Archive index   Go to the Archive index

More SORN Traps

... following on from Brian Crook's article in the last magazine

by Mark Daniels

Last year I spent some time over SORN issues with the DVLA and, believe me, so far you probably don't appreciate the half of it!  SORN requirements only apply to vehicles whose latest tax disc expired after 31st January 1998.

Trap 1

Computer Licence Renewal Reminders (V11 SORN forms), are automatically produced some eight weeks in advance of despatch so they can be received by vehicle keepers about 14 days before a licence or SORN declaration is due to commence.

If a change of ownership is notified to DVLA within this period, the V11 is already printed, and still goes to the previous owner of the vehicle.  While the DVLA will happily register the vehicle in your name, knowing that it will shortly require a SORN declaration and that the V11 will go to the previous keeper - you might think they'd have the decency to advise you when they return the V5 registration document.  Sadly not, the first thing you'll know is when the fine crashes on the mat.

Trap 2

When a vehicle has been off the road for some time, the only reminder you will have that the annual SORN declaration is due for renewal, will be the arrival of the V11 form.  If the V11 does not arrive (either lost in the post or not sent by DVLA in the first place), you probably won't realise the declaration is required.  The next letter is the fine, and the official line is that you should have sent in a V890 in absence of the V11.

Trap 3

Even if you do send in a V890 form, if it gets lost in the post, or more likely lost in the shambles that is the DVLA today, remember they don't send out any acknowledgements, and you could still receive notification of a fine!

An unfortunate aspect of this shameful bureaucracy is that it claimed to be introducing SORN under the pretence of addressing 'tax dodging' issues.  What's actually happening is that many honest and innocent people are now receiving fines due to gross inadequacies of the ill thought out SORN administration.  As of this year the automatic fines have now been raised to £80, and the AA has vehemently criticised the lack of appeals procedures.  Aspects regarding the application of specifically unnotified fines, and the principle of elevating the penalty while an issue may be under any appeal, actually raise issues regarding laws on human rights.  There's more of the same bad medicine on the way too, the previous owner of a vehicle is planned to be held liable for all issues arising from failure to notify change of ownership: road tax, parking fines, SORNs, etc.

One finds that efforts to discuss such issues are only confronted by an ever-changing wall of faceless and indifferent bureaucracy.  It seems there is no one at DVLA capable of independent rational thought; there is only the official line.  While I'm sure we all support actions to address the road tax evasion issue, it's clearly missing the point to be penalising honest citizens on bureaucratic issues.  The SORN system appears just another classically ill thought out government revenue raising exercise, applied with complete indifference against the hapless motoring public.

As Brian Crook very sensibly suggests, you are strongly recommended to keep a calendar of all your SORN renewal dates.

... and the DVLA replies

Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) was introduced on 31 January 1998 and affects vehicles licenced on, or after that date.  The scheme aimed to ensure enhanced accuracy of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) records, by requiring vehicle keepers to contact DVLA at least once a year.  This information can then be used to identify vehicle excise duty (VED) evaders and assist police and authorities with combating vehicle crime.

DVLA tries to ensure that all vehicle keepers receive a reminder form (V11), which enables them to renew the vehicle licence, or declare SORN, if the vehicle is to be kept off-road.  These documents must be printed eight weeks in advance of distribution, in order to ensure timely receipt.  There is, however, no statutory obligation for the Agency to produce V11s, the full responsibility for ensuring that the vehicle is correctly licenced, or subject to SORN, rests with the keeper.

In order to assist customers to comply with regulations, information booklets are available from Post Offices, DVLA local offices and DVLA's Customer Services Department.  Copies are also sent with each Registration Certificate and V11 reminder form, to ensure that keepers are aware of their statutory obligations.  Advertising campaigns to raise awareness ran prior to the launch of the SORN scheme and subsequently at periodic intervals to reiterate the information.  DVLA's website is constantly updated to review any changes in legislation.

When a vehicle changes hands, the SORN declaration is not transferred; a declaration is required from the new keeper.  This is to ensure that DVLA are aware of changes to the vehicle record and have an accurate update of the new keeper's details.

Vehicles manufactured or registered before 1 January 1973 are classed as historic vehicles and attract a nil rate of duty.  However, to ensure that the vehicles are roadworthy and documentation such as MoT and insurance are current, a nil rate tax disc must be displayed in the vehicle.  If the vehicle is kept off-road and has not had a licence since 31 January 1998, there is no requirement to declare SORN.  However, if the vehicle has held a licence since this date, it is essential that an annual SORN declaration be made.

From January 2004, a new system of continuous registration (CR) has been introduced.  The first stage of this scheme ensures that all vehicle keepers receive an acknowledgement letter when contacting DVLA to declare SORN or vehicle disposal.  Detailed instructions are provided to ensure that if an acknowledgement letter is not received, the vehicle keeper contacts DVLA to confirm that the record has been updated.

Consultations have been held with trade organisations and relevant industry contacts, offering a forum for the expression of views regarding the implementation of measures to increase adherence to VED policy and to reduce vehicle crime.  These consultations, one held in 2001 and a subsequent, more detailed proposal in 2003, received confirmed support, recognising that the Agency does not intend to persecute honest motorists, but to crack down on offenders who repeatedly abuse the system.

An official appeals procedure has not been established, however, DVLA will treat each case on merit and will view genuine cases with sympathy.  Whilst the legislation allows all unlicenced keepers to be pursued, DVLA retains the right to withdraw cases in certain circumstances.

SORN declarations may be made on form V890, which is available from all licence issuing Post Offices and DVLA local offices.  The customer services department will issue a form for those that wish to post notification, or they can accept telephone declarations from the registered keeper (tel: 0870 240 0010).  The form can also be downloaded from the DVLA website

First published, February 2004

Archive index   Go to the Archive index