On the day that the August issue went to press, the Minister of Transport announced proposals to amend the basis on which Vehicle Excise Duty is levied from use to possession. We have now had the opportunity to study Mr. Fowler’s ideas, and our opinion is set out in Matter of Moment (page 1305). We have, of course, sent our own letter to Mr. Fowler making our position clear to him, but feel it worthwhile publishing a small selection from the hundreds of letters we have received on this subject. We urge readers who feel strongly about this ridiculous proposal to lobby their MP’s and to make their opinions known to the Government by writing directly to the Department of Transport at 2, Marsham Street, London, SW1P 3EB.
The replacement of the vehicle excise licence by a tax on possession of a car came a step nearer today with the announcement of a so-called “discussion paper” on the subject by the Minister of Transport. The Minister claims that this proposal is a means to counter tax-evasion; I believe that he is lying and that it may be profitable to consider the real motives behind this unpleasant attack on the motoring community. Three recent events in the sphere of vehicle taxation deserve attention:
a) The last Labour government put forward a proposal to scrap the excise licence and to replace the revenue thus lost by raising the tax on petrol. When the present administration came to power this proposal was killed very smartly indeed.
b) In the last Budget the Chancellor announced proposals to replace the former four month minimum licence period with one of six months.
c) The current proposals will tax stored and unused vehicles on the same basis as those actually in use.
There seems, at first glance, to be very little in common between these three events, but I suggest that considered in the context of prolonged and severe fuel shortages (such as we are increasingly being led to expect), the common factor becomes only too clear; that factor, sir, is the safeguarding of the Treasury’s revenues.
For example, assume that vehicle taxes are raised by increased petrol taxes. Petrol becomes difficult or impossible to obtain, therefore people buy less, therefore the Treasury gets less money. Can’t have that, can we? Or consider the same situation but with the present licence system still in operation. Motorists will tend to tax their cars for the summer only, maybe even take them off the road altogether. More loss of revenue. And whatever the economic situation, whatever is happening to your cash flow, and mine, and everyone else’s, the flow of money through the Treasury door must never, never be allowed to decrease. Remember 1973? Remember the suggestions (from the AA and RAC, I think), when petrol rationing seemed so likely that coupons were issued, that there should, perhaps, be a reduction in the licence fee to compensate for restrictions in use? Remember the short, sharp answer, the official language equivalent of “No Way”? Remember how, in fact, Treasury demanded an increase in petrol tax to compensate them for the loss in revenue when everyone obeyed official exhortations to use less?
Whether or not such a fuel shortage will happen, only time can tell; the Treasury however, is obviously taking no chances. I wonder how long it will be before some Civil Service gnome has the bright idea of safeguarding the petrol tax the same way? Pay the tax on a year’s fuel in advance— no refunds— whether or not you intend to use it.
The Minister wants to hear views on the proposals by mid-September. He will most certainly hear mine, and I suggest that other readers make sure that he hears theirs as well.
Bob Watt, Birmingham
I wonder if the readers of this magazine are aware of the implication in the new Motor Tax proposals.
The Minister for Transport, Mr. Norman Fowler, intends that we should pay, not for the privilege of using our roads, but for the privilege of owning something we have already bought. This, in spite of the fact that we have already paid two taxes, VAT and income tax, before we take possession. In spite of the fact that we already pay another tax (rates) on the garages which house them.
Over a period of years I have built up a small collection of old vehicles. In my opinion, they are irreplaceable like the Art treasures the Government have recently purchased for the nation. There should be some encouragement, if not incentive, for the owners of such vehicles, to retain them in this country and use them on its roads. After all, one only needs to glance at the faces of onlookers as one drives past to know that the vehicle is appreciated.
How far will this new act go? How will it affect Beaulieu and the Midland Motor Museum, Peter Black’s collection at Keighley and a host of others dotted about the country? What about non-road vehicles? If a McLaren M23 is exempt, then so is an MX Morgan with its lights removed. When is a vehicle a vehicle? If spares are exempt then so is a 35B without seats, bonnet and wheels. Not only will we have to tax our vehicles indefinitely, we will have to MoT and insure them in order to obtain the tax. Therefore they will have to be kept in road-going condition ad infinitem, expense, expense.
I think we should all worry about the precedent of this proposal. For long enough the Damoclean Sword of Possession Tax has swung over us. It will not end with motor cars, even though they appear to be the symbols of selfish greed. I sincerely hope that your excellent magazine, unlike the apathetic ditherings of the motor organisations, will make a firm stand on behalf of its readers, against this unjust and preposterous tax.
Michael J Metcalfe, Skipton in Craven, York
Fuel Tax supported
The Minister of Transport, Mr. Fowler has just announced that he is considering a tax on car ownership to replace the present system of motor taxation. I urge you and your readers to protest against this proposed measure, which if enacted will result in motorists having to pay for the privilege of keeping their own cars in the garage. If the Minister is really genuinely worried about tax evasion then he should tax fuel. Nobody would be able to avoid this, and it would have the merit that those who use the roads most would have to pay most for the privilege, and that the old, and the poor, who travel least would no longer be called on to subsidise the business motorist. (Or doesn’t the last idea appeal to a Tory Government?)
If the ownership of motor vehicles for fun (and surely that is partly why so many Motor Sport readers own cars) is to continue unfettered by the hands of the politicians we must strive to get this latest proposal nipped in the bud. The only way to do this is if all interested parties act now. Write to your MP and protest, before it is too late.
Michael Trickett, Swindon, Wilts.
Tax on fuel fairer
The proposed changes in vehicle taxation prompts me to write to express my utter indignation.
I feel sure you and your staff will agree with my view that the idea of taxing mere ownership of a vehicle is deplorable and should be opposed on principle.
The reason given for these changes is that an estimated 10% of vehicles in use are not licensed. and indeed this is borne out by personal observation. A law which is disregarded in this way is a bad law and certainly needs reviewing. But it must be improved in a fair and balanced way, not merely converted to yet another convenient (for the tax man) blanket tax.
Surely an extra tax on fuel must be the fairest system yet devised and the simplest to collect. Such a levy would encourage enonomy and thrift, qualities which we are constantly being reminded by the self-same administration are so holy. As I understand them, the proposals would require me to pay a tax on my 20-year-old Aerial Leader which I have owned since my youth but seldom used since. No stretch of imagination could call this a vintage machine (supposedly to be exempt) basis is of great sentimental value and I have no intention of disposing of it.
It is with this in mind that I will vigorously oppose the proposals as a blatant attack on our freedom of choice. I have written letters to the Minister of Transport Norman Fowler and to my local Member of Parliament.
I urge all of those of similar mind to do likewise without delay. y
SR Edmonson, Addlestone, Surre
A cautionary view
There has been much talk lately of the possibility of the present annual car tax being replaced by a tax on petrol.
Whether you are in favour of this or against it will depend largely upon how many cars you own and how much you use them, but there is one aspect which appears to have gone unnoticed. Should such a petrol-tax materialise the Govemment has already made it clear that cars will continue to be registered, for identification purposes, but that only a small notional annual fee would be made for this. This carmot therefore result in any saving in costs — it requires just as many civil servants to collect one pound from every car owner as it does to collect 50 pounds. However, I think that the potential danger to motorists is this — having once added a whacking great increase on petrol tax, and having sorted out this “nominal” registration fee, how long would it be before the registration fee was increased, year by year until, in a few years time we find that not only are we paying for using the roads through our petrol, but that our nominal registration fee has reached what is now the normal annual taxation figure. I am quite sure that the Government already has this in mind, so I am not putting ideas into their head!
ED Wooley, Meysey Hampton