Are people not bothering with car tax these days?
Does anyone tax their car any more? A broad sweeping, statement I know – but it's been a bugbear with me for some time now. I think it began when I saw all the queues at the motor tax offices around the country.
This was where car owners were rushing to declare their vehicles had been off the road for months, maybe years, before the change in legislation deadline.
Could there have been that many cars not in use around the country?
This is in a society where people would rather drive 10 yards to their local shop than walk.
The country's garages should have been full with cars in for repairs with the large volume of vehicles that were declared off the road.
I was walking through Wine Street car park in Sligo on Christmas Eve and a reddish disc on a windscreen caught my eye.
Maybe it's the new coloured disc for 2014, I thought naively.
I nearly dropped my Christmas shopping. It was a tax disc from 2009.
I stopped and stared and stared again. This Volkswagen car had a tax disc with an expiry of May 2009!
Maybe it just gets out on the road once a year, like Santa Claus.
Four years out of tax and heading into its fifth.
All joking aside, it didn't surprise me in the least.
It seems to me there are hundreds of drivers dodging car tax.
In a recession it's natural people will prioritise their bills and it seems taxing the car is bottom of the pile.
With Garda cutbacks and all that, some drivers have probably weighed up the chances of getting stopped and decided it's worth the risk.
The maximum fine in court is €200 so even if stopped twice a driver would still be making money.
I know taxing the car is costly, especially if you are driving a pre-2008 vehicle, but why should a few escape?
It's a system that's clearly breaking down, however.
There was a major campaign of opposition to the Local Property Tax, but this has achieved a near 100% compliance rate.
Revenue put the squeeze on and everyone coughed up.
Should car tax be deducted from people's wages too?
Or even should not taxing your car be a penalty point offence like not having a valid NCT?
If there were enforcement like this, would it drive large numbers of cars off the road?
Would society be better off in the long run if it did?
It was just too easy for people to dodge car tax up to now. It was all too convenient for drivers to simply walk into a Garda Station and say their car was off the road.
Okay, people had to be make a declaration they were telling the truth before signing the form.
However, in a society where swearing on the Bible in court has lost its meaning, making a false declaration in a Garda Station has become no big deal for some.
There have even been cases of people appearing before the local courts who have been caught out having made such declarations.
Some drivers have been stopped with no tax and subsequently declared their car had been off the road!
I am regularly amazed by the number of drivers before the courts whose tax isn't just out for a couple of months but 12 months or more.
A car can be seized if its tax is out, but invariably these are 'bangers'.
The drivers don't even bother paying up to get them back and the gardaí are left trying to dispose of them.
The new law means drivers have to declare in advance their car will be off the road for a specified period.
I just have a feeling it will be exploited just like the old system and will become second nature for some car owners.