What happens if I don’t tax my car, what is the penalty and are there any exemptions?

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ROAD tax is one of life’s certainties for any British motorist.

The majority of road users will need to pay car tax to use a vehicle on a public road, unless they are eligible for an exemption.

Every registered car in the UK needs an application for road tax, even if it’s fee exempt
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But despite the requirement, close to 500,000 motorists were caught on the road without tax in 2018.

Cars can be clamped or impounded, and you can be slapped with a hefty fine if you haven’t paid the DVLA’s vehicle licence.

Here’s everything you need to know abut car tax.

Is it illegal to drive without car tax?

The DVLA will clamp untaxed cars parked on the road
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It’s illegal to drive on the road with an untaxed vehicle, but there are certain situations where it is allowed.

If you’re taking your car to a pre-booked MOT test, you can drive your vehicle on a road without it being taxed.

But you must be going directly to the test centre and must not make any unnecessary stops or additional trips along the way.
The law states a vehicle licence must be renewed on an annual or six-monthly basis.

Even vehicles which have a nil rate of vehicle tax, meaning they do not attract a fee, must apply for tax with the DVLA.

This helps the Agency maintain accurate vehicle records, which is important for road safety purposes and traceability.

Are there any exemptions to road tax?

The DVLA allows tax exemptions for certain situations.

Disabled drivers and those using disabled passenger vehicles don’t pay a road tax fee.

Cars classified as “historic”, made before January 1 1978, have been exempt since last April.

And electric vehicles worth less than £40,000 don’t have to pay vehicle tax.

Certain agricultural vehicles are also exempt.


TAKING ITS TOLL Car tax rates will increase by up to £65 from April 1 this year – here’s how much it will cost you


What is the penalty for not having car tax?

Police use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to detect cars without tax.

If you are caught driving an untaxed vehicle, you could be fined up to £1,000.

The DVLA also clamps vehicles on the street without a valid licence, and will impound them in some cases.

When DVLA clamps an untaxed vehicle the motorist is charged a £100 release fee.

If you can’t show that the vehicle has been taxed when it’s released you will have to pay a surety fee of £160 – but it’s refunded if you can show the vehicle has been taxed within 15 days.

If the release fee is not paid within 24 hours, DVLA impounds the vehicle and the fee rises to £200, and there is also a storage charge of £21 per day.

Again, a surety fee of £160 must be paid if you can’t show that the vehicle has been taxed.

Do I need to tax my car if I’m not driving it?

Any vehicle being kept on a public road must be taxed, even if it’s parked there and not being driven.

If you are keeping a registered vehicle in a garage or on private land and not using it, it must be given a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).

You can apply for a SORN online for free, but you must cancel it if you wish to drive the car again.

Driving a vehicle with a current SORN notification could see you fined up to £2,500.


The DVLA recently launched an advertising campaigns to warn drivers of the consequences of evading vehicle tax.

Tim Burton, DVLA Head of Enforcement, said: “It’s never been easier to tax your car, so there really is no excuse.

“We would rather not have to clamp or remove vehicles, but this campaign highlights the consequences of not taxing a vehicle.

“Having your vehicle clamped is expensive and inconvenient – and you could end up losing your car.”

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