as a result of the new system insurance premiums may fall due the removal of the tax disc, and a resultant elimination of tax evaders from the road, which should have a positive impact on premiums.

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