End of the road for tax dodgers
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Road haulage firms that fail to tax their vehicles, either through forgetfulness or by deliberate policy, are about to have their mistakes and illjudged economising brought to an abrupt and possibly expensive halt...
Under new provisions making amendments to the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, which are due to come into force from 1 February 1998, tax dodgers risk prosecution and fines of up to £1,000 or five times the annual rate of duty for the vehicle, whichever is the greater.
• ROAD HAULIERS Road hauliers risk losing their 0-licences for failing to tax vehicles. At many public inquiries Traffic Commissioners surprise errant operators by questioning them about untaxed vehicles, and penalise them accordingly.
Also, international hauliers who try to compensate for the cost of vignettes purchased for European transit by not paying UK road tax, risk prosecution by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) as well as a penalty imposed by the Traffic Commissioner. There is no quid-pro-quo between Euro-vignettes and UK vehicle excise duty.
• OFF-ROAD As part of the Government's latest initiative to recover the estimated £175m lost each year to road tax evasion, the regulations will introduce a scheme requiring registered vehicle keepers to notify the DVLA whenever a vehicle is off the road untaxed. By law, vehicle keepers will have to provide a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN) when declaring to the DVLA that the vehicle is not being used and is not being kept on a public road—and is therefore not liable to vehicle excise duty. In the majority of cases this declaration will be made in a panel on the newstyle tax renewal reminder/licence application (form V11) issued by the DVLA.
Hauliers who attempt to avoid paying tax by making a false "offroad" declaration under the new scheme will face prosecution and a maximum fine of £5,000 or two years' imprisonment on conviction.
According to the DVLA's head of operations, Richard Verge, introduction of the new SORN procedure will significantly reduce the opportunity for tax dodgers to evade vehicle excise duty. But he stresses that law-abiding operators need have no fear of the new regulations; only those who attempt to avoid compliance will be targeted.
"The new SORN arrangements will ensure that those who previously evaded paying road tax will not be allowed to get away with it any more," Verge adds. "It will make a significant contribution to reducing the overall tax burden that is carried by those who pay in full."
• DVLA MOVES The SORN initiative is part of an intensive DVLA programme which includes wheel clamping, the use of camera technology and the new three-part vehicle registration document to improve the accuracy of information held at the DVLA.
Together, these elements provide an integrated and effective approach to identifying tax evaders, deterring the practice and punishing offenders.