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If you don’t take or keep your vehicle on public roads, perhaps because it is kept permanently in a garage or on private land, you do not have to pay road tax, or display a tax disc, on it.
However, you can’t just decide to take a car off the roads and stop paying tax on it without informing the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Association (DVLA). Instead, you must register the vehicle as off road by sending in a completed Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).
Otherwise, it could end up costing you very dear. Not only do you risk having to pay an automatic fine of £80, you will also be liable for any tax arrears and could be the subject of a County Court Judgment that will be marked on your credit file and may result in banks and other lenders refusing to take you on as a customer.
Worse still, you will also face a fine of £1,000 or more and could even be prosecuted in the courts.
If you are planning to take a car off the road, the message is therefore clear: fill out a SORN or you might well be sorry you didn’t!
Putting a vehicle back on the road
If you buy a vehicle that has a SORN from its previous owner, that SORN will become invalid immediately and automatically, and you will need to fill in a new SORN under your name.
However, you will need to apply for a new tax disc instead if you want to use a vehicle that has been registered as off road on the public roads again. And you will not be able to take the vehicle on the roads until your new tax disc has arrived.
Off road vehicles and car insurance
As of June 2011, all vehicles registered in the UK must be continuously insured. The only exception to this rule is when the owner has guaranteed that the vehicle never goes on the road by sending a SORN to the DVLA.
The aim of the new car insurance regime is to crack down on uninsured drivers, whose accidents add about £30 a year to the cost of the average car insurance policy.
Failure to abide by the continuous insurance rules, also known as CIE, could result in a court prosecution and a penalty of between £100 and £1,000, as well as your vehicle being wheel-clamped, impounded or even destroyed. These measures are in addition to the powers the police already have to seize an uninsured vehicle and fine its driver.
To avoid being caught out, it is therefore even more crucial to ensure that any cars or other vehicles that you do not use on the roads have valid SORNs. Otherwise, you risk being caught in the net set up by the DVLA and the Motor Insurance Database (MID), which are working together to pinpoint drivers who have not insured their vehicles.