Guide to navigating car tax rules during the Covid-19 outbreak

23 Jun, 2020

The DVLA recently announced an exemption for all vehicles whose MOT ran out after 30th March 2020 for a 6 month period to help the spread of Covid-19.

This has led to much conversation surrounding what exactly you should be paying for while lockdown is still enforced, with people questioning whether they still would need to pay their annual road tax to keep your car on the road.

So, we have made a comprehensive guide to help you understand car tax and how it’s affected by Covid-19.

What is car tax?

Simply explained, car tax is a payment each and every driver needs to make to both use and park on UK roads – even off-road.

The amount payable to the DVLA for your car tax will be determined by a number of factors (vehicle age, list price and CO2 emissions).

This is a payment, which is legally required for all UK drivers and their vehicles – you also need to tax your car even if there is no fee, or you are exempt.

Failing to tax your vehicle (unless SORN – we will get to this later) in all cases will result in an automatic £80 fine from the DVLA (Reduced by 50% if you pay within 28 days). A fee which could increase to £1000 following failure to pay the fine, and a clamp attached to your car.

If you choose to drive, despite not having tax, and are caught by the police (who use ANPR technology) you could be handed a fixed-penalty-notice of up to £1000.

Please do note that there have recent changes to how car tax is calculated.

What update is there for personal car tax whilst in ‘lockdown’?

Government guidelines have not changed surrounding car tax under the current lockdown measures – meaning drivers across the UK will be required to ensure they keep their car tax up-to-date to stay on the roads.

Many people will be questioning exactly why MOT’s are exempt, but not car tax. But the answer is simple – safety. In line with the Government advice, people should stay at home wherever possible; but the process involved in inspecting your vehicle to see whether it meets the exacting standards of the MOT test involves a number of people – all of whom have to work in close proximity with one another, who could potentially spread Covid-19 to you.

We presume it was a measure put in place to halt the spread of this potentially deadly virus, and protect our emergency services.

Check out our blog for more information about MOT extensions.

The typical taxing of your vehicle differs dramatically and remains very simple, and has very little human interaction – most of the process is automated and can be completed on their website or via post.

But do you need to pay car tax in every situation – what about if you haven’t used your car since lockdown has begun?

Will you need car tax if you choose not to drive your car?

Yes – each car which remains on the road must be taxed, even in spite of the recent Covid-19 outbreak, there are no exemptions granted for any driver. Some vehicles and drivers are exempt from paying for the road tax, but they still need to record the vehicle as being taxed.

Unfortunately, vehicle tax is not calculated on usage of your car, so whether you choose to drive every day or drive every so often, your car needs to have valid vehicle tax.

However, the option to voluntarily take your car off the road remains open for you; if you have a garage or personal driveway you may take out a ‘Statutory Off Road Notification’ (SORN) – we will come to this later.

Can you tax your car if your MOT is overdue?

Usually, it would be impossible to tax your car without a valid MOT certification – but since we are unable to get an MOT completed for 6 months, where does that leave drivers? Does this mean you are not able to drive for a considerable amount of time has passed?

No! Luckily, if your MOT has been extended you can still tax your car as you usually would. The only exemption would be if your car has been declared ‘off-the-road’ (SORN).

According to Government guidance ‘if your MOT was originally due in the same month as your vehicle tax and is being extended because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you cannot tax your vehicle until the extension has been applied. This is normally 3 days before your MOT is due to expire’.

How should you tax your car?

The process for taxing your vehicle remains the same, despite the outbreak of Covid-19 and can be completed via the DVLA. As mentioned earlier in this guide – the tax can be submitted via post or on the DVLA’s official website.

Click here to start your car tax registration, or renew your current tax.

But under what circumstances do you not have to pay the tax?

Are you able to delay payments?

With an uncertain financial future, you may be thinking of deferring your payment, but is this possible?

Unfortunately not.

To drive your car on UK roads, you will need to have taxed your vehicle by the expiry date – a letter is often sent to your residence with relevant details on. Alternatively, you can check your car tax expiry date online.

If you do not make this payment you could be fined and your car seized. But do not fret, the DVLA does offer the ability to spread payments, to help ease the financial burdens – you can opt-in for direct debits when you come to pay it.

But what are your options if you cannot afford your car tax?

What if you can’t afford car tax?

Unfortunately, if you cannot afford car tax, then you will be unable to keep your car on the road.

One option would be to inform the DVLA that you would like to start the process of completing a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) – a declaration that you no longer wish for your car to be on the road.

This does have some benefits, mainly in the refund you will receive for any full months of tax remaining on your car – but you will not, under any circumstances, be able to drive your car on the road until you tax your car once again.

It may be a viable option for some people, but please do note that leaving a car idle for a prolonged period of time can be damaging to the car itself. Also, some insurance providers may not cover you, so double-check your policy – otherwise, you could be paying a pretty penny if your car is stolen or damaged.

Therefore, we recommend weighing up the positives and negatives to understand whether this decision makes sense for your personal situation.

For more information on how to make a SORN and the laws around it, click here.

If you wish to drive your car in the future, then you will have to tax your car once again – or face a prosecution or a fine, which can be up to £2,500, if you decide to use it on the road for any other reason than travelling to a pre-booked MOT test.

While certain aspects of society have been paused during the current lockdown in the UK – much of it is still operating as normal, and this includes your road tax.

This guide should help you understand what you need to do to keep your vehicle on the road – even if you are using it a little less than you normally would be.

Having a valid road tax remains a legal requirement for every driver and their vehicle if they choose to keep it on UK roads (even parked on the kerb-side). Failing to do so may result in your car being seized and crushed – unless you choose to voluntarily take your car off the roads (SORN).

So make sure you understand the rules, and remember to drive safe.