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Drivers caught out by new tax rules

Published 14/04/2015

Vehicle excise duty discs were phased out in October
Vehicle excise duty discs were phased out in October

Thousands of motorists have been fined and had their cars clamped by the DVLA after unwittingly falling foul of changes to tax rules, it was reported.

Drivers have been caught out by new regulations over used car sales, under which a vehicle's tax is automatically cancelled when it is sold, even if it has an in-date tax disc.

The Guardian found that clampings by the DVLA have rocketed since paper vehicle excise duty (VED) discs were phased out in October.

Before the changes the DVLA clamped about 5,000 vehicles a month, the newspaper said, but this has surged to more than 8,000, with motorists finding their cars have been towed away without any warning from the government agency.

Most drivers know that tax discs are no longer required to be displayed in car windows. But many are unaware that VED is cancelled automatically if a car changes ownership, even if there is a valid disc.

While those selling used cars may have previously advertised that a vehicle had tax and an MOT until a certain date, now the tax expires automatically when it is sold, even if it has many months left.

New owners have to tax it again, and many are being caught out and being left with hefty fines.

One couple, Christopher and Marianna Webb from Dorset, told the Guardian that they returned from holiday to find their car had been towed from where they had left it in Battersea, London, and was being stored in a pound for non-payment of car tax - despite it displaying a valid disc.

They ended up having to pay £822 to the DVLA to get it back.

Another motorist told the newspaper that a car he was given by an emigrating relative was clamped, despite it having a valid tax disc on the windscreen.

He had to pay £650 in fines and charges to the DVLA.

A DVLA spokesman said: "We continue to operate a comprehensive package of measures which make vehicle tax easy to pay but hard to avoid.

"We know that the vast majority of motorists continue to tax their vehicles on time with over 23 million drivers taxing their vehicles since October 1 2014.

"The changes have been widely publicised and we write to every vehicle keeper to remind them of the new rules before the vehicle tax expires.

"We also write to every new vehicle keeper when they buy a used vehicle to inform them that they must tax the vehicle before they use it.

"In addition, if a driver does not tax their car we will send a warning letter to remind them to tax as they are at risk of enforcement action."

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