Tips and advice

Classic car tax exemption: explained

Here’s what you need to know about the UK’s 40-year classic car tax exemption

Classic car tax exemption

If you’ve been eyeing up a classic car purchase or thinking of digging your cherished historic out of the shed for another summer, then we have a guide to help you navigate classic car taxation and exemption.

This year, the crucial date to remember in terms of the rolling exemption is 1 January 1982; if your car was made any time before that date, it turned 40 and became VED (Vehicle Excise Duty) exempt from the start of the 2022 financial year, which was 1 April. If you don’t know when your car was built but you know it was registered before 8 January 1982, the same rule applies. This exemption is rolling, so from 2023, the dates will change to include those cars registered in 1983.

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Owning a classic car can mean benefitting from the lower running costs of ownership, while also having something special to enjoy. For example, many historic vehicles are exempt from both road tax and the annual MoT test. - although that doesn’t mean you can run an old car on the road that isn’t in a safe condition. Owners of classic cars must ensure their cars are in a road worthy condition and can face a penalty fine for not doing so. Some owners continue to take their vehicle for an annual MoT, even when they are exempt as it can highlight areas of concern that they may otherwise be unaware of.

Read on for everything you need to know about classic car tax exemption.

Why don’t classic vehicles have to pay road tax?

In most cases, classic cars are owned as a second car, driven only when the sun is shining or on weekends and holidays. Exemption may seem unfair but if they were to be taxed like new cars, it could raise the cost of ownership to the point where only the very wealthy could afford them.

According to the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC), which is as close to an historic vehicle governing body as we have, the classic car industry in the UK is said to be worth around £4bn per year to the economy. That’s why, thanks in part to the campaigning by the FBHVC, the rolling exemption has been reinstated.

The UK had a 25-year rolling tax exemption in place for classic vehicles in the past but this was abolished in 1997 by the incoming Labour government. In the intervening years the 1972 cut-off for the classic car tax exemption remained in place, until 2014 when plans were announced to reintroduce the rolling 40-year exemption. During the 2015 budget, these plans were confirmed, to the joy of many enthusiasts.

My car is over 40 years old, is it automatically tax-free?

Yes, but it’s not an automatic exemption. If your classic vehicle has reached the age where it becomes exempt from tax, then you must complete some paperwork before you can drive on the road without paying VED (Vehicle Excise Duty). Simply waiting for the vehicle to reach 40 years of age will not make it exempt straight away, as there’s some red tape to cut through first. Fortunately, it isn’t too difficult to sort out. If you are buying a car that should be exempt, then make sure you ask the owner if they have already completed the exemption forms. This is especially true of ‘barn find’ cars that may have been unused for an extended period. One way to check any potential purchase’s statement is to look at the V5C registration document and see if the vehicle is classed as ‘historic’.

How do I declare my classic vehicle as tax exempt?

Should you need to, a vehicle can be registered as tax-exempt using the V5C registration document, also known as the logbook. You simply need to fill in section 7 and change the vehicle class from PLG (Private Light Goods) to Historic. You must then visit your local post office, along with your valid MoT certificate and a completed V10 tax request form. The post office will check everything over for you before processing your request. This is a free service and if your car is currently taxed, you will be issued a refund for the remaining months.

If, however, the car was built more than 40 years ago, but was for some reason first registered in later years due to importation or sitting around in a dealership for a few months, the process of applying for historic vehicle status is slightly more arduous. In these cases, you must prove to the DVLA the build date, which can usually be done with an original build sheet from the manufacturer – or with help from the myriad owners’ clubs. 

It’s also worth keeping in mind that there may be a cost associated with this, and you should weigh this up against the cost of the car’s VED. In most cases, it’s more cost effective to find proof of the build date. Remember that a vehicle only becomes VED exempt as of the beginning of the financial year, on 1 April. 

Will I still have to complete a V11D for my classic car?

In order to drive your classic car on the road, you still need to go through the process of taxing your car, despite the fact you won’t have to pay anything. As with any other vehicle, the owner of a classic car will receive an annual V11D road tax reminder in the post so that the owner can confirm whether it’s roadworthy and in use, or SORN (off the road). This will need to be completed online, over the phone or at your local post office.

How long can this tax exemption last?

In 2014, the Government brought in the rolling tax exemption scheme. However, there’s no guarantee that this won’t change in the coming years - it has done in the past. All the signs point to this becoming a permanent fixture though, which should be great news for owners of early-1980s ‘modern classics’, who can look forward to tax-free motoring in the coming years.

Recently there has been pressure and campaigns to drop the age of the exemption to vehicles that are 30-years old. The government responded by denying the need to make any changes, claiming it believed the 40-year exemption for road tax and annual MoT struck the right balance.

Historic status for classic vehicles will also protect drivers in the future. For example, historic vehicles are exempt from the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which, ironically, was originally introduced to prevent older, more polluting vehicles from being used in the capital.

Read why the Jaguar E-Type is the greatest-ever classic car

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