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Politics/Current Affairs

2 Million Drivers Not Paying Road Tax

Sunday, January 28th, 2007 at 11:29 by Sue Stewart

According to a report published last week by the Department for Transport, 2,193,000 vehicle owners failed to pay vehicle excise duty (that‚??s Road Tax, to most of us) last year. Much is being made of this figure, which is almost twice as high as it was in 2004. It has, predictably, caused squeals of outrage.

The executive director of the RAC Foundation for Motoring, Edmund King, said: “This is immensely worrying … We need more of a crackdown to bring these motorists to book.” The IAM Motoring Trust‚??s head of road safety, Kevin Delaney, said: “This is lawlessness on a grand scale.”

And what would you do about it, Mr Delaney? “If there were more police officers on the street, those people who might try to get away with it might come to a different conclusion.” Of course, Mr Delaney was head of traffic policing at the Met, once upon a time. Not that I‚??m suggesting he might have an axe to grind, or anything.

I have to agree that those figures are quite alarming. So are the ones indicating that the drivers without road tax are also likely to be without insurance. Those drivers also appear more likely to be involved in accidents, particularly hit and run. None of this is good news and I‚??m not suggesting that it‚??s not a serious concern, but people don‚??t pay their road tax for a number of reasons.

Sometimes we forget, sometimes we won‚??t pay on principle because road tax isn‚??t necessarily spent on the upkeep of our roads, sometimes we simply can‚??t afford it. Sometimes we really don‚??t give a toss, but not always. Yet it now automatically put us among the “motoring underclass who are outside the law. ” (Thanks for that, Edmund King).

So I had a quick peek at the unimaginatively, though accurately, titled report ‚??Vehicle Excise Duty Evasion 2006‚??. It‚??s stodgy stuff. I‚??m not surprised that bite-sized bits of information are taken from it, the bits most likely to titivate and, frankly, alarm. So no-one has pointed out that the statistics aren‚??t definitive. They‚??re estimates.

The estimates are based on information taken at 256 sites across the UK, where around 1.3 million licences were checked. Now, I wouldn‚??t like to check them all personally, but while we‚??re playing the numbers game let‚??s note that‚??s actually less than 20 checks per site per day, given a 52 week year and a 5 day week.

Just sitting next to the nearest dual carriageway, I could note down more than 20 registration numbers in an hour, never mind a day.

The Department for Transport actually admits its figures are open to question. A footnote states: “During 2007 a review of the sources and methodology is planned to identify scope for quality improvements in these statistics… Using the current methodology, these estimates are sensitive to very small changes in the underlying data.” Really? Funny how no-one has pointed that out, either.

The report that‚??s being rolled up and used to amplify the screams for still more policing of motorists is not really about the legality of the vehicles on our roads, or road safety. It‚??s certainly not information for its own sake. It‚??s about revenue.

The report concludes unpaid road tax “will cost around ¬£220 million in the year 2006/07 … equivalent to about 5 per cent of the total revenue that should be raised”. (I really like the use of the word ‚??cost‚?? as though it‚??s money they already have instead of money we‚??re not handing over). Of course, that ¬£220 million is based on the 2.1 million cars with unpaid road tax. Which is based on actual observations of 1.3 million cars. Which is - Total nonsense, by the time you‚??ve finished breaking it all down.

So let me just sum up: On the basis of these figures, two major motoring organisations are asking for more police and a massive crackdown on the motoring population. A crackdown in support of a tax that no-one really wants to pay because it isn‚??t spent on what they want it to be spent on. A call based on figures that are open to question. Figures that if they were absolutely accurate - which they‚??re not - actually suggest that 95% of motorists pay up anyway. Oh yes, police crackdown absolutely justified, then.

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One Comment on “2 Million Drivers Not Paying Road Tax”

  1. theo Says:

    Yet another unsubstantiated claim by the government! The new DVLA computer with its incredible SORN capabilities - bar code system etc has in effect been declared inefficent and all but useless. 2 million cars escaping detection ? That and police incompetence in tracing these missing tax discs suggests something of a con to me - misinformation if you like designed to make us thankful for the incredible surveillence we suffer, that plus the onset of potential satellite tracking makes me feel as if something a hidden agenda is being foisted on an unsuspecting public.

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