Northern Ireland

Treasury urged to review NI car tax fee

Car interior
Image caption Motorists are charged extra if they pay for their tax for six months

The Treasury is to be asked to review the extra cost faced by NI motorists who tax their car on a six-monthly basis.

Currently, drivers are charged an extra 10% if they do not pay for an annual tax disc.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood has written to the Treasury to highlight the difficulties NI people face and ask for the charge to be reduced.

The Treasury said the charge covered administrative costs.

The cost is related to the amount of carbon emissions a car gives off and cars are listed in different bands.

For example, if a car is in band E the cost of tax will be £115 for 12 months. That rises to £126.50 if two six-monthly tax discs are bought instead. That is a rise of £11.50.

Drivers of cars in band G face an even bigger rise. Yearly tax normally costs £165 but it will cost £181 to pay for it every six months. That is a difference of £16.50.

Last month, the Alliance MLA, Anna Lo, submitted a question to Mr Attwood.

Image caption Alex Attwood said he was aware of the problems faced by motorists

She asked if he intended to discuss the "differing rates of vehicle tax renewal fees" with the secretary of state for transport, given that "people who are unable to afford the annual renewal fee opt for the six month option which is more expensive".

At that time, the department released a statement indicating that it was "more expensive" to issue two tax discs in a year than it was to process "one application for a 12 month disc".

On Monday, Mr Attwood said he was aware of the difficulties faced by many motorists across Northern Ireland to try to keep a vehicle on the road.

He said the department for transport and the treasury had responsibility for vehicle excise duty.

"I will write to the secretary of state for transport, highlighting the difficulties that many people in Northern Ireland are facing and urging her to review the charging mechanism for a six-month tax disc and to reduce the additional charge faced by drivers who cannot afford to buy 12-month discs," he told the BBC.

In a statement, the Treasury said: "In order to help spread the cost of Vehicle Excise duty, many motorists pay on a six-monthly basis.

"Where VED is paid in this way, a small supplement is charged to cover administrative costs.

"As announced at the budget, the government also aims to develop a direct debit system to allow motorists to spread their VED payments. We look forward to getting the views of motoring groups."

However, it is not yet clear if there will be an extra charge for people to pay by direct debit.

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