Blog : Taxing times for future classics…

Craig Cheetham

30 days have September, April, June and November - so why are we trusting these people?
30 days have September, April, June and November – so why are we trusting these people? Camera phone spy shot in my local Post Office shows DVLA internal documentation thinks there’s a 31st September!

And so, the time has finally come to remove our hats and bid a sorry farewell to the late, lamented road tax disc.

Since 1921, it has been a legal requirement for motorists to display the often brightly coloured disc in their windscreen to prove they have paid their duties. But now, Big Brother is watching, and that means there’s no need for any of us to have the disc in our windscreen any longer.

Bye bye tax disc...
Bye bye tax disc…

In principle, it’s a pretty straightforward idea and unless you’re a manufacturer of tax disc holders or a useless perforation vendor, it’s not something that’s going to make a huge difference to your daily life. But there is one thing that those who like to dabble in buying and selling may find a bit frustrating.

From 1st October, it’s no longer possible to sell a car with a valid tax disc. Instead, both buyer and seller must notify the DVLA of a change of keeper on the day of sale (sensible, especially given my recent and as yet unconcluded run-ins with the DVLA over a change of keeper issue) and the buyer must tax the car there and then, with the vendor getting a refund for any full months remaining.

It does, of course, mean that any transaction not carried out on the very last day of the month will result in the DVLA receiving two lots of road tax for that particular period, which we’re assured is ‘just the way it is’ and nothing to do with profiteering (don’t get me started, please…).

My fear, though, is for the impact it may have on some of the cars we know and love thanks to the added cash a buyer will need to find on the day of transaction. For example, at present selling a car with a tax disc is something of an incentive to purchase. It doesn’t make a car any cheaper to run, but in the case of a low-value, high-emissions future classic such as my old MG ZS 180, it kicks the can down the road… It will remain £285 a year to tax, but if half of that tax disc is left running it means there’s one less expense for the new buyer to think about straight away. There’s also the simplicity of it all – if a car is taxed then on the day of purchase you simply insure it, fill in the V5 and drive home. That, too, has gone.

No longer a cheap date - the next owner of Craig's old ZS 180 will have to find an extra pot of cash on transaction day...
No longer a cheap date – the next owner of Craig’s old ZS 180 will have to find an extra pot of cash on transaction day…


So, using the ZS 180 as an example, on the day of sale the new owner has to pay out £285, or £156.75 for 6 months (will we, I wonder, still have to pay the 10 per cent ‘admin’ surcharge for six months if we do all the admin work ourselves and don’t need an extra bit of paper?). That’s a minimum of £156.75 on top of a car that’s worth £8-900 tops, or in shabby condition more like £3-400. And if that’s your budget, you need to factor it in straightaway rather than think ‘I can buy the car now, and put fifty quid a month away to buy the tax disc in December’. I’m sure not everyone thinks like that, but there have been times when I most certainly have.

At which point, how many ‘ordinary’ people will decide it’s all too much hassle, and instead put £99 down on a nearly new tin box, and pay £150 a month ad infinitum for the peace of mind of a warranty and a clean dealership? Indeed, can you even blame them?

So will this put some of the cars we know and love on the danger list? Quite probably… It’ll certainly make larger engined Rover 75s, MG ZSs, MG ZTs and most Jaguars and Land Rovers appeal far less, while post-2006 the equation gets even more dangerous, as on high-emissions models the road tax increases to £500 a year. At present, most 2006 cars have sufficient residual value for a one-off £500 hit to be considered part of the cost of ownership, along with £42 a month extra on the cost of ownership – but, give it five or six years, and who will really want a Jaguar XJ X350 if you’re going to have to dig deep just to tax the thing? Beautiful cars, and a tragic waste if most of them fall by the wayside because of punitive tax legislation.

XJR Portolio - once a near-£100k car, but very soon it'll be in the banger car parc - and at risk of road tax-induced early death...
XJR Portolio – once a near-£100k car, but very soon it’ll be in the banger car parc – and at risk of road tax-induced premature death…

Sure, the actual cost of taxing hasn’t changed – I get that. It just becomes a lot more noticeable at the time of transaction, and I, for one, fear it could just about become the tipping point for another wave of cars about to be needlessly scrapped. If you were a dealer, for example, would you want an old Rover 75 hanging around on your forecourt? Especially when you couldn’t even drive it home for the evening – as the new system means all vehicles held ‘in trade’ are officially untaxed. As for what dealers think of the new regime, let’s not even go there…

A thing of the past? Will dealers just give up on the likes of elderly Rover 75s?
A thing of the past? Will dealers just give up on the likes of elderly Rover 75 V6s?


Craig Cheetham


  1. A ridiculous system that only works if you have a grace period allowing you to at least drive the thing back home, it will hit values hard as you suggest, especially on a car where the tax is more than half of the purchase cost again. It forces the issue to CO2 to the front of the buyers mind, irrespective of the environmental cost of building a new car instead.

  2. Oh, for heaven’s sake, just scrap this archaic tax altogether and put the net shortfall (i.e. the gross shortfall minus the gargantuan cost of administering this half-baked system) on fuel.

    The result: zero evasion, both UK- and foreign-registered vehicles pay, one less tax to administer, the police are freed up to handle more important ‘crimes’ and it’s scrupulously fair – the more you drive, the more you chew up the roads and therefore the more you pay.

    Trouble is, no government has had the ‘cojones’ to do this as it would put half of South Wales on the dole – with little chance of finding alternative employment for people who don’t even know how many days there are in September…

  3. I hope dealers do give up on used 75’s – leave them to be sold in the private sector rather than by optomistic buffons who think they are worth top brass – theyre NOT.

    They still make for a great used buy, but only for the right money and from the right owner!

    • That topic is worthy of an entire blog post on its own! There are a lot of nice (but not concours) 75s in the classifieds that are advertised for more than a similar age 5-series or Jag S-type. Way too much for a car with no manufacturer support, no official dealer network and a somewhat confused brand image.

      Like you, I think the 75 and ZT are good cars, but they are seriously overpriced by some dealers, preying on brand-loyal Rover buyers who won’t consider any alternatives.

    • France scrapped a similar system (for private cars) in 2000 – I still have my last “vignette” somewhere.

      The system was even worse in France in that all discs were valid from 1st Jan to 31st December, prompting huge queues and general b#ggeration in post offices and newsagents throughout the month of December.

      The French were delighted to see the back of it. Rumours that the useless Francois Hollande will bring it back are (so far, at least) unfounded.

      • IIRC the traditonal system for taxing cars in France was by engine size, with the Citroen 2CV being in the 2nd lowest band.

      • Yes, France does not have a road tax anymore, but they used to have one based on the power output of the car – not the engine size. This could result in a change of taxation group with a different final drive….

  4. My mother (now 93) was always very strict on moral teaching. She frequently looked daggers at my paternal grandfather when he undermined her teaching during a Sunday lunch visit. I remember him saying that he sometimes soaked the label off a suitable beer bottle and put it in his windscreen…….

  5. Its car tax or vehicle excise duty, not road tax. Roads spending comes mostly from council tax and general taxation.

    I agree the new system is blind profiteering. I’m also in the camp for abolishing car tax in exchange for a couple of pence on a litre. The road haulage and other businesses doing high travel mileages would object though so its possibly a non-starter.

    I would like to see air travel taxed at a similar level to other travel forms according to its environmental impact, but airlines contribute far too much to the political parties for that to happen.

  6. Abolition of the paper disc will solve a significant theft problem, motorcyclists will know the situation, with a motorcycle it is very hard to make the tax disc thief-proof and still comply with regulations as to display and visibility.

  7. I did read they were disc as it was easy in the past to put them in screw tight holders to keep the rain off them.

    • The system hasn’t failed. The website is overloaded and there are massive queues at post offices because people were too lazy to tax their cars 2 weeks ago like I did, with no problems. I opened the reminder and a few minutes later my Mini was taxed for another year.

  8. NI motorists still require the MOT disc to be visible – some reprieve for tax disc holder factories!

    However with the merging of the system with DVLA Swansea, NI Insurance details cannot be looked up online for some reason, therefore NI motorists need to wait until the post office opens before they can tax the car!
    Shall make weekend banger purchases a bit tricky!

  9. There’s probably a gap in the market now for period tax discs to be shown in the windscreens of vintage cars..

  10. Some fun tax disc “facts”

    As of today, 1 October, the tax disc is no more. To mark the end of its 93 year reign, Sniff Petrol shares 11 amazing things you may not know about the slightly torn paper circle in your windscreen.

    1. The tax disc was invented by Jacques Sdisque, a French immigrant who created a machine for putting untearable perforations into paper.

    2. Original tax discs were valid for 28 months, which was also the amount of time it took to queue up in the Post Office to buy one.

    3. From 1931 until 1940, the first Monday of September was ‘Tax Disc Day’, a public holiday in which the people of Britain stayed home, slowly trying to tear out their tax discs without ripping them.

    4. Between 1941 and 1947, tax discs were also a type of food. ‘When the disc expired, it could feed a family of six,’ remembers 85-year-old Edna Creesp. ‘Red was strawberry flavour’.

    5. In 1958, British singer Kenny Speckle had a hit parade smash with his song, It Took So Long You Left Me which was about trying to remove a tax disc from its paper surround. Other songs about tax discs include Rip It Up by Orange Juice and Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn.

    6. Between 1967 and 1969 the DVLA issued thousands of tax discs accidentally soaked in LSD. Addressing the matter, junior transport minister Anthony Rung screamed ‘PURPLE SPIDER ATTACK!’ and then hid in a cupboard.

    7. A 1977 government pamphlet inadvertently suggested that displaying a tax disc entitled moped owners to ‘ride like utter bellends’. The Department of Transport swiftly rescinded this advice but unfortunately no one heard them.

    8. In 1984 there was musical controversy as Frankie Goes To Hollywood released a single with the provocative anti-payment chorus, ‘Car tax / Don’t do it’. Under pressure from the government, the lyrics were eventually changed so they were about shagging.

    9. The death of the tax disc also means the death of the tax disc holder, long considered a way for large main dealer groups to advertise themselves to people already inside the car the company sold them. ‘It’s a sad day,’ said the marketing director of one national dealer conglomerate. ‘We’ll have to find somewhere else to write our idiotic and meaningless slogan about putting customers first.’

    10. The aftermarket tax disc holder was a popular method for motorists to express their individuality. For example, a silver metal holder with fake Allen bolts on it was an unbeatable way of indicating you were a weasel-faced tit with a badly modified Saxo.

    11. This year’s end-of-the-line tax discs will be highly sought after by tax disc collectors. If you want to keep yours safe from such people, remove it from your car and hide it in a place where they can’t go, such as a room with girls in it or within 50 yards of a school.

  11. Think of this scenario..

    Some dodgy bloke does not want to insure/Tax/MOT his car, goes on Ebay/Autotrader and finds the same car same colour etc. Gets a set of number plates made up with `Doner` number then can drive about safe in the knowledge he will not get stopped by the police because the APRN system says the car is ok.

  12. Since this new, ‘efficient’ system kicked in the DVLA’s original vehicle enquiry service has been ‘currently unavailable’ so you cannot check out the status of any vehicle you might be thinking of buying (tax expiry, date first registered, whether or not on SORN, unlicensed or subject to a VIC marker). The new ‘BETA’ system has to be used which requires the 16 digit number from the renewal notice or the 11 digit number from the V5C, neither of which you will know! Typical 21st century scenario of meddling, interfering civil servants (whose wages we all pay) making life as awkward and complicated as possible for the vast majority of us law abiding citizens, then hitting us with hefty fines and convictions when we fall foul of ‘the rules’. No use going to your local DVLA office for help either because as we all know they were closed down in the name of ‘efficiency’ a few months ago! Best advice should be get some non UK plates fitted then drive merrily around to your heart’s content and let ANPR stick the fine where the sun doesn’t shine!

    • Not so. If you use the “vehicle enquiry” facility on the new site it will give both the road tax and mot status of the car , by entering the registration number and the make . That, of course, assumes that the DVLA records have the car on the database , and one of my cars is still not on it even though I have had it for 3 years !

  13. The real issue is non-insured cars on the road, not non-taxed cars. So the tax gathering should be co-ordinated with the purchase of an insurance policy – seemplies !

  14. Another thought… shouldn’t we differentiate between bangers and future classics in regards to the effect of the changes to road tax renewals ?

    In my view, a ‘banger’ is a cheap daily driver that’s already on the slippery slope to the scrap heap, and there is no wider public interest in keeping that specific car on the road another year or two. If it means they get scrapped this year rather than next then is it so bad ? One more potentially unsafe and poorly maintained car off the road.

    A ‘future classic’ is a good example of its type, probably low mileage and largely original, and has the potential to be maintained and preserved by an enthusiastic owner going forwards.

    These are far less likely to be affected by the tax renewal change – although I concede that inevitable some will.

  15. ANPR cameras just do not work. I work in an independant garage and we are constantly getting cars presented to us for MOT to discover that the previous certificate expired months ago! These wonderful ANPR cameras haven’t caught these cars driving around without current MOT.
    Usually we find that we have a mad rush for MOT’s at the end of the calendar month as the customer “needs the MOT because I’ve got to tak the car at the end of the month” (irrespective of WHEN the last MOT expired).
    At the end of last month we realised that our MOT takings were nearly £900.00 down on the same month last year, there vwill be other reasons to explain this, but I wonder how many people didn’t bother to have their cars MOT’d because, now they don’t need to display a tax disc, they’re not going to bother with that either?

  16. Can somebody explain what will happen about pre registered cars that the dealers meet their sales targets with. Will this be the end of them from a cost point of view as I assume they will now have cash in (and lose)money on the VED when a punter buys one of them. this will also inconvenience said punter who will have to buy vehicle and then tax it.

    • Well, 5 years after this debate, wouldn’t it be interesting to have a update on the impact this measure really has had on the second hand car market? Has it been so dramatic as forecast ?

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