US embassy owes London £14 million in unpaid congestion charge bills

TfL has revealed list of the countries with the biggest congestion charge debts as total bill tops £140 million

Athena Stavrou
Tuesday 21 May 2024 09:54 BST
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Sadiq Khan and TfL owed £143million in Congestion Charge fines from United States, Japan, India and more

Transport for London (TfL) has published a list of outstanding congestion charge debt from the world’s embassies - with the US topping the ranks.

US diplomated have racked up more than £14 million worth of debt since 2003 in a dramatic comparison to Togo, who owe just £40.

TfL published the list on Monday and said some “stubborn” embassies are refusing to pay the charges.

They added that thety are pushing for the matter to be taken up at the International Court of Justice and said: “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.

The US Embassy in Nine Elms
The US Embassy in Nine Elms (Google Maps)

“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.

“We will continue to pursue all unpaid Congestion Charge fees and related penalty charge notices”

The Japanese embassy has the second highest debt at £10.1 million, followed by the high commission of India at £8.6 million. Among all embassies, the total is £143.5 million with India (£8.6m) Nigeria (£8.4m) and China (£7.9m) coming in next on the list.

Meanwhile, Togo diplomats owe the least to TfL with just £40 outstanding on their record.

People took to social media users to express their surprise at the list.

One wrote: “By my count, there are only 40 countries out of all the 193 countries in the world which *don’t* owe TfL money in unpaid congestion charges.”

Some even took it upon themseleves to pay off some of the debt. One Costa Rican residing in London said he would “personally like to pay” for the £160 worth of congestion charges racked up in the last two decades by his fellow Costa Ricans working in the embassy.

The figures relate to unpaid fees and fines accrued by diplomats between the launch of the congestion charge in 2003 and the end of last year.

Diplomats argue the congestion charge is a tax, meaning they are exempt from paying it under the Vienna Convention.

In February 2020, then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab issued a written ministerial statement revealing that his officials have written to “a number of diplomatic missions and international organisations” to “press for payment” of money owed relating to the congestion charge, parking fines and business rates.

The scheme involves a £15 daily fee for driving within an area of central London between 7am and 6pm on weekdays, and between noon and 6pm on weekends and bank holidays.

There are discounts and exemptions for various groups of people and vehicles, such as residents, taxis and fully electric cars.

The Independent has approached the US and Japanese embassy for a comment.

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