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Road tax evasion hits record high in 2021

By Stephen Turvil | December 8, 2021


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Number of untaxed vehicles hits a staggering new high, seven years after the paper tax disc was abolished in the UK.

Road tax evasion hits record high in 2021

The number of untaxed vehicles hit a record high in the United Kingdom in 2021 seven years after the tax disc was abolished, the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency revealed. According to a roadside survey that utilised number plate recognition cameras, vehicle excise duty had not been paid for 1.9% of vehicles, excluding motorcycles. That equated to 719,000 unlicensed vehicles.

Such figures were far higher than previous years. Only 1.6% of vehicles were untaxed in 2019. In 2017, 1.8% fell foul and 1.5% were problematic in 2015. But 2013 was perhaps the most telling figure. When drivers last had to display tax discs on their vehicles by law, only 0.6% were untaxed. The circular discs included dates that reminded people when to make the next payments.

Money lost

In 2021, the Exchequer lost a vast sum to road tax evasion. The estimated cost was £119 million. That equated to 1.8% of the total due. However, some of the money was later recouped via enforcement action and from motorists that paid their arrears. Naturally though, it cost money to chase the drivers that had broken the law.

DVLA discusses road tax evasion

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s Chief Executive, Julie Lennard, confirmed that the agency strives to trace and punish motorists that evade tax. ‘Those who choose to evade will be tackled using our proven package of comprehensive enforcement measures’, she stressed. ‘These include penalties and court prosecutions through the use of number plate recognition cameras, wheel clamping, and the removal of untaxed vehicles from the road’.

Ms Lennard further emphasised that road tax evasion rates ‘fluctuate’ and that the pandemic is ‘highly likely’ to have influenced some peoples’ behaviour. In other words, some drivers that typically pay might have lost their jobs and struggled for money. Others might have taken vehicles off the road during lockdown, claimed a partial tax refund, then forgotten to re-tax when the restrictions were eased and they started travelling again.

RAC says road tax evasion is ‘not fair’

The RAC is concerned that road tax evasion rose significantly in 2021, whatever the reasons. This was ‘not fair’ on people that paid their way and reduced what could be spent maintaining the roads, Head of Roads Policy Nicholas Lyes suggested. He added: 'While we would like to think the abolition of the paper tax disc is not responsible, the fact remains that evasion has risen significantly since then. We urge the DVLA to step up enforcement’, Mr Lyes said.

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