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UK Road Tax disc to be scrapped after 93 years | by brizzle born and bred
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UK Road Tax disc to be scrapped after 93 years

It’s the end of the road for the tax disc, but motorists will soon be able to tax their car by monthly instalments instead


1921: Tax disc is first used


1935: Driving test introduced


1960: MOT introduced


1974: DVLA opens


1996: Driving theory test introduced


2004: Online car tax service introduced


2014: Tax disc abolished


Over 1.7billion tax discs have been issued since 1921 – if they were put in a line, they would go around the world three times.


Last year, the DVLA issued 42.2million tax discs weighing over 72 tonnes – that’s heavier than a Challenger 2 tank.


In the UK, the vehicle licence, which is more commonly known as a tax disc, comes in the form of a paper disc three inches in diameter to be displayed on the vehicle, and is evidence that the necessary vehicle excise duty has been paid for the specific vehicle. It should be placed on the left side of the windscreen if it is a four wheeled vehicle, but if it is a two wheeled vehicle then it should be placed in a holder fixed onto the bodywork.


The vehicle excise duty was introduced in 1889, and since 1920 it must be evidenced by the display of a tax disc. This paper tax disc is scheduled to be phased out and replaced by an electronic system from October 2014.


The Acts of 1919 and 20, laid down the specifications for the first Tax Discs and exactly how they should be displayed - by using a holder that shall be circular. It was defined as proof of payment of the Road Fund Licence and thus the Tax Disc as we know it today was born.


For the years the years 1921 and 1922, Tax Discs were by today's standards quite basic: plain grey paper, black ink with simple instructions on the reverse - sometimes even advertisements - and no perforations.


The first Tax Disc that was perforated was for 1938. By then, the yearly coloured stripe was diagonal.


Just before WW2, an entirely new Tax Disc appeared, both in annual and quarterly forms: the Farmer's Disc. The first years of these had a totally different design, including a large outline 'F'. They intended solely for the use of agricultural vehicles, both tractors and goods.


From the start in 1921, the four symbols of the United Kingdom, the Thistle, Shamrock, Daffodil and Rose, appeared on the face of the Tax Disc, as well as the corners of the counterfoil. These symbols lasted as a feature of the Tax Disc until 1951, when they were removed to make way for a bolder expiry date.


Big changes to all aspects of the Tax Disc and its administration occurred in 1961. In a major effort to make life harder for the forger, a new design consisting of various circular vignettes and bands of solid colour, plus a half-tone background was launched. ( Figure 7 ) Artwork, however was not the only big change. Monthly taxation was finally introduced to get away from the bottleneck of the December 31st expiry. From January onwards in 1961, one could buy twelve month's car tax at any time, the Tax Disc you received having January, February, March etc of the following year as the expiry. In addition, the quarterly Tax Disc disappeared totally as a separate design and four-monthly taxation replaced it. However, the Tax Disc design allowed the issuing clerk to write in '4 months' on to a standard design Disc. The farmer's Disc still survived these changes but was simply hand-stamped with a black 'F' on the left of the Tax Disc.


This well-known design accompanied many big changes -annual taxation from any month in the year being the most significant. This is the second year of this design - the infamous Guinness Disc.


The attempt to beat the forgers proved to be a little off target. The years of 1961 and 1962 were to the less scrupulous, relatively easy to 'amend' to their own advantage - Guinness bottle labels being used to evade payment! Consequently, in 1963, an additional expiry date, printed in a light tint on the lower half of the disc was added and Anti Forger Tax Discquickly put an end to this practice. This defined the design of the Tax Disc for the next fifteen years until May 1978. During this time, the Tax Disc continued to change colour with each year ( not monthly, as many believe), in the sequence blue, brown, green, and red.


In response to the supposedly widespread fraud allowed by the Guinness Tax Disc of '62, the expiry date was duplicated in the toned area of the design from 1963 onwards.


During the postal strikes that occurred between 1971-75, there were 'emergency' Tax Discs in either pink or yellow, hand-stamped and hand-written.


Another seismic shift in Tax Disc history was brought in by the government in 1974 - the advent of the DLVC or Driving Licence and Vehicle Centre, known to all now as 'Swansea'. This new national system of driver and vehicle registration, computer-based, took on all the responsibilities previously the domain of the County Licencing Offices. From this point, the Counties ceased to have any responsibility to keep records of drivers or vehicles, or for the issuing of Tax Discs. Swansea and its 81 regional offices took over entirely.


In Northern Ireland, vehicles over 4 years old require a similar format 'disc' from the DVA run MOT test centres to show roadworthiness.


In some countries, like Norway, the owner annually used to get a sticker to place on the registration plate, if the vehicle is permitted for driving. In the United States and Canada, an annual or biennial sticker is usually applied to the licence plate, with a few exceptions. For example, the District of Columbia and a few U.S. states use windscreen stickers, and some U.S. and Canadian jurisdictions issue permanent fleet licence plates. Also, some U.S. states, such as Virginia, require that a motorist obtain a vehicle licence from the city, county, or town government in addition to registering the vehicle with the appropriate agency of the state government.


Drivers warned to brush up on new road tax rules or face £1,000 fine as the disc disappears from windscreens in October


End to practice whereby car sellers include remaining tax in sale


Drivers will no longer need a tax disc from October


Onus is on the seller to inform the DVLA of ownership change


The death of the tax disc has been well documented. This is Money revealed the Government was plotting its demise back in 2012 and the change was officially announced in last year’s Autumn Statement.


Yet experts at say many drivers are likely to get caught out and now realise that the end of the tax disc will also see a tightening of enforcement.


From 1 October 2014, the Driving Vehicle and Licensing Agency will stop issuing paper tax discs and instead make the system digital. Drivers will instead have the option to pay via Direct Debit or via the Post Office.


Car owners still need to have paid vehicle tax to drive or keep a vehicle on the road, but police cameras will automatically check a car’s number plate to establish if this has been paid.


The move away from paper discs will save motorists money on postage and will offer more flexible payment options, while it will also make it harder for tax dodgers to drive untaxed. Estimates show it will save the taxpayer £10million every year.


It spells the end of the iconic tax disc, which first appeared in 1921.


The new rules also reinforce the onus on used car sellers to inform the DVLA of the change of ownership. HPI provider,, warns those caught unaware could face fines and charges.


This means for used car buyers, the vehicle tax will no longer be transferred while those selling can claw back unused tax.


Shane Teskey, senior consumer services manager at, said: ‘Sellers who fail to inform the DVLA, could be fined and they will still be liable for any speeding or parking fines and vehicle tax for a car they don’t even own any more.


‘We remind sellers to always send the V5C to the DVLA, rather than relying on the buyer to do it. And if they scrap a vehicle, they should get a Certificate of Destruction from an authorised treatment facility.’


The DVLA said it is important to notify it straight away of a change to ownership, otherwise the registered keeper could still be liable for the vehicle.


This means that those who sell their car need to get forms filled in and sent off straight away rather than leaving them sat around.


Failure to do so can also result in a £1,000 fine.


Shane added: ‘We’re hoping that the new DVLA initiatives will make it harder for dodgy drivers to head out on the road untaxed.


‘It’s easy to check if your vehicle is taxed by heading online at the Vehicle Enquiry Service, making this the first step for anyone planning to sell their vehicle and avoid the risk of fines.’

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Taken on August 13, 2014