Crackdown on car-tax dodgers steps up a gear

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The Independent Online

This weekend 96,000 drivers will receive the first of the new £80 fixed-penalty notices for not renewing their car tax discs. From 1 January anyone who does not renew their car tax within a month of their previous disc expiring will be identified from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) computer database. The tax varies from £55 to £165 a year, depending on the car's age and pollution emissions.

"We have given them two months at the start of the scheme," said Jeff Mumford, the DVLA's deputy programme manager, "so there was ample time for the publicity to reach as many people as possible. In fact there were about 250,000 out-of-date tax discs by the end of January, so more than 100,000 have taken heed."

In January there were also nearly double the number of Statutory Off Road Notifications (Sorn), which motorists can make if they are keeping their vehicles off public roads, and avoid the tax.

DVLA says there are about 1.75 million untaxed vehicles on the road, costing £193m in lost revenue. Vehicle crime is estimated to cost the economy £3bn each year and accounts for more than a quarter of reported crime. DVLA estimates that the cost of uninsured driving is £500m a year, adding £30 to each honest motorist's annual insurance premium.

To make paying car tax easier, DVLA has been working with the Post Office to extend their licence-issuing service by opening 580 more branches across the country since February last year, making a current total of 4,560 licence-issuing Post Office branches.

Postal applications can be made with appropriate documentation and payment by cheque or postal order and sent to specific Post Office branches, or taken direct to the DVLA Local Offices. The address and telephone number of the nearest DVLA Local Office can be obtained by ringing 0870 2430 444 and stating your postcode.

DVLA is also piloting a new service to enable customers to apply to renew their tax disc or make a Sorn declaration over the internet or by telephone. By 2006, this service should be available for most vehicles.

Mr Mumford said: "The vast majority of motorists do not need to do anything different. The key message is to remember to keep their tax up to date or to make a Sorn declaration, if appropriate."

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