Car Tax Exemption

Legislation background
Before 1997 a rolling exemption of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) applied to qualifying vehicles which were 25 years old, as of the relevant 1st January. However good old Gordon Brown (classic economic misfit brings to mind the famous advert - it's got to be Gordon's) froze that in 1997 and tax emption cut off the 'pre-73' cars. This was bad for TR7 and TR8 owners, but much worse for those with Stags and TR6s as they were split into two groups those that were classics and those that were not - on the whim of a bureaucrat!

After the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) published "The British Historic Vehicle Movement: A £4 Billion hobby" report in late 2011, the Treasury finally began to recognise the economic worth in the classic car movement and the many industries which had grown up around it. Plans were announced by George Osborne in the 2013 Budget to extend VED exemption by a further year, meaning vehicles built before 1st January 1974 would also benefit from 1st April 2014. The following year saw the reintroduction of the rolling exemption, albeit this time at 40 rather than 25 years. However, sadly it is not 40 years but 40 years and 3 months to 41 years and 2 months that is the key. Tax exemption is based on a build date, not the date of first registration.

  • Cars qualify for tax exemption if they were built 40 or more years before 1st January;
  • Cars qualify for tax exemption in yearly batches, not when they pass the 40th anniversary of their build date;
  • You cannot apply for exemption until the 1st April in the qualifying year (hence the 40 years and 3 months);
  • With the rolling exemption now back in place, all TR7 and TR8s will have qualified for tax exemption by 1 January 2022, and be eligible to apply for exemption on 1 April 2022.
  • Some early US market TR7s may well be able to apply now. Apart from an early 1975 prototype TR8 the earliest I have listed as a build date for a TR8 is January 1977 - see below for how that might work to the owner's advantage!
  • The table below summarises the TR7 and TR8 situation.
    Built beforeFirst qualifying year (40 yrs)Becomes VED exempt (40 yrs 3 months)
    * TR Production ceased 5th October 1981

    To further complicate matters, the V5C UK registration Certificate, does not detail the date of manufacture, only the date of first registration. There are some late TRs that were not registered until 1985 (and there is always talk of some yet to be registered!) - but they must have been built by 1981as the factory closed then.

    Is your car tax exempt?

    Looking at the easy cases first - if your V5C (logbook) shows that your car was registered at least 40 years ago in a given first qualifying year then your car will become VED exempt on the 1st April of that year. On or after the 1st April you can apply to have the taxation class of your vehicle changed to 'Historic' and apply for NIL tax. Details of how to do this are given on next page.

    TR8 examples

    RegistrationChassisVED ExemptBuild DateDoor Panel
    ORW 749WACN 011031/4/201822 Aug - 5 Oct 1977Sept 1977
    YRW 606SACN 010401/4/20184 Aug - 15 Sept 1977Aug 1977

    Early calendar year registrations
    Problems start when a car was registered early in a new calendar year as there is uncertainty in which year the car was actually made. By way of an example, consider a car registered in January 1979. Was the car made in January 1979, shipped to the dealer and registered all in the first month of 1979? Or was it built in 1978, ordered and shipped to the dealer in the new year and then registered in January 1979? The difference could cost £230 or so as a year's tax! There are numerous reasons why registration could have been delayed. For example a car could have been finished but been sent back through rectification to have various faults fixed. The stories of unmatched components (brakes for a 4 speed to one side and 5 speed to the other is the best one I have heard) spring to mind. Cars could also have been finished but not shipped because of industrial action - especially with the varying Leyland troubles. Certain models may have been slow sellers, for example the fixed heads once the more popular drophead became available.

    Build date concessions
    The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) acknowledged this situation and have implemented the following policy. If the car was first registered within the first week of a new year (1st - 7th January inclusive) then a car qualifies automatically by concession as the car was almost certainly made in the previous year. In effect the build date cut-off is extended by one week. What if your car was registered after 8th January? There is still a chance that your car was built in the previous year, and DVLA take this into account. If you need to prove the date of manufacture of your car you need to send DVLA a 'dating certificate' - what we know as the 'Heritage Certificate'. It is a verified copy of the archived factory record for your car and it includes the all-important date of manufacture. You can apply for a certificate at:

    Unfortunately it will cost you £42 plus postage for this privilege but the good news is that if accepted by the DVLA, that sum is considerably cheaper than a year's tax. The DVLA will only accept an official document from BMIHT Gaydon and not research carried out by our own TR Drivers club, Registrars or other parties. The problem here of course is that BMIHT do not have details of all our cars - some early prototypes were built 2 or 3 years before being first road registered. You will need to apply for a dating certificate if the car's registration date was after 8th January. The other official document that DVLA will accept is Glass's Vehicle Check Books - the one for our cars is 1975-1983. I have seen the relevant pages - there is no mention of any TR8s at all, and just general data on VIN numbers for TR7s according to model year. Sadly there is nothing much in this guide that would help prove when a car was built.

    Historic VED: Making your application
    To begin with you need to change the tax classification of your vehicle from Private Light Goods (PLG) to Historic. You may still be able to do this in person at a Post Office that deals with Vehicle Tax - if you can find one as most seem to be closing down. You will need to fill in your current V5C and it may help to take a valid MOT certificate with you (though these should be on line). In section 7 of your current V5C, Changes to current vehicle, fill in the section marked Tax Class by writing 'HISTORIC' in the boxes provided using block capitals in black pen. Then sign and date section 8.

    According to the DVLA, on application your V5C must show a date of first registration 40 years prior to the 1st January in the qualifying year. So for example applying in April 2017, your V5C must show a registration date prior to 7/1/77 (taking the first week of the New Year concession into account). Remember you can only make the application after the date your car becomes VED exempt, so 1st April or after in the qualifying year. If you have tax on the vehicle at the time of application you will automatically receive a refund for each full month remaining. A refund should be via cheque from DVLA Swansea. If for any reason the Post Office cannot complete the transaction then a postal application will need to be made direct to the DVLA Swansea SA99 1BA. You will also need to obtain and fill out form V10 'Application for Vehicle Tax' and send that in addition to the completed V5C. If you are attempting to obtain a concession then you MUST apply to the DVLA. Fill out the V10 putting your personal details in section 1 then fill in detail about your car and new taxation details in section 2. Write 'HISTORIC' in the 'Tax class you are applying for' section. If your V5C is missing or you think the car's age is incorrect, you will need to obtain a certificate from British Motor Industry Heritage Trust (BMIHT) Gaydon as proof of the vehicle's age. If you applied at a Post Office taxation is immediate. However, if you apply to Swansea you need to wait for their confirmation before the car is driven on the road (unless you vehicle is already taxed). Either way you should receive an updated V5C showing the new HISTORIC taxation class within a month.

    Renewing tax in subsequent years
    Although your Triumph has become VED exempt you must still apply for nil-value vehicle tax every year. This is the same process for any other car save you won't pay anything (for now - as I would not be 100% certain that an administration charge won't creep back in when 10 or 20 years has passed!). DVLA should send you a V11 reminder a couple of weeks before the tax is due to expire. You can then apply online or at a post office or declare SORN (which is no longer needed annually as it is now indefinite) if the vehicle is off the road.

    DVLA Forms

    You can find all the above forms on the DVLA website:

    Historic Class:
    A little known fact is that when your vehicle has historic status you are legally allowed to use the pre 1973 style silver and black number plate on the car. However, I personally think that will not look correct on TR7s and TR8s as even the very early Bullet prototype FWK 788L in the photograph on Bylch y Groes had the more familiar black and white on the front and black and yellow plate to the rear.

    Brian Ridley-Jones