250,000 drivers dodge motor tax
State taking €80m hit each year as recession puts squeeze on car levy
THE NUMBER of drivers dodging motor tax is soaring as the recession continues to squeeze wallets and purses.
As many as 120,000 motorists never pay any road tax, figures obtained by the Irish Independent show.
And the same number again also beat the system by falsely claiming their car has been off the road for months.
The money lost to the tax coffers is now €80m a year, double the amount evaded in 2006, and equivalent to 10pc of the total motor tax collected annually.
And this figure is expected to continue rising as incomes shrink.
As many as 10pc of car and truck owners, or almost 250,000 of the registered 2.5 million vehicles in the State, "may not be taxed at any given time", according to a top-level Department of Transport report. It also states that 4pc of drivers "never pay" motor tax, which is equal to €40m per year.
Another 6pc of motorists skip paying the tax for a few months and then falsely claim the car was off the road.
The authorities are able to accurately assess the extent of the evasion based on the number of registered vehicles, and the amount of tax due based on the emission levels.
This is then compared with the amount of tax actually paid.
Officials also carry out regular assessments of data supplied by toll operators, which capture photographic images of car tax discs.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan is planning to close the 'off-the-road' loophole, where a garda stamps a declaration form that a car has not been in use.
This means motorists will, in future, have to inform their local authority if they are planning to take their car off the road for an extended period.
They will have to produce documentation to back up their claim -- for example, travel tickets if they are going abroad.
The proposals were contained in a Local Government Efficiency Review published last year. But legislation will have to be drawn up before the changes can be made.
The same report also recommended a levy for motor tax payments that were not made online.