New vehicle tax rules: what you need to know

Car tax disc
Stefan Rousseau/PA WIRE

As you may have heard (or may not, according to new research) the way vehicles are taxed in the UK is changing. From October 1, the 93-year-old practice of displaying a paper tax disc in a car's windscreen will come to an end, with the government claiming the new online process will make it easier for drivers with its wider choice of payment options.

Unfortunately, the abolition of paper tax discs doesn't mean you simply won't have to pay tax anymore. Any vehicle to be used on the public highway will need taxation in the same way as before. Drivers will be able to purchase vehicle tax in the manner they have done previously, with the most common methods being online or through the Post Office.

The current vehicle tax bands, which are based on CO2 emissions, will remain the same...for now at least, though one benefit is the new option to pay for tax via direct debit – a move that is likely to ease the burden of an annual lump sum, or the cost inefficiency of paying for six month's coverage at a time, despite a five per cent charge being levied. Direct debits will remain in place as long as there is a valid MOT for the vehicle.

One intended measure of the new system is to make it harder for people to avoid buying vehicle tax, with the police no longer having to rely on a visual check of a displayed tax disc, but rather letting computers take the strain in the form of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras, which will automatically and instantly check your registration against the database of taxed vehicles.

Simon Best, IAM chief executive, said: "As with all new systems, it will take a little time to get used to. But the move to allow people to set up a direct debit will mean greater peace of mind for many, so your vehicle will never be untaxed."

Another significant change will affect those buying and selling vehicles. Where before, anyone buying a second hand car would benefit from the balance of its tax disc, under the new system tax will not be transferrable. This means the new owner will need to buy tax on the day of purchase should they want to drive it straight away, while sellers need to inform the DVLA immediately of a change of ownership, to avoid remaining liable for the vehicle's taxation and any fines that may arise.

For further information, you can browse official government advice on the new vehicle tax system here.