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US embassy racks up £14.6m in unpaid congestion charge fees

By Jodie Chay Oneill | May 20, 2024

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Recent data reveals that US diplomats have accumulated over £14 million in unpaid congestion charges over the past twenty years

US embassy racks up £14.6m in unpaid congestion charge fees

Recent data reveals that US diplomats have accumulated over £14 million in unpaid congestion charges over the past twenty years. Transport for London (TfL) disclosed that the American Embassy tops the list with a debt of £14.6 million, surpassing Japan's £10 million owed. 

Despite diplomatic efforts to enforce compliance, a minority of embassies, including those of India, Nigeria, and China, persist in non-payment, totalling over £143.53 million in outstanding charges since the charge's inception in 2023. Russian diplomats accrued a bill nearing £6 million.

“We and the UK government are clear that the Congestion Charge is a charge for a service and not a tax. This means that diplomats are not exempt from paying it,” TfL said in a statement.

“The majority of embassies in London do pay the charge, but there remains a stubborn minority who refuse to do so, despite our representations through diplomatic channels.”

Diplomats contend that the congestion charge constitutes a tax, exempting them under the Vienna Convention. The US and Japan consistently rank as the worst offenders, though countries like Poland, Germany, and Kenya also feature prominently in outstanding debts. In contrast, Togo's diplomats have the cleanest record, owing a mere £40. 

The issue was highlighted in two ministerial statements by junior foreign minister David Rutley last September. "We will continue to pursue all unpaid Congestion Charge fees and related penalty charge notices and are pushing for the matter to be taken up at the International Court of Justice,”

The London transport body said Government advisers caution that the latest £250 million funding injection, unveiled in December, serves as a temporary fix and does not address long-term challenges.

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