Road tax is a term used by car magazines, car manufacturers, newspapers and government websites. However road tax doesn’t exist, it was abolished in 1937. What we have today is a tax on vehicles, not a tax that pays for roads. The term ‘road tax’ is therefore well past its sell-by date and is misleading at best, a mistaken belief in entitlement at worst.
Here at carwow we’re committed to trying to make car research easier and less confusing. So we want to encourage fellow car sites and enthusiasts to stop referring to road tax and instead call it either car tax or its official name, VED (Vehicle Excise Duty).
Winston Churchill started the process to abolish road tax in 1926. He said:
“Entertainments may be taxed; public houses may be taxed; racehorses may be taxed…and the yield devoted to the general revenue. But motorists are to be privileged for all time to have the whole yield of the tax on motors devoted to roads. Obviously this is all nonsense…Such contentions are absurd, and constitute…an outrage upon the sovereignty of Parliament and upon common sense.”
Prior to it finally ending in 1937, vehicles paid into the ‘Road fund’ and this pot of cash helped pay some of the costs of roads. Today, building and maintaining our road network is paid for by national and local taxes.
‘Road tax’, which we’ll now refer to as car tax, is calculated based on the amount of CO2 a vehicle emits. Gas guzzlers pay more than low-emission cars and electric cars. A bicycle is classed as a vehicle in law and if bicycles were to be charged Vehicle Excise Duty they would pay the same as Band A cars: zero.
Cyclists sometimes get abused by motorists who yell that they should “get off the road” as they “don’t pay road tax.” Unfortunately there is plenty of video evidence of angry motorists verbally and physically abusing cyclists for this supposed non-payment even though 2 million motorists don’t pay VED either.
From now on at carwow we’ll only be referring to car tax. We’ve already changed our stats pages for each car, so it now refers to ‘Tax per year’, to avoid all confusion (see our Audi A1 example). We’re not the first car organisation to start using the correct terminology, the AA and Which?Car now also refer to car tax.
So let's all start using the correct terminology and end the confusion once and for all.
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