Vehicle tax change brings down DVLA website

Updated: 
Tax disc axe will spark avoidance
Stefan Rousseau/PA WIRE

Thousands of motorists have been unable to buy vehicle tax, after a deluge of visitors to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) homepage brought the website to its knees.

Yesterday saw a switch from paper based tax discs to a wholly online system, bringing an end to 93 years of vehicles with proof of tax displayed in their windscreen.

However, the switchover wasn't without problems, with the website crash leaving many motorists waiting for hours before it came back online.

The DVLA said: "We are currently experiencing high volumes of traffic to our online vehicle tax service please keep trying. Sorry for the inconvenience."

Unsurprisingly, the situation was not well received by motorists, many of whom took to social media to vent their frustration.

The DVLA said it received over 6,000 applications for vehicle tax every minute through its website the night before the switchover, with a massive increase after midnight. Around 270,000 were successfully able to complete the transaction.

However, both MPs and motoring organisations were critical of the debacle. Edmund King, president of the AA, said: "We've had a number of our members coming on to us say that the DVLA car-tax site has crashed. It's a bit ironic in this digital age that the site goes down on the first day of the electronic system coming into being," the Telegraph reports.

Mary Creagh MP, Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, took the opportunity to criticise her opposite numbers: "Despite months of warning, Ministers have failed to prepare properly for today's digital switch. Websites and phone lines have been overwhelmed, leaving motorists unable to renew their car tax. Ministers need to get a grip and ensure these new online services work for the public."

Changes to the vehicle tax system mean that driver no longer have to display a paper tax disc on their windscreen. Instead, the police and other authorities can check a car's tax status against a central database – a system that has already been in place for a number of years.

Tax can still be bought at post offices as well as online. Those caught using a vehicle without valid tax are liable to pay a £1,000 fine.

The Government claims the change to a computer based system will eventually save the DVLA around £7million each year.

However, the RAC has is concerned that a lack of a tax disc as proof of purchase could lead to greater numbers of drivers failing to pay. It estimates the annual loss to the country's coffers could be as high as £167million a year – a figure the DVLA refutes.

Have you had problems buying vehicle tax online since the switch to the new system? Have your say in the comments section below.