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The vehicle licence (tax disc) explained
Any vehicle used or kept on a public road in the United Kingdom is required, by law, to display a valid vehicle tax disc. A tax disc (also referred to as a vehicle licence or car tax) shows that you have paid the necessary vehicle tax (or vehicle excise duty) for your vehicle.
The purpose of vehicle tax
The tax disc is the first indicator to the police that the vehicle:
- has the necessary test certificate (MOT)
- is covered by third party insurance
- vehicle tax has been paid
It also gives the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) the opportunity to check that the details shown on the vehicle register are up to date and accurate when the vehicle is re-taxed.
How long does a tax disc run for
A tax disc usually runs for 12 calendar months beginning on the first day of the month in which it was taken out. However, where the cost of vehicle tax exceeds £50, a six months tax disc can be purchased. If you are registering the vehicle for the first time in Great Britain, you can tax it for part of the month in which it is first registered, plus six or twelve months after that.
Spreading the cost of paying for a vehicle tax disc
You can purchase Post Office® savings stamps costing £5.00 each if you want to spread the cost of your vehicle tax. You should attach the stamps to a P6386 Post Office® savings stamps collector card (or P6386W in Wales). The stamps and collector cards are available from all Post Office® branches. You can use these stamps as full or part payment of your vehicle tax at a vehicle licence issuing Post Office® branch. Post Office® saving stamps can not be used at a DVLA local office or refunded at DVLA.
On 31 March 2005, DVLA Motor Vehicle Licence (MVL) savings stamps were withdrawn from sale. Any stamps you have already purchased and attached to the V218 Vehicle Licence stamps savings card (or V218W in Wales), can be used to buy your vehicle tax disc at vehicle licence issuing Post Office® branches until 31 March 2006. After this date any DVLA MVL stamps that you hold can only be used at a DVLA local office or refunded at DVLA Swansea.
Until 31 March 2006, you may use a mixture of both DVLA MVL stamps and Post Office® savings stamps to buy your tax disc at a vehicle licence issuing Post Office® branch but you must not mix both types of stamps on the same card.
Exemptions from paying vehicle tax
Certain vehicles are exempt from paying vehicle tax, however, they are still required to be taxed annually and are issued with a free tax disc.
When and where to display the disc
A vehicle tax disc shows the registration number and the date up to which you have paid vehicle tax. It comes into force on the day it is issued. But, if you apply for a tax disc in advance, it comes into force on the first day of the following month and you should not display it on your vehicle until then. You must display this disc on the left-hand side of the vehicle's windscreen. If the vehicle does not have a windscreen fitted, you will need to display the disc on the passenger side. For motorcycles, the tax disc should be displayed on the near-side of the bike. If a side car is fitted to the motorcycle, then the tax disc must be displayed on the near-side of the handlebars or on the near-side of the side car.
Using a vehicle on a public road without displaying a tax disc
If a vehicle is used or kept on a public road it must display a valid tax disc. However, there is one exception. You can drive an untaxed vehicle on a public road to and from a pre-arranged:
- MOT testing station
- VIC testing station
- an approved vehicle weight testing station which covers design weight
- certificate or plated revenue weight
- reduced pollution test
Can I transfer a tax disc from one vehicle to another?
No, once a tax disc is issued to a vehicle, it cannot be transferred to another.
Can I tax my Northern Ireland registered vehicle in Great Britain?
A tax disc cannot be issued in Great Britain for a vehicle that is registered in Northern Ireland, unless the vehicle is to be registered in Great Britain.
Can I claim a refund on my tax disc if I take my vehicle off the road or sell it?
Yes, you can claim a refund of the vehicle tax for complete calendar months you have left to run on your tax disc. The following link gives details on how to apply for a refund.