AA scraps 'road tax' references on its website in victory for I Pay Road Tax campaign

Misleading phrase replaced by 'car tax' on motoring organisation's website

by Simon_MacMichael   September 23, 2011  

AA car (picture credit The AA).jpg

I Pay Road Tax.com, the website founded by Carlton Reid two years ago to help correct the erroneous assumption on the part of many motorists that they pay for the roads they drive on through something called ‘road tax,’ has won another battle in its efforts to rid the world of the misleading term, with motoring organisation the AA now agreeing to use either the correct term, Vehicle Excise Duty, or the words ‘car tax,’ instead.

Road construction and maintenance is paid for out of general taxation rather than the monies raised through Vehicle Excise Duty, and as the I Pay Road Tax website points out, the term ‘road tax’ itself was phased out in 1937.

Winston Churchill had first expressed concerns about official use of the phrase a dedicate earlier, saying that “It will be only a step from this for them [motorists] to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads their contributions have created."

AA President Edmund King was an early fan of I Pay Road Tax, and the keen cyclist revealed early last year that he owned one of its jerseys, which he described as “ironic, iconic and probably iconoclastic.”

Now, the organisation that he heads has joined others such as The Plain English campaign, Which?Car magazine, the DVLA, and the Post Office in consigning the term to the linguistic scrapheap.

As before and after screenshots on the I Pay Road Tax website show, the relevant page on the AA website has now had the references to ‘road tax’ that sit alongside mentions of Vehicle Excise Duty changed to ‘car tax.’

While to some the I Pay Road Tax campaign may seem little more than a pedantic insistence on use of the correct term and nothing more, there is at its core a very serious issue.

As is explained on the campaign's website, “The distinction between ‘road tax’ and VED is very important, much more important than most people think.

“It’s possible that lives have been lost because of the use of an antique phrase. Some motorists believe ‘road tax’ pays for roads so cyclists, as freeloaders at best, tax-dodgers at worst, shouldn’t really be on “their” roads at all.

“This sometimes leads to ugly and dangerous aggression against cyclists, with some motorists taking the ownership of the roads fallacy a little too literally.”

16 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Arrogant sod that I am, whenever I get this canard thrown at me by a motorist, I point out to them that there is no such thing, that roads are paid for from general taxation, and as I am comfortably in the 50% bracket (actually uncomfortably, but that seems fair enough to me) it is statistically probable that I pay several times as much of that as my interlocutor.

posted by Paul M [342 posts]
23rd September 2011 - 12:17

1 Like

i find they wither don't listen when you explain or lamp you one anyway.

posted by thehood [25 posts]
23rd September 2011 - 12:25


Tell them you don't mind sharing the road with them as they have just as much right to be on it as you do.

cavasta's picture

posted by cavasta [220 posts]
23rd September 2011 - 12:35


Which they don't (since you're there by right and they're licensed).

posted by steff [81 posts]
23rd September 2011 - 12:39

1 Like

cyclists own more cars per head than the average too, so we're actually paying more.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7829 posts]
23rd September 2011 - 12:42


dave_atkinson wrote:
cyclists own more cars per head than the average too, so we're actually paying more.

That's interesting, I wasn't aware of that!

Where does the infomation come from, as that little gem could come in useful at some point?! Big Grin

Ooooh, me legs...

posted by Oh heck... [47 posts]
23rd September 2011 - 13:22


Good news. Now for all those car ads still using it.

As far as showing drivers the error of their ways by presenting them with the facts when they shout at you, it's never going to happen. People don't like to admit they're wrong in the best of circumstances, never mind while arguing not only with a stranger but a stanger on a bike and probably in funny clothes.

posted by Chuck [481 posts]
23rd September 2011 - 13:40


steff wrote:
Which they don't (since you're there by right and they're licensed).

As long as they have a license they have the right. Naturally, that right can be withdrawn if they transgress (in theory at least).

cavasta's picture

posted by cavasta [220 posts]
23rd September 2011 - 15:40

1 Like

Churchill again - very clever chap. A remarkably prescient point about perceived ownership. It's amazing how many intelligent, reasonably informed people do not know how roads are paid for. However, it's a little easier arguing the point with petrolhead mates in the pub than on busy London road in the rush 'hour'.

posted by Coleman [331 posts]
23rd September 2011 - 15:54


Here's something that may make you giggle, that happened to me quite few years ago. I was stopped by an irate motorist cutting me up after a set of lights. I actually knew just him by face although we had never talked.

You should seen this rather irate motorist face growing redder and redder when I pointed out that I too pay for the roads in my taxes from the general taxation fund. You could say he was hopping up and down steam coming out of his ears, demanding to see my car tax disc or as he referred to it 'road tax' disc. It was something out of Asterix. Him being one of those Roman generals driven to absolute frustration and annoyance. Definately pythonseque.

He really didn't like being corrected with the correct term for the disc either. It was quite humourous really, he was very very very angry but as I was at the time teaching his wife and friend in a combat self defense class at the time, you could see he really wanted to push this but didn't dare. I also had two of my coaches stop as they went past after training to see what was going on.

I couldn't help thinking is this really necessary as nothing had happened except I didn't get away from the lights quick enough for him and his Nova.

Needless to say his wife and friend didn't come back the next week. Fun though I quite enjoyed it !!!

posted by Ciaran Patrick [119 posts]
23rd September 2011 - 18:59


Its good to see AA doing something helpfull.
Many years ago our AA equivalent here in the state of Victoria, the RACV, faced with the likelihood of laws favouring cyclists and money being spent on cyclist infrastructure, got directly involved in ensuring a helmet law for cyclists. This ensured that the other changes, of some disadvantage to motorists, would never happen.

posted by Pjrob [30 posts]
23rd September 2011 - 23:48


Motorists who like to go on about 'road tax' also tend to use the term 'push bike', in order to emphasise the primitive, non-motorised nature of the bicycle, and shift the emphasis away from the fact that they are frustrated fat blokes* stuck in traffic who have issues with fit people getting about in a cheaper, healthier and happier manner.

*In my experience anyway - there must be some female road tax bigots out there as well.

Winston Churchill had first expressed concerns about official use of the phrase a dedicate earlier
Do 10 dedicates make a certainty?

posted by Jon [35 posts]
24th September 2011 - 13:53

1 Like

The last time I was shouted at to "pay your effin' car-tax, you clunt", it came from a passing construction worker driving home with three of his mates in the car...I gave them this information: "I pay my "effin' road-tax" on my car---and then I leave it parked at home and ride this bike, you twerp!" Amazingly, they drove off blushing and pharting without saying another word.


posted by PhilRuss [328 posts]
25th September 2011 - 2:57

1 Like

i wonder if the drivers of cars such as the Toyota Prius get told to "pay their effin road tax" Pretty sure they don't Thinking

posted by fretters [39 posts]
25th September 2011 - 9:01


As fretters, I've said 'look I pay the same as a Toyota Prius owner does' but the best response is 'I'm a car owner too. It's taxed and at home.'

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
25th September 2011 - 9:30

1 Like

I think the government should " do away " with VED completely , as more cars reduce emissions then this will mean that most motorists will have Nil Rate Banding anyway.
This will have the best effect possible.
VED should be changed to an Insured On the Road disc, this will be provider from the DVLA and used to prove the car is fully insured to be on the road . The website checks the insurance database and MOT at the time of purchasing or not when it is NIL. The actual disc represents something totally different. Road Insurance Disc.

posted by leonrushworth [17 posts]
26th September 2011 - 11:02

1 Like