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Sharp rise in number of cars towed blamed on vehicle tax changes

Abolishing the tax disc was meant to make life easier, but a sharp rise in the number of vehicles being clamped or towed suggests motorists are still confused about the new system.

The number of vehicles clamped or impounded has increased from 5,500 to 8,000 per month, while the peak figure was 10,554 in July, according to new figures published a year since the tax disc was abolished.

The confusion stems from the electronic system, which was brought in after 93 years of paper tax discs. Before October 2014, vehicles bought second-hand would have a paper tax disc in the window, which would be valid when the car was sold or ownership transferred.

Now under the same circumstances the tax is non-transferrable regardless of how many months were left, meaning the new owner has to tax the car instantly – even just to drive it away from where it was bought. This is why car adverts no longer mention tax.

A spokesman for the AA said: “The disc was an obvious reminder. It has now gone and we think people might be forgetting.”

When the new system was introduced, there were complaints the government had not done enough to inform motorists of the changes, which lead to a sharp increase in the number of untaxed motorists. Now motoring organisations are calling for a publicity stunt to improve the situation.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) says it sends out a letter to motorists when their tax is due and if the car is untaxed, adding that the “vast majority of people tax their cars on time”.

Not all motorists would agree. Plymouth university student Dylan Casella saw his car towed away and ordered to pay a fine of £242 after his father changed the ownership of the car into his name so he could get a parking permit.

“I didn’t receive anything from the DVLA to say ‘your car is not taxed and you need to renew it’. So as far as I was concerned I thought the tax had carried on and that was that,” Casella told the BBC.

“I had actually gone on holiday to Budapest and returned to find my car had disappeared off the road. I headed home and checked in the post and found a letter from the DVLA to say my car had been towed, and taken up to Reading. And they said I had to come and collect it and pay £242.”

A fine of up to £1,000 can be given to the owner of an untaxed vehicle. It can also be clamped, towed away and, in extreme cases, crushed. An untaxed car can be declared SORN (Statutory Off Road Notice) to be exempt from tax, but it actually has off a public road.

Those unsure if their vehicle is currently taxed and has a MOT can use the DVLA website, simply by inserting the registration number and vehicle make or the V5C document reference found on the reminder letter.

You can read all about the new tax disc system here.

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