Road tax - 5 days grace
Technically it is an offence not to display a valid vehicle tax regardless of whether you have one or not. However, you are entitled to a 5 days grace period if you have ordered your new tax online before your old tax has expired to allow time for its arrival. Although legally a valid tax disc should be on display, an officer should perform a check on the DVLA database to establish if the vehicle is in fact taxed, but not being displayed. If a Fixed Penalty Notice has been given, the fact that you purchased tax before your old tax expired should go some way to aid in having the penalty removed if proof can be provided.
The 5 day grace period allows you to legally keep or drive your vehicle on a public road until your new tax disc arrives. The old tax disc must be displayed until the new one arrives.
If the DVLA database has detected an untaxed vehicle on its system, an automated penalty notice is sent to the registered keeper 14 days from the expiry of road tax. This 14 day period from the tax expiry is where a '14 day grace period' myth came from, when in fact it is only 5 days.
Penalty for driving without tax
The DVLA maintain a computer database of all vehicles registered in the UK. Database checks are made on a monthly basis and amongst other things, this database informs them of which vehicles have current tax along with those that don't. If the system flags a vehicle as being untaxed and not declared SORN, an automated letter and fine of £80 will be issued to the registered keepers address. Early settlement of this fine if paid within 28 days can see a 50% discount where you will be required to pay a fine of £40.
Failure to settle the fine will result in prosecution where the court may increase the fine to a maximum of £1000 depending on the circumstances (this usually includes any tax arrears owed), plus offenders will be faced with paying court costs.
Vehicle clamped for no tax
Car insurance contracts stipulate that a vehicle must be in a road worthy condition and as such, driving without tax, which is a Vehicle Excise Duty bears no relevance to the road worthiness of a vehicle.
In the event of an accident however, a car insurance provider may use whatever means they have to avoid paying for a claim. In such cases, the contract clause will not usually state such terms directly and advice should be sought from a legal representative.
Driving without tax penalty points
Penalty points are not issued if you are caught driving without tax or your vehicle is parked on a public highway.
Driving vehicle while SORN
Driving a car whilst declared SORN is much more serious offence than simply driving without tax. The fine and penalty depends on individual circumstances and the ultimate outcome is decided by the court. The maximum fine for this offence is £5,000 and a possibility of imprisonment.
Along with the higher penalties of driving a car while SORN, it will likely result in your car being seized from the roadside and impounded, where the same costs as above (driving or keeping a car on a public road without tax) will apply.
Can I drive without tax?
You are legally entitled to drive a car on a public road if going to a pre-booked MOT test. Disabled drivers may also be exempt from vehicle tax and certain vehicles are exempt. Further information for who is exempt from paying vehicle tax and which vehicles can be found here.