MOTORISTS who forget or fail to declare their car is off the road will be forced to pay arrears and at least three months' motor tax under tough new rules aimed at clamping down on evasion.
The Department of the Environment says that from next August, anyone planning not to drive their car on a public road must tell their local tax office at least three months in advance.
Failure to do so will result in them paying the tax for the period when the car was off the road, with interest of up to 10pc, plus another three months' tax.
The current rules allow motorists to declare their car is not being driven on a public road at a garda station, even months after it was supposedly not being used.
However, thousands of motorists used the system to avoid paying motor tax, which cost the State up to €55m a year in lost revenue.
The Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Bill 2013, due to become law next August, will oblige motorists to tell their local tax office at least three months in advance that they do not intend to use their vehicle.
The Government had proposed introducing a fee for taking a car off the road, but a charge will not apply.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan said the system would deal on a local basis with cases where, for example, a person fell ill suddenly and could not use their car but could not declare it was off the road to their local tax office.
"There are many valid reasons why a person may wish to put their car off the road for a while, such as working abroad for a time.
"We are targeting those who abuse the system and evade paying their motor tax, no more and no less."
The bill also states:
• Motorists must make a "non-use declaration" between three and 12 months before their car is taken off the road.
• Forms will be submitted directly to motor tax offices or online, instead of at garda stations.
• Purchasers of new and second-hand vehicles will have 10 days to either tax their car or declare they won't be using it.
• For three months after next August, motorists will have to regularise their affairs. All arrears must be paid, with interest of 8.3pc, and the car then declared off the road.
• After these three months, the non-use declaration must be made in advance. Motorists with motor tax arrears must pay them, with 10pc interest, and three months tax, before declaring their car as being off the road.
It will also be an offence to make a false or misleading declaration, which can carrying a fine of up to €4,000 and/or six months imprisonment on summary conviction.
This is on top of existing penalties for not having a motor tax disc, which carries a €60 on-the-spot fine.