Thousands of Northern Ireland’s motorists could be driving illegally taxed cars because of a glitch in the system, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The cost of the error – which falls under the responsibility of the Department of the Environment's (DoE) Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) – could amount to as much as £54,000.
Problems arose after around 3,600 motorists received reminder notices with the wrong rate of duty printed on them.
The notices requested a payment used before price hikes introduced in the 2012 Budget.
Applications for new tax discs made by post have been returned to the sender by the DVA with a note requesting the correct payment in respect of the tax increase.
The inflation-driven hike means it now costs between £5 and £15 more to tax your car this year – depending on the band.
In one case, a male motorist was sent a letter advising him he now owed £100 instead of £95 for his vehicle excise licence (tax disc).
The Chancellor announced changes to vehicle tax in the March 2012 Budget, which applied to tax discs from April 1.
A spokesman for the DoE said the process of dispatching over 100,000 reminders must start between six and eight weeks before tax discs expire so that vehicle owners get their reminders at least three weeks before expiry.
“Because of this process it is usually not possible to have the correct rate of duty printed on the reminder notices if changes have been announced in the Budget,” he said.
“However, the reminders around Budget time always have a warning that the rate of duty printed may be out of date, having been changed by the Budget.
“If a keeper uses the postal system to get a new tax disc and sends in the old rate of duty after the Budget, the application is returned with a note requesting the correct payment.”
The price of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), or road tax, increased on April 1 by between £5 and £15. The tax costs are based on the car's emissions. Those in bands A to C saw no rise. Band D is now £100 per year, up £5. Cars in band K saw a £10 increase, to £270, while those in bands L and M had the biggest rise of £15 — up to £460 and £475 respectively.