Owning a car comes with all sorts of responsibilities (and expenses). From servicing and MOTs to trying to find the cheapest car insurance, there’s a lot to consider. Here, comparison site mustard.co.uk, take a look at car tax, who it applies to and what happens if you don’t pay it.
The official name for car tax (road tax) is vehicle excise duty, VED. In the UK, almost all cars that use public roads must pay VED unless they are exempt. If you decide not to drive and can keep your car off public roads, for example, in a garage, on a driveway or private land, you can apply for a statutory off road notification or SORN for short.
If you do this, you’ll automatically be given a refund for any full months of car tax you have left. For instance, if you have three and a half months left, you’ll get a refund on the three months.
Registering for a SORN means you’re taking your car off the road so you won’t be able to drive it, even for a quick errand or an emergency. The only time you can drive a car with a SORN is to a pre-booked MOT (or other testing appointment). Otherwise, if you’re caught driving with a SORN in place, you could be fined up to £2,500 and be taken to court.
The amount of car tax you pay will depend on when your car was first registered and its CO2 emissions. Broadly speaking, the higher the emissions, the more you’ll need to pay in tax.
Tax bands for cars registered on or after 1 April 2017
For these cars, there’s a ‘first-year’ rate which is payable when the car is first registered and a ‘standard rate’ which applies after that.
The first-year rate depends on CO2 emissions while the standard rate is fixed. If your car is classed as an alternative fuel car (a hybrid, bioethanol or LPG car), you’ll pay £10 less per band.
Bear in mind that if your car also has a list price of more than £40,000, you’ll be expected to pay the ‘expensive car supplement’. This is currently £355 and has to be paid in the car’s second year (alongside the standard rate). The supplement has to be paid for five years.
Here’s what the current car tax bands look like:
|CO2 emissions||First-year rate||Standard rate|
Tax bands for cars registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017
Although car tax bands are also based on CO2 emissions, the thresholds for each band are slightly different than they are for newer cars. Alternative fuel cars also pay £10 less per band.
|Band and CO2 emissions||Car tax cost for 12-months|
|A: up to 100g/km||£0|
|M: Over 255g/km||£630|
Tax bands for cars registered before 1 March 2001
Car tax for older cars is based on engine size and there are only two categories:
● Under 1549cc, annual road tax costs £180
● Over 1549cc, annual road tax costs £295
Do you pay car tax on electric cars?
At the moment, electric cars are exempt from car tax but the government has announced this will change in April 2025.
When the rules come into force, EV owners will pay the same first-year rate as the lowest CO2 emission cars, which is currently £10. The standard rate for EVs will be the same as it is for petrol and diesel cars (currently £165).
The new rules will also mean alternative fuel cars will no longer receive the £10 ‘discount’.
If you don’t pay car tax, you can be fined up to £80 (although this is reduced if you pay within 33 days). If you don’t pay the fine, your information can be given to a debt collection agency. In some instances, your car could even be destroyed.
The quickest way to buy car tax is online, simply head to GOV.UK. You can also pay in monthly instalments if you need to spread the cost but this does cost a little more.