CASH-strapped motorists who refuse to tax their vehicles are costing the taxpayer more than €1.5m a week.
As many as one-in-10 motorists are driving cars, trucks and motorcycles without taxing them. New figures from the Department of the Environment show the Exchequer has lost €94m over a 15-month period.
Officials believe many of the drivers are abusing the so-called 'off-the-road' loophole, where people don't tax their car for a short period of time -- usually up to a month -- because they don't plan to use it in a public place.
To avail of the scheme, they must sign a declaration witnessed by a garda which states that the vehicle has not been used. When they go to tax the car, they are not obliged to pay tax for this period.
But Environment Minister Phil Hogan suggested the scheme is being abused.
"I am very concerned at the high level of off-the-road declarations being made, and I am aware that current procedures governing the making of such declarations may be open to potential abuse," he said.
Last year, some €1.023bn was collected in motor-tax payments. The money is used to fund local authorities.
The recession means that people are cutting costs, with CSO figures showing a 12pc fall so far this year in fuel sales.
Cars without tax, insurance or a NCT certificate are also being seized in unprecedented numbers. A total of 26,044 cars were seized by gardai on the roadside last year -- more than twice the amount in previous years.
The Department of Transport analysed data from the toll operators of Dublin's M50 motorway, where the number plates of vehicles using the motorway were cross-checked against motor-tax records.
Up to 10pc of all vehicles using the road did not have motor tax. However, the information cannot be used for a prosecution because the law stipulates that the offending driver must be stopped by a garda and asked for the taxation disk.
Of the 10pc found without tax, it is estimated that one in 25 of the total number of non-compliant cars never had motor tax. The remainder skip paying the tax and then falsely claim the car was off the road.
Labour TD Robert Dowds said that if everyone paid, motor tax rates might fall. "The loss of money is substantial," he said. "If everyone paid a fair amount, it might be possible to lower the cost of motor tax slightly in the long run."
The Government now plans to close the loophole, and may introduce a UK-style system where untaxed cars can be seized. The Department of the Environment said that legislation was at an early stage of drafting, and would not be published until later this year.