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After 93 years in service the car tax disc is to be retired

After 93 years in service the car tax disc is to be retired

The tax disc to show vehicle owners have paid their vehicle excise duty (VED) is soon to be replaced with an electronic system. This was announced by George Osborne in his Autumn Statement – on the 5th of December 2013. Introduced in 1921, the disc is no longer needed according to officials, with the DVLA and police now depending on an electronic register.

The new system will allow motorists to pay road tax by monthly direct debit. According to the Treasury the government was moving "into the modern age" and it would also make "dealing with government more hassle free". Currently, car owners can choose whether they pay VED in twelve or six month instalments. The six monthly option costs 10% more annually, but this is expected to be reduced to 5%. The new option of paying by monthly direct debit is also expected to cost 5% more than paying for twelve months up front.

Anticipated to reduce administration costs and road tax evasion – or accidental non-payment – the new system will arguably add a little present-day convenience for motorists. In this digital age, having to go to collect (or wait to receive by post) a flimsy paper disc which proves duty is paid, to then attach it to a car bristling with modern technology, will seem antiquated to some. Then there is the ritual of fiddling around removing the excess paper beyond the serrations (without tearing the good bit) and slipping it into a feeble tax disc holder, often located at the least accessible corner of the windscreen. And for those with even mild cases of OCD – getting the wretched thing to sit straight!

However, concerns have been raised about possible problems with the new system. How would a driver know at a glance that a hire car or company pool car was taxed? How would anyone easily identify an abandoned car? Will it be simple for a prospective second-hand car buyer to determine how many months (or days!) before the VED paid would expire? Will this new system give further excuse to ramp up already extensive deployment of road surveillance cameras in the UK?

In any case, the new system is expected to come into effect in October this year. Good idea or flawed concept?

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