For your ease and convenience: car tax

Apparently, the ease and convenience of the online car tax system means that DVLA in 2007 took 25% more online every day than that retail leviathan, Tesco. Apparently:

In July 2007, our Electronic Vehicle Licensing (EVL) service was awarded the Orange Best Use of Technology in Business Award (Wales & West Country) at the National Business Awards.


By August 2007, our Electronic Vehicle Licensing service is estimated to have saved 13,500 tonnes of CO 2 from 48m miles of journeys to the Post Office or local offices to complete an over the counter transaction, this is equivalent to 217 journeys to the moon.

So far, so super.

However, if you have just moved home, sending off your V5C, you cannot use the online service. If you are also about to go on holiday through the end of the month, you don’t have time to wait for the post.

After two phone calls and two trying call-routing menus, I spoke to someone who reminded me that my local post office did not need to see my V5C…  Five minutes and £210 later and I have the necessary disc in my hand.

Two points became clear. First, that for ease and convenience, your local Post Office sometimes cannot be beaten, and secondly real ease and convenience would see car tax abolished.

Imagine the benefits. The driving population would have one fewer thing to do and compliance would increase. The SORN system could go. All VED evasion efforts could be scrapped, avoiding perhaps thousands of inconvenient roadside stops, and preventing cars from being crushed, when we consume and waste so much already. The entire DVLA tax disc department and their systems could be abolished, saving over £134 million plus some proportion of £81 million of enforcement costs. All the journeys to the Post Office to buy car tax would be eliminated. Privacy could be improved by reducing the use of ANPR. And these are merely the immediately obvious benefits.

Now, the argument for car tax is along these lines:

The result of this car tax crackdown operation is great news for road safety in the Preston area. Since car tax can only be purchased with a valid MOT and insurance certificate, it reduces the number of potentially dangerous, untaxed, uninsured and unroadworthy vehicles on the road, helping to make the roads a safer place.

By targeting untaxed vehicles, DVLA is also helping to fight wider vehicle crime. Occupants of untaxed cars are more likely to be involved in criminal activities involving drugs, anti-social behaviour, burglary and violent crime. Therefore, by taking cars away from criminals, they are denied use of the road.

but given the advantages, there are some questions to be asked: “What is the evidence for each of your claims?” would be a start. I note the use of the word “potentially” and see the ice thinning under their feet… In any event, these days, you don’t need to pay an annual tax for insurance and nominal roadworthiness to be checked automatically every year against each vehicle registration.

But what of revenue? Increase fuel duty, less costs saved. It cannot be evaded and it puts the driver in control: greater driving skill means a lower fuel bill and reduced emissions. Sadly, we wouldn’t feel the benefit immediately in our pockets — VED collection costs only about 1% of revenue — but, despite the common attitude of government, the hundreds of millions of pounds add up.

And anyway, am I a DVLA “customer” when I have no choice? And when did tax collection become a “business” in the UK?

Page 26 of the 2007-08 annual report features a picture saying “It’s time to speak out against harassment and bullying!” I agree: let’s abolish car tax.

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