Avoiding tax on unused vehicles

You may be wondering what you can do if you do not plan on making use of your vehicle, but still wish to keep it. Must you still pay car tax, or is there another way? The answer is that you will need to submit a SORN – a Statutory Off Road Notification – to the DVLA, in order to let them know about the situation regarding your vehicle.

Your vehicle can be subject to a SORN if it is not being driven on public roads and is not parked upon them. It allows you to keep a car in storage without having to pay for a tax disc. The vehicle must remain within Great Britain if you wish to place a SORN upon it.

Applying for a SORN

Only the vehicle’s registered keeper may apply for SORN status. If you have purchased a SORNed vehicle from another individual, you will need to reapply for it to continue – once you purchase it from the previous owner, the SORN ceases to be.

In order to apply for a SORN, you will need your V5C registration certificate, or the V11 or V81/1 reminder form, as the relevant reference number will be required.

You may apply by phone or by post, although if you have not yet registered as the owner of the vehicle, the phone option is not on the table and you will be required to apply by post, as you can thereby submit your application for vehicle registration along with the completed SORN paperwork. Additionally, if you have only recently registered as the vehicle’s owner – ‘recently’ being defined as describing a situation in which you have received the official V5C registration certificate in the current month – this also compels you to apply for a SORN by post.

In order to apply by post, you will need to secure a copy of the DVLA’s form V890, complete it as indicated and then dispatch it to their central office in Swansea. You may do this up to 2 months ahead of the point at which you wish for the SORN to take effect, though it is advised that you include an explanatory letter if you plan on sending in the application this far in advance.

SORN Exemptions

There are exemptions from SORN requirements for those who operate within the motor trade industry. This is to ensure that people are permitted to stock large numbers of cars without having to acquire a SORN for every one. Professions which fall under the umbrella of ‘motor trader’ for these purposes are vehicle dealers, vehicle auctioneers, vehicle dismantlers, motor insurance firms who are looking after a vehicle during the claims process, and finance companies in temporary possession of a vehicle which has been marked for repossession.

Of course, those in the motor trade business are only exempted from SORN requirements for those vehicles they deal with in the course of their work – not every vehicle they may own. In order to be SORN exempt, a vehicle must only be in temporary possession of a motor trader (before it is sold or dismantled, for example), it must be kept off the road with certain exceptions (it can be driven to its MOT or to undergo weight, emissions and vehicle identity checks), and if it is being taxed.

For those who are not exempted, failure to apply for a SORN when it is required, and therefore also failing to pay for your car tax, will attract an automatic penalty fee of £80. You will also subsequently need to pay for a new tax disc, as well as paying any resultant car tax backlog. In severe cases, a county court judgement could be made against you, opening you up to prosecution and a fine of at least £1,000.