Vehicle Excise Duty - Other Terms in Common Use

Other Terms in Common Use

The terms "car tax", "road tax" and "vehicle tax" are commonly, but incorrectly, used when referring to "Vehicle Excise Duty". Road tax has an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Some people, in particular cyclists, cycling organisations and cycling publications object to use of the term 'road tax' since roads are paid for from general taxation, arguing that there is no such thing as a "road tax". Peter Walker, a journalist at The Guardian explains "I've always felt the road tax argument supports a more general feeling of entitlement among too many drivers. Those who trot it out often seem to genuinely treat cyclists like we're interlopers who should be pushed aside". The Cyclists' Touring Club argue 'most adult cyclists do pay for the roads, even though they impose minimal wear and tear on them'. The Cambridge Cycle Campaign suggested that "Arguing that cyclists therefore have less right to use the roads is like arguing that smokers should take precedence for medical treatment, because non-smokers don't buy cigarettes and therefore 'don't pay hospital tax".

The direct use of taxes collected from motorists to fund the road network was opposed by Winston Churchill, who predicted "It will be only a step from this for them to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads their contributions have created".

A single issue campaign, 'I pay road tax' started by a cycling journalist in 2009 to challenge the use of the term 'road tax'. The campaign has received support from Edmund King, President of The AA.

In a BBC report on Look East in May 2010 about a cyclist who was knocked off his bike by a car the presenter read out a series of emails from viewers expressing the view that 'cyclists should pay road tax' if they wish to use the roads. After receiving a 'huge number' of complaints from viewers following publicity created by iPayRoadTax, the BBC broadcast a second piece which clarified the fact that roads are paid for out of general taxation. The term "road tax" is often incorrectly used when referring to "vehicle excise duty" in the UK media.

When challenged by iPayRoadTax, Which?, the British consumer magazine, defended its continued use of the term on the basis that "road tax" was more commonly used than Vehicle Excise Duty. A spokesman also said that while they would not stop using the terms 'car tax' and 'road tax' online that they would endeavour to also make appropriate reference to the full name of the tax.

One organisation that appears to be content with the current use of 'road tax' as the vernacular for VED is the Advertising Standards Authority. Complaints that advertisements using the term are incorrect are rejected with what appears to be a templated letter stating "although we acknowledge that the correct term is 'Vehicle Excise Duty', more commonly used phrases such as 'Road Tax' are often used by advertisers to convey a message in a way that will be understood by the widest audience."

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