Tax Disc coming to the end of the road?

That familiar round coloured disc in car windows may soon be a thing of the past, as the government gears up to digitalize the whole road tax process. The paper discs have adored our windscreens for over 90 years, but as we move into an ever increasingly technological world, ministers say they may have to go.

The government insists that by scrapping the paper version they can streamline services and cut costs at the same time. They also want to get rid of the paper part of the driving licence by 2015. At present around 36million vehicles display the road tax disc as proof that they have paid up, however, because of new technology that the police use, they can tell instantly if a car have valid road tax or not.

The police use vehicle recognition software which takes the cars registration number plate, and then uses it to search the DVLA database. If a car has no registered road tax, the software flags this up. The report from Roads Minister Stephen Hammond states: “We will remove the need for unnecessary paper, including abolishing the driving licence counterpart and consider the continuing need for the tax disc.”

But some motoring organisations disagree with the removal of the road tax disc, calling it an unnecessary measure. The AA said that plans to allow drivers to buy a tax disc without showing their insurance certificate are ‘absurd’. The problem with scrapping the road tax disc is that surely people will now have an easier time if they decide not to purchase a valid disc, as the only way they will be found out is if they are stopped by a police car who happens to be conducting vehicle registration updates on the road?

At present, you can be recorded as having no tax disc by parking attendants and traffic wardens, who can clearly see whether you are displaying a disc or not. The government has not revealed plans as to whether these types of public servants will also have access to the DVLA database, and therefore have no need to visibly confirm a tax disc.

Motoring groups said scrapping the tax disc would mark ‘the end of a motoring era’ and would divide opinion among the UK’s 44million drivers, as well as the police. The plan is part of a Government consultation paper published yesterday by the Department for Transport, which looks into reforming the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Driving Standards Agency, the Vehicle Certification Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency.

It comes as a bit of a u-turn from the government as only recently they rejected the idea of scrapping road tax, as they received advice from the police. The report concluded: “The police strongly support the Department’s view that display of a tax disc should remain a legal requirement.” It is thought that with the recent austerity measures however, that cost cutting is high up on the agenda and the tax disc is again at risk.

AA president Edmund King said “traditionalists will mourn the tax disc’s passing” but he added: “Motoring and vehicle information is increasingly going online. The police use number-plate reading camera technology to check car details on their own or on the DVLA’s database.”

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