Avoiding a fine for incorrect registration plates

With the end of paper road tax discs on 1st October 2014, the DVLA has been relying on Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to check vehicles have a current vehicle excise duty, even a NIL value VED for a Historic tax class vehicle exempt from road tax. Using ANPR cameras also give the police the opportunity of spotting other offences - for example no current MOT or motor insurance - but also incorrect types of number plates for which there is a potential fine of up to £1,000.

Traditional "black and white" number plates
The current edition of the DVLA document INF104 covers the subject very well and is an essential reference. That document states "vehicles made before 1st January 1973 may display traditional "black and white" number plates - for example, white, silver or grey characters on a black plate". But they can also use the later reflective plates which vehicles manufactured after 1st January 1973 must display which are made of a reflective material with a white background at the front of the vehicle and a yellow background at the back of the vehicle with black letters and numbers.

Since April 2018 the number plate requirements for many classic cars changed because vehicles manufactured before 1st January 1978 were permitted to display the older style "black and white" plates. To do so the keeper of the vehicle must: have

applied to DVLA for the road tax class to be changed from PLG (Private Light Goods) to Historic and have the tax class on the V5C changed from PLG to Historic. INF104 also notes "vehicles constructed 40 or more years ago are exempt from VED/road tax. The 40 year exemption date rolls forward automatically each year on 1st April". But INF104 then adds "so from 1st April 2019 vehicles manufactured before 1st January 1979 will be eligible for exemption and permitted to fit "black & white" number plates".

Why does the VED annual exemption annual rollover also apply to number plates?
It does seem odd that permission to use "old style" black and white number plates rolls on in the same way as the eligibility to be a "Historic" vehicle for VED/road taxation exemption. You might have thought the black and white number plates would only be allowed on cars that originally had them, but that annual roll over is at present the correct position.

This appears to have been an oversight. When the Historic class was at the fixed date of 1st January 1973 it was correct, but when the eligibility for "Historic" status and VED exemption began to roll forward on an annual basis, the permission to use earlier number plates also continued to roll forward on the same basis. The UK authorities seemingly failed to pick up that it would have that effect, permitting all Historic class vehicles the use of black and white plates. At some time in the future the position may be corrected, but this would be unlikely to be retrospective, so vehicles that had become eligible to carry old style number plates would be

allowed to keep them.

MOT Testers' manual requirements
The MOT Testers' manual is quite clear on number plates too, para 6.3 states "incorrect plates are a reason for an MOT rejection".
Useful online links
Alongside are several links to further information on number plate requirements.

V8NOTE481 has been updated
It was originally released in October 2014 and has been updated following the changes mentioned in this revised note.
Updated: 190213
See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vehicle-registration-numbers-and-number-plates

Displaying number plates
You could be fined up to £1,000 and your car will fail its MOT test if you drive with incorrectly displayed number plates.
See: https://www.gov.uk/displaying-number-plates/overview

MOT testers' manual requirements
Having an incorrect set of number plates fitted to a vehicle is an "MOT fail".
See: https://www.mot-testing.service.gov.uk/documents/manuals/class3457/Section-0-Identification-of-the-vehicle.html#section_0.1
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