SORN - a case study
Just how does the SORN process work and when you get a letter from the DVLA confirming your notice, and what does it look like? The V8 Registrar, Victor Smith (Harvest Gold 1089), received his Form V956 acknowledgment from DVLA which raised a few questions - here are the replies from a helpful DVLA! (Feb 04)

So what does the DVLA acknowledgment of a SORN look like?


DVLA acknowledgment of a SORN on Form V956

The reply confirms that the vehicle record for your V8 at DVLA has been changed to show the notice (your Statutory Off Road Notification) has been received and the date upon which the notice began. The SORN lasts for 12 months. DVLA says "we will send you a reminder as long as you are still the registered keeper of the vehicle and there have been no other changes". The letter then goes on to warn you unconditionally "not to use your vehicle or keep it on a public road while the SORN is in force. If you do, you could be fined up to £5,000".

So how can you get your V8 to an MOT test station if you cannot use your vehicle on the roads while the SORN is in force?
Well on examining this DVLA letter (Form V956) with its unconditional "hell or high water" warnings, I began to think how on earth would I ever renew my road tax if I could not take the V8 on the road to a MOT testing station first?

So I sent the following questions to DVLA by email on 22nd January 2004.
Thank you for your letter of 15th January 2004 confirming my SORN for PVJ 414 M is valid for 12 months from 2nd January 2004.

I have a couple of questions for you on the SORN procedure and requirements based on my reading of your letter. I anticipate your reply will be of considerable interest to my fellow members of the V8 Register who own an MGBV8. As the MGBV8 is a classic car, many of our members only have their MGBV8s on the road for part of the year so find themselves involved in the SORN procedure and now your latest announcement.

I note the statement in your letter to me of 15th January 2004 confirming my SORN which states "Do not use your vehicle or keep it on the a public road while the SORN is in force. If you do, you could be fined up to £5,000." That statement is clearly unconditional so unless there is some relief by way of a waiver or express condition or provision relating to the terms of that SORN confirmation which would enable a registered keeper to get a vehicle subject to a current SORN to an MOT testing station, I regret I cannot see how the registered keeper would be permitted to drive or tow that car on a public road for the purpose of having an MOT test on that vehicle as a precondition of re-taxing the vehicle. I should be very pleased if you would clarify the position and in particular let me have your reply to the following questions.

Q1. Getting a SORN vehicle to an MOT testing station. Can the registered keeper of a vehicle for which a SORN has been sent to DVLA, drive that vehicle untaxed and whilst the SORN still applies to an MOT testing station at which the registered keeper has a prior appointment for that vehicle to be tested?

Q2. In what form is the reminder sent by DVLA to the registered keeper at the end of the SORN period? For example does the reminder come as a Form V11 reminder (in the style of reminder one would get at the expiry of a tax period) which provides sections with the convenient option to renew the vehicle licence for a further period or submit a SORN? Alternatively would the registered keeper have to go to the local Post Office or DVLA local office or go online to get a particular form to renew the SORN?

I should mention that I am seeking these clarifications for publication on the V8 Register website for which I am the webmaster. This website is for enthusiasts with MGBGTV8, MGBV8 Conversions and MG RV8 models. The new SORN provisions announced earlier this month are a considerable concern for our members, many of whom use their cars on a seasonal basis and consequently tax them for only part of the year. There are several webpages on the SORN requirements and procedures which you may care to examine.
SORN1
SORN2

Should you find any inaccuracies in the information set out on either of those webpages, I would very much welcome any comments or corrections you can provide so I am able to make appropriate changes to the V8 Website for the benefit of our members.

I await your reply and clarifications.

Regards,

Victor Smith

The reply from the DVLA is in the next column.

V8 Register - MG Car Club

Email reply from the DVLA on 16th February 2004

"Thank you for your e-mail of 22nd January 2004 concerning the new Continuous Registration (CR) scheme.

Getting a vehicle covered by a SORN to an MOT testing station
It might be helpful if I explain that there is an exemption from Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) under Part 2, Section 22 of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act (VERA) 1994 for a vehicle to travel to and from a testing station for the purpose of a pre-arranged MOT test. This exemption is only afforded whilst a vehicle is in use for the purpose of testing, and does not apply if it is merely kept on the road.

Reminders from DVLA at the end of a SORN period
Turning now to your question regarding our V11, Licensing/SORN Reminders, I can confirm that DVLA ventures to provide all Registered Keepers with an up to date reminder to enable them to re- license with the minimum of disruption. Reminders are printed by DVLA and given to the Royal Mail approximately 8 weeks before the current licence expires. This is to allow time for them to be sorted and distributed through the Royal Mail network and take into account times of disruption such as Christmas posting. Royal Mail then start the delivery of the reminders about 2-3 weeks before the expiry of the licence, as a vehicle cannot be licensed before the 15th of any month. However, if the vehicle has recently been purchased and the keeper does not have a V5C, Registration Certificate, in his/her name then a V890, Statutory Off Road (SORN), which can be found at any licensing Post Offices® or from our website at www.dvla.gov.uk .

Accuracy of the SORN webpages on the V8 Website
Finally, I can also confirm that after consulting our Vehicle Policy Group we are happy with the wording contained on your webpage regarding SORN. However, you may also be interested to know that DVLA now acknowledges SORN declarations and disposal notifications from vehicle keepers and a letter will be issued when the notification is processed at the Centre.

I hope this information is of assistance to you.

Regards,

Andrew Owen
Customer Enquiries Vehicles"


Well I think that is clear although why they could not have put that VERA clarification on the SORN acknowledgment letter in the first place is a mystery? The rather aggressive unconditional warning on Form V956 about not using or keeping a car on a public road or which a SORN was in force is an illustration of a heavy-handed mentality which did not fully think through the implications of their wording. It will be interesting to see if they change the text on Form V956 to include an explanation of the VERA exemption. But the good news is there does appear to be at least one fellow at DVLA, Andrew Owen, who is customer friendly! Thank you for the helpful reply.

Would any members who receive an acknowledgment of their SORN from DVLA, please let the V8 Webmaster know if the "MOT test VERA exemption" was mentioned. We already have clear evidence that there is little effort being made to change the standard letter - see the update below.

When does the reminder reach you to re-tax the V8 or submit a new SORN?
Just by chance a reminder to re-tax another of my cars arrived on the same day as the DVLA email above. The reminder arrived on 16th February with renewal due on 29th February 2004 - only 14 days! If I had to leave that car at a long term airport car park for two weeks, it could not have been driven home on my return without a pre-arranged MOT test! One is left with the feeling it's not really a realistic system - just a determined effort by a bureaucratic mindset to clamp down on a minority of road tax evaders at the inconvenience of most law abiding motorists. Come on Humphrey, if you want to act tough, do think through your proposals first! At present what you have got is neither practical nor reasonable! Two to three weeks is simply not sufficient notice these days particularly when that can mean just 14 days with an unreliable postal system!

Feedback from V8 members
Do let the V8 Webmaster know how many days before the expiry date of your road fund licence or SORN you received your reminder from DVLA. My feeling is the Post Office service is the weak link in this system. If you do not get the reminder with sufficient notice, then it's off to the Post Office for a Form V10 to retax the V8 or if you plan to continue keeping the V8 off the road, then it's a case of using the SORN procedure again!

Update (20.1.05) from Victor Smith: The letter I have received from DVLA acknowledging my SORN submitted at the end of December 2004, is in the same form as the letter received lat January 2004 - see the letter reproduced at the top of the LH column. The letter does not mention the MOT exemption, just the same heavy handed sweeping style again.

Update (21.1.05) from James Fairchild of the Transport Yorkshire Preservation Group reports he is being fined £80 by DVLA despite having sent in a SORN. It is an extraordinary case which could affect V8 enthusiasts who buy a car where the tax has expired and a SORN is due, register the change of ownership in the usual way, and send in a SORN but do so before the change of registration has taken effect. Yes it seems incredible but the DVLA has fined James for sending in a SORN and refuses to accept it because on the day the SORN declaration was made he was not the registered keeper - although legally the owner at that stage having completed the purchase of the vehicle. This type of heavy handed nonsense by the DVLA is clearly unreasonable but as we have already noted the DVLA approach to SORN has been aggressive from the start with an unpleasant and slightly sad macho management style.
See DVLA aggressive fine.


DVLA helpline 0870 240 0010
www.dvla.gov.uk
For more road tax, SORN and motor insurance items see our running index. More