New online motor service solves a taxing problem

7 Jan 2004

Irish drivers will be able to renew their motor tax online from March, has learned. A pilot version of the new system has been live in three counties since late last year and it will shortly be rolled out nationwide.

Once it has been fully launched, the site is expected to process thousands of applications a day. Tests of the system were undertaken in Galway, Clare and North Tipperary to gauge usage volumes on the site. Early indications suggest that more than 15pc of drivers availed of the new online service. “You could possibly expect greater takeup in counties such as Dublin where there are higher levels of internet usage,” said Phil O’Flaherty, assistant principal with the ICT unit at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The department is managing the service on behalf of all the local authorities.

From March, tax renewal notices will be posted out to the public with a unique PIN number, which applicants must type in on the site along with their car registration number. However users don’t need to keep the PIN once the transaction has been completed.

Visitors to the site are presented with a web application that takes users through a series of steps on separate screens to complete the transaction, much like an airline web booking system. As with the current tax process, users must input their insurance details. However, the new system can cross-reference with the national car test database and can check, without user intervention, whether a car has passed the NCT and qualifies to have its tax renewed.

Applicants can pay by credit card or laser card and can choose to tax their car for three, six or 12 months. There is no charge for handling the credit card transaction and tax discs will be issued within five working days.

Statistics from 2002 found that some 3 million vehicles in the State have their motor tax updated each year, a figure which divides roughly equally to 250,000 renewals per month. According to O’Flaherty, around 1.9 million cars are currently eligible for renewal online. The exceptions are for heavy goods vehicles which have a different testing system although they may be added to the service in future. New car buyers can’t use the service either because the system running the motor tax application doesn’t become aware of the vehicle’s existence until it has been taxed for the first time.

By Gordon Smith