New DVLA data shows com­pelling case for rolling tax ex­emp­tion.

The old ve­hi­cle ex­cise duty freeze on pre-1973 cars left younger clas­sics out in the cold – and here are the fig­ures to prove it

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News -

Clas­sics made be­fore 1973 – un­til two years ago the cut-off point for his­toric ve­hi­cle tax ex­emp­tion – have been pre­served in far greater num­bers than their younger coun­ter­parts.

Mar­ket ex­perts say the pre­vi­ous freeze on the Govern­ment’s tax break for older cars has en­cour­aged own­ers and traders to pay more at­ten­tion to pre-1973 ve­hi­cles. Newly re­leased data from the DVLA backs this up – while there is a steady year-onyear de­cline in the num­bers of older cars cur­rently reg­is­tered, there is a marked in­crease for early 1970s ve­hi­cles.

The most re­cent fig­ures show that while there are only around 4000 1974 cars on the na­tion’s roads, there are 11,000 1973 cars and more than 14,000 1972 cars.

While the data doesn’t give a year-byyear break­down of pre-1970 cars it con­sis­tently shows a higher pro­por­tion of 1970-73 cars reg­is­tered than those made in the late 1970s and 1980s. The pro­por­tion of 1973 cars com­pared with later mod­els in­creased in 2014 – the year they be­came el­i­gi­ble for his­toric ve­hi­cle tax ex­emp­tion.

Clas­sics Cen­tral auc­tion house man­ager Justin Lazic says that while he be­lieves the DVLA’s data can’t be com­pre­hen­sive be­cause it misses out cars off the roads when the reg­is­tra­tion agency’s elec­tronic records were put to­gether, he agrees with the premise that tax ex­empt ve­hi­cles have been pre­served more.

‘There is clearly an in­cen­tive for peo­ple to pre­serve the cars that save money, even if the ad­van­tage is largely a psy­cho­log­i­cal one,’ he says. ‘Whichever way you cut it the case has al­ways been stronger for sav­ing the ear­lier car – if you’d put a tax-ex­empt Tri­umph TR6 or Stag next to an iden­ti­cal later one which you do have to pay road tax on, it’s a no-brainer.’

Justin adds that rolling tax ex­emp­tion will give own­ers more in­cen­tive to save younger ‘plain Jane’ cars like Es­cort MkIVs, which pre­vi­ously were more likely to be scrapped.

‘Plenty of th­ese cars are be­ing thrown away when they reach the end of their use­ful lives,’ he says. ‘Rolling tax ex­emp­tion en­cour­ages them to hold them on to what are the Tri­umph Her­alds of to­mor­row.’

The Rover P6 Club says that while the model it caters for spans both sides of the orig­i­nal pre-1973 cut-off date, the DVLA’s data could be ex­plained by other fac­tors, in­clud­ing pro­duc­tion of mod­els like the P6 peak­ing in the early 1970s and cars be­ing given bet­ter rust pro­tec­tion.

It also ar­gues that some clas­sic own­ers might have il­le­gally swapped later cars’ iden­ti­ties, which may have dis­torted the fig­ures. ‘It’s un­for­tu­nate that be­cause of the rogue el­e­ment there is the pos­si­bil­ity of ringed cars,’ says P6 Club mem­ber­ship sec­re­tary Brian Humphreys.

‘For there to be such a swelling of the sur­vival rate in 1972 some peo­ple may have been tempted to swap the iden­ti­ties of younger cars on to a tax ex­empt early Se­ries II P6 just for the sake of a cou­ple of hun­dred pounds each year or the de­sire to make a quick sale with the more sought af­ter tax free car.’

Sir Greg Knight, chair­man of the All Party Par­lia­men­tary His­toric Ve­hi­cles Group, says the fig­ures show that clas­sic fans were right to cam­paign for rolling tax ex­emp­tion to be

re­in­stated, and praised Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer Ge­orge Os­borne for rein­tro­duc­ing it on a 40-year ba­sis.

‘For some­one who’s on a bud­get the money needed to pay for road tax ev­ery year can be the dif­fer­ence be­tween de­cid­ing to fork out for a restora­tion or not. The pre­vi­ous rule also cre­ated an un­fair stick­ing point, where one Tri­umph Stag would qual­ify and an­other one made the fol­low­ing year wouldn’t,’ he says.

He adds that while he thinks the na­tional econ­omy has not re­cov­ered suf­fi­ciently to change to a 25-year rolling ex­emp­tion, he does be­lieve the prin­ci­ple of rolling ex­emp­tion is fair.

‘Even if your car doesn’t qual­ify for it this year, or how­ever many years af­ter that, you know that even­tu­ally it’ll be el­i­gi­ble and that will mo­ti­vate clas­sic car own­ers to pre­serve it,’ says Sir Greg.

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ABOVE Both of th­ese cars are hugely en­joy­able clas­sics – but only one’s el­i­gi­ble for the Govern­ment’s tax break. The fig­ures sug­gest that in the past that’s pre­vented own­ers from preserving the younger cars.

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