The number of untaxed vehicles on the UK’s roads has jumped by 85,000 in the last two years.
The latest data from the Department for Transport (DfT) shows that an estimated 719,000 vehicles, excluding motorbikes, are now being used without vehicle excise duty (VED) - commonly known as car tax - being paid.
Drivers failing to tax their vehicles is expected to cost the Treasury £119 million in lost revenue in 2021, up from £35m in 2014 when the paper tax disc was abolished.
At the time, the Government said scrapping the tax disc would eventually save the DVLA £7m per year. The agency said that some of that estimated lost revenue would be recouped through fines or drivers paying for their tax late.
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The new figures from the DfT have prompted calls for the DVLA, which oversees vehicle taxation, to step up its enforcement.
Driving a vehicle without tax usually carries a fine of £80, although the maximum punishment is a £1,000 fine. The DVLA can also clamp and seize untaxed vehicles, which brings extra fees to release the vehicle.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “It’s hugely concerning that we’re seeing ever greater numbers of unlicensed vehicles on the roads with the total number now standing at nearly three-quarters of a million.
“While we’d like to think the abolition of the paper tax disc back in 2014 isn’t responsible, the fact remains evasion has increased significantly since then to the point where a shocking two in every 100 vehicles on the road aren’t taxed.”
The DfT figures show that almost half (45%) of untaxed vehicles have been so for at least two months, suggesting that many drivers are deliberately avoiding paying tax rather than simply forgetting to renew it.
AA head of roads policy Jack Cousens said economic pressures could be behind some drivers’ attempts to avoid paying tax.
He commetned: “High inflation, particularly with pump prices that refuse to drop despite big falls in the wholesale cost, always pressure many low-income drivers to run the gauntlet and not pay their tax.
“It is foolish for them to chance their arms because the penalties are severe, even potentially having the car crushed.”
DVLA chief executive Julie Lennard said the agency was working to catch tax dodgers.
She said: “We work hard to drive down vehicle tax evasion and the vast majority of motorists are doing the right thing, with over 98% of vehicles on the road taxed correctly.
“Estimated evasion rates fluctuate and the pandemic is highly likely to have impacted some motorists’ behaviours. Those who choose to evade will be tackled using our proven package of comprehensive enforcement measures.
“These include penalties and court prosecutions through to the use of automatic number plate recognition cameras, wheel clamping and the removal of untaxed vehicles.”