Avoid tractor taxing trauma

All agricultural vehicles should have an up-to-date tax disc or SORN. Power Farming finds out what’s involved, and the implications of getting it wrong.

Correctly licensing an agricultural vehicle isn’t just a case of staying within the law. If you have an accident you could find your insurance doesn’t cover you.

“We don’t specify that vehicles should be licensed in our policies because it’s the policyholder’s responsibility to comply with legal requirements, including licensing,” notes NFU Mutual’s Tim Price.

“But under the general conditions of our motor insurance, policyholders must comply with relevant regulations. This includes correctly licensing the vehicle. If there’s an accident and policy conditions have not been met, where insurers are obliged to pay liability claims, they can attempt to recover money from the policyholder.”

Licensing a tractor is not a straightforward procedure, however, especially if documentation is missing. It’s far from obvious which tax class agricultural vehicles belong in, especially if they’re used for activities such as hunting, shooting or even taking visitors round your farm.

Do all agricultural vehicles have to be licensed?

The law requires every vehicle that is used or kept on a public road, including agricultural vehicles, to display a valid tax disc. If the tax disc is not being renewed or a refund is submitted, you should make a SORN (Statutory Off-Road Notification). This indicates that the vehicle is off the public road and is therefore not liable for vehicle tax.

SORN was introduced on 31 January 1998 and applies to vehicles licensed on or after that date. If you have a vehicle on your farm that has never been licensed and does not have a SORN, there is no obligation to get one, provided it is kept off-road. Similarly there is no requirement for any vehicles not licensed since before 31 January 1998.

However, once the vehicle has been licensed, it is essential that you make an annual SORN declaration be if its licence is not being renewed.

Are there any exemptions?

Vehicles in the agricultural tax class are exempt from paying a duty for the tax disc. But you must still display a tax disc whilst being used on a public road. MOT (if applicable) and insurance must also be valid.

What is the penalty if you don’t have a license or a SORN?

The penalty for not relicensing a vehicle or making a SORN is £80, which is reduced to £40 if paid within 28 days.

Under Continuous Registration, introduced in January 2004, you are legally responsible for licensing a vehicle until DVLA has been notified that it is being kept off the public road (by making a SORN), or has been sold, transferred, scrapped or exported. So even if you don’t own the vehicle any more, you may still be liable for a fine if you haven’t informed DVLA.

Continuous Registration also means you can’t just let it lapse. If there’s a tractor sitting in your yard that you have failed to re-license or make a SORN declaration for, then an automatic penalty notice will be issued.

What are my obligations as far as insurance cover is concerned?

Any vehicle, including agricultural vehicles, must have insurance cover before venturing on the road.

Under the general conditions of a motor insurance policy, policyholder ‘duty of care’ requirements include the clause that policyholders must do all they reasonably can to maintain the vehicle insured, and any trailer, in good working order. They must be in roadworthy condition and the policyholder must comply with relevant statutory requirements and regulations imposed by any authority. This includes correctly licensing the vehicle.

If there’s an accident resulting in damages to a third-party vehicle or someone is injured, and the policyholder is liable, then the Road Traffic Act obliges the insurer to cover the claim.

But if policy conditions had not been met, and insurers are obliged to pay liability claims, then they may attempt to recover that money from the policyholder. They can also turn down claims for damage to the policyholder’s vehicle itself.

In practice, insurers look at each case on individual circumstance. This might mean they would not be too concerned about a vehicle in roadworthy condition where the owner had forgotten to renew the road fund licence for a few days.

But there would be concern about a vehicle that was unlicensed because it was not designed for road use. A good example is a tractor not fitted with lights involved in an accident while being used on the road at night.

How do I obtain or renew a license?

About three weeks before your tax disc runs out, you should get a ‘Vehicle Licence Application/Statutory Off Road Notification’ (V11 reminder) from the DVLA. Use this to renew your tax online, by phone, by post or in person.

You use also use your registration certificate (V5C) to apply for a tax disc. You need valid insurance and an MOT certificate (if applicable).

The following link provides further information on how to tax a vehicle: www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/OwningAVehicle/HowToTaxYourVehicle/DG_4022117

How do I obtain a SORN?

You use the same documentation to make a SORN declaration. The following link provides further information: www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/OwningAVehicle/UntaxedVehicle/DG_4022058

Which tax classes are relevant to agriculture?

Those associated with agriculture are Limited Use and Special Concessionary, which encompasses agricultural tractors, off road tractors, agricultural engines and light agricultural vehicles. Information on all of these tax classes can be found on the following link: www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/OwningAVehicle/TaxationClasses/DG_069649

I’ve no DVLA documents, how do I license my vehicle?

If you don’t have a V5C, you will first have to make an application for a vehicle registration certificate by completing a V62 application and sending it to the DVLA together with a cheque for £25.

The DVLA may also request an inspection of the vehicle to establish its correct identity before issuing a V5C. You will also need to apply for a vehicle licence or make a SORN declaration at the same time using a V10 vehicle licence application form or V890 manual SORN declaration.

What do I do if my agricultural vehicle isn’t even registered?

Many agricultural vehicles have never been registered if they have never been on a public road. If only used on private land, there is no requirement to register a vehicle with the DVLA.

But if the vehicle is to be used on the public road at any point, it must be registered and licensed. You’ll need to go to your local DVLA office with two forms of ID and the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and fill out a V55 form. The cost of first registration is £55. You can then wait to be given a registration number or you can be issued with a ‘Q’ number there and then.

The following link provides more information on how to register a vehicle: www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/BuyingAndSellingAVehicle/RegisteringAVehicle/DG_4022316

Are All Terrain Vehicles and sit-in ATVs treated differently for registration purposes?

Applications to register ATVs are not treated differently. But due to the construction and use of the vehicles they may fall into different tax classes. For agricultural uses, generally sit-astride ATVs are classed as light agricultural vehicles and sit-in ATVs as exempt with limited use. See Power Farming’s guide to ATV legislation for more information.

What if I want to change the class that my vehicle’s licensed under?

You will need to mark section 7 of the V5C with the appropriate change to the tax class and sign and date the document. You will need to take it to your nearest DVLA Local Office and re-license the vehicle. Depending on the type of vehicle and the taxation class you wish to license under, it may be useful to take photographs of the vehicle along with you to demonstrate a vehicle’s eligibility for a particular tax class.

What restrictions will my nil-duty license have?

You may only use a nil-duty license if you are taking the vehicle on a public road as part of an agricultural activity. There are other specific restrictions that apply. The following link provides more information:www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/OwningAVehicle/TaxationClasses/DG_069649

When a tractor or ATV is used on a public road as part of the local hunt or shoot, is this considered an agricultural use?

The breeding, rearing or keeping of any creature for purposes relating to sport or recreation are not considered activities falling within the definition of agriculture, horticulture or forestry.

Does that include a hunt’s/shoot’s conservation work, for example planting game patches, feeding birds and mending fences?

All of these activities relate to sport or recreation, so are non-agricultural.

I have a tractor, licensed for agricultural use, that we use with a trailer to transport the beaters for our shoot, including a short stretch on a public road – is that OK?

No. To license a vehicle for agricultural use it must be used for activities relating solely to agriculture, horticulture or forestry. Transporting beaters for a shoot is not considered an activity falling within the definition of agriculture, horticulture or forestry. The vehicle should be licensed in the appropriate fee-paying taxation class.

The correct class would depend on weight of vehicle, no of axles, etc. The V149 form from DVLA has more information on vehicle tax rates and classes:www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/@en/@motor/documents/digitalasset/dg_067081.pdf

I have a UTV, licensed as exempt with limited use, used by the gamekeeper every morning to feed the birds and check the covers, including a short stint on a public road – is that OK?

No. The vehicle should be licensed in the appropriate fee-paying taxation class. This may involve type-approving the vehicle for road use. See Power Farming’s guide to ATV legislation for more information.

My ATV, licensed as a light agricultural vehicle, is used occasionally by the local hunt to drag the scent round that the hounds follow, including several stints on a public road going from one farm to another – is that OK?

No. The vehicle should be licensed in the appropriate fee-paying taxation class.

I have a tractor, licensed for agricultural use, that we use with a trailer to transport visitors around the farm, including a short stretch on a public road – is that OK?

No. Transporting visitors around a farm is not considered an activity falling within the definition of agriculture, horticulture or forestry. The vehicle should be licensed in the appropriate fee-paying taxation class.

Can you dual-license a vehicle, so that it is covered for both agricultural and non-agricultural activities?

It is not possible to “dual-license” a vehicle. One used for both agricultural and non-agricultural activities should be licensed at the highest rate of duty applicable to the construction and use of the vehicle.

If a tractor is not taxed for agricultural activities, is there another nil rate of duty it could be taxed under?

If the vehicle was first registered prior to 1973 it could be taxed in the historic tax class which would be a nil rate of duty.

Could a tractor taxed in a paying class be used for agricultural purposes as well as for activities such as hunting or shooting?

Yes.