Tax disc: goodbye Cup Cake, we’ll miss you

Tax disc: goodbye Cup Cake, we’ll miss you

It’s the end of an era. After 93 years of loyal and unassuming service, the humble tax disc is to bid a perforated farewell. The next generation of drivers won’t know what it’s like to carefully detach the circular disc of paper from its straight-edged surroundings and then lovingly insert it into the car’s tax disc holder.

The tax disc is – or soon to be, was – the great leveller of the motoring scene. From prince to pauper and from Rolls to Rover, in order to drive on Britain’s roads, every car needed the circular disc with the perforated edges.

But today the government announced that it will be no more. From next year, the DVLA will – in the words of the treasury – move ‘into the modern age’, relying on an electronic system to determine whether or not a car is taxed.

It’s progress, that’s for sure. For one thing, you can say goodbye to lengthy queues at the post office. But the end of the tax disc also signals the end for a number of small and seemingly insignificant rituals we all had to endure. Let PetrolBlog take you through the five things we’ll miss about the tax disc.

Perforation perfection

Go on, admit it – the simple act of tearing the tax disc away from its rectangular home demanded immense concentration. Proper ‘tongue-out’ levels of concentration. There was the question of where to make the first rip in the paper, then the small matter of carefully detaching each little perforated tab.

In theory, anyone who grew up eating Mr Kipling’s Cup Cakes should have been well practiced in the art of ‘perforation perfection’. Removing the outer wrapper from a Lemon Cup Cake required skill, nerves of steel and the patience of a saint. But by golly, the rewards were there.

1988 tax disc

It’s the same with the tax disc. A small victory, presented once or twice a year. But now that small victory has been cruelly taken away.

Where we will find the small victory now? Maybe the act of exiting a motorway without running over any cat’s eyes as you enter the slip road?

An envelope that looked like a speeding fine, but wasn’t

Every year – or twice a year if you paid for six months – you’d receive a brown envelope from the DVLA. Immediately, you’d feel the sense of mild panic, fearing that you’d been zapped by a pesky speed camera.

With some trepidation you’d open the envelope, only to discover it was not a fine at all, just a demand for your vehicle excise duty.

Oh, the relief. Which was quickly followed by the realisation that you’d need to find a couple of hundred quid to renew your tax. Maybe the speeding fine wouldn’t have been so bad after all?

No more ‘original tax disc holders’

It’s one of the things that makes PetrolBlog happy – the discovery of an original dealer tax disc holder, sat proudly in the corner of the windscreen. Coupled with a set of original dealer plates, it’s a little piece of motoring utopia.

But alas, such a delight will soon be confined to the history books. Like the cassette player and Dale Winton, the tax disc holder finds itself no longer needed by society. Left abandoned, forever.

The sense of getting something for your money

Even in this virtual and electronic age we live in, we still like to receive something tangible for our money. You hand over some cash, you get something in return.

Buying an album from iTunes or creating a playlist on Spotify is fine, but where’s the sense of occasion associated with peeling the wrapper off a compact disc, or removing a vinyl record from its sleeve, before carefully placing it on the turntable?

2007 tax disc

In the future, we won’t receive the tangible notification that our money has been received and the car is good to go. Instead, we’ll be sent a text or an email. It’s not the same, is it?

And how will we know if the rusting Hyundai that’s been abandoned on the roadside for two weeks should actually be on the road at all? The DVLA and the police may have fancy recognition cameras, but we don’t.

The joy of the post office counter

Ah, the joys of visiting the post office to collect your road tax. The stuffy smell that’s unique to public libraries, stationers and post offices. The lengthy queue that spiralled out of the door. The incessant computerised call of ‘checkout number five, please’, which served merely as a distraction from the equally annoying ads you could view on the small television screen.

Then, after queueing for the entire duration of your lunch hour, you were greeted by a clerk with all the customer service skills of a tin of sardines, who’d take great delight in telling you that you didn’t have the right forms. Go straight to hell and do not collect your tax disc on the way out.

But now, all that will be gone.

No longer will we see an ageing Vauxhall Vectra, with its tax disc held on by two strands of parcel tape. Or the Dell Boy inspired ‘tax in the post’ notice on the dashboard. Or the novelty tax disc cufflinks. Or the act of ensuring that both the tax disc and the tax disc holder were facing in the right direction.

Gone, ripped away in the pretence of progress.

So PetrolBlog says a fond farewell to the tax disc. It’s been emotional.

Now if you don’t mind, we’re off to drown our sorrows with a Mr Kipling Cup Cake…

Image © EthelRedThePetrolHeadBrian Snelson and Felix O on Flickr

Written by Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

The chief waffler and person responsible for getting PetrolBlog off the ground in February 2010. Has a deep fascination of cars from the '80s and '90s, especially if they originate from France. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

6 Comments

  1. Ant

    To me it seems like the perfect opportunity to get an age-appropriate tax disc made up for whatever year of car you have – there are companies that do replica ones, presumably tailored to your car. An 80s one would look great on the Accord, Gav – if you can find an original holder to put it in!

  2. rotation

    ‘Where we will find the small victory now? Maybe the act of exiting a motorway without running over any cat’s eyes as you enter the slip road?’
    Making it all the way to work in the winter without having to clean your windscreen?
    Following a BMW/Audi/Benz/Opel for long enough that they actually indicate?

    Then there’s the obvious ones, like perfect rev matching on a downshift.

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