Motorists must tell if cars are ‘off the road’

Motorists will be required to give prior notice of their vehicles being kept “off the road” in order to avoid paying motor tax, as part of a major crackdown on abuse of the existing system.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan confirmed he will bring in new legislation before the year end which will place an onus on motorists to notify their local motor tax offices if they intend to take their vehicle out of use.

It is estimated the annual loss in revenue to the exchequer from almost 400,000 vehicles being declared off the road is approximately €84m.

The figure includes both genuine and bogus declarations.

The Government has expressed repeated concern that the existing system is open to abuse, as it is difficult to retrospectively verify periods where motorists have declared their vehicles were not in use on public roads.

In a reply to a parliamentary question from Labour’s Ciarán Lynch, the minister said that the current system of allowing owners to declare their vehicle off the road after the fact was “effectively unverifiable and open to abuse”.

Mr Lynch suggested there should be a facility to allow car insurance companies communicate with gardaí to provide verification concerning off-the-road declarations.

However, Mr Hogan said a requirement for prior notification would obviate the need to involve insurance firms.

“As the new system will not allow for a retrospective declaration that a vehicle was off the road, there will not be any need for a verification check with motor insurers,” the minister said.

The proposed measure will prevent motorists in future from backdating or applying retrospectively to be excused the payment of motor tax.

A written off-the-road declaration currently has to be witnessed by a garda, although they have no additional information to verify the truth of such a statement.

Mr Hogan also said he was concerned that the problem was exacerbated by the custom and practice of allowing a month’s grace for the payment of motor tax.

A report by the Local Government Efficiency Review Group published in 2010 claimed there are an average of 396,000 off-the-road declarations each year.



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