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The Changing Appearance of the Tax Disc

1921: First appearance of the tax disc.

1923: Vertical colour bar introduced. (This was seen as a deterrent against forgers and for ease of recognition.)

1924: Refunds for surrendered licences for each complete month of the unexpired period of the currency of the disc introduced.

1932-34: Horizontal coloured bar.

1935: Cross shaped Coloured bars introduced.

1938: Perforations introduced and diagonal coloured bar. Wording changed from “Road Fund Licence” to “Mechanically Propelled Vehicle Licence”.

1939: A large “F” was printed on discs allocated to agricultural vehicles. These are known as “Farmers Discs”.

1943: Perforations suspended (reintroduced 1952).

1948: Standardised rate of duty for all cars £10 per year. (Taxation on goods vehicles, buses and taxis retained a high level of complexity.)

1951: The UK’s four main emblems (Scotland’s Thistle, the Irish Shamrock, the Welsh Daffodil and the English Rose) that had been on tax discs from the beginning were dropped. The size of the typeface for the expiry date increased.

1957: Design changed from traditional format to two solid band of colour top and bottom. Less information required to be put on the disc.

1960: Change from tax period ending the 31st of December. Licence fee now related to the month the disc was purchased. Also, a radical design change took place, which stayed in vogue through to 1977. Due to political unrest during the early 1970’s, which led to postal strikes, emergency tax discs had to be issued during this period.)

1963: Expiry date in light tint on the lower half of the disc introduced to help deter forgery.

1970: Political correctness kicked in and discs issued in Wales became bilingual.

1971: To counter postal strikes emergency discs were printed with blank spaces for the expiry date to be added by use of a rubber stamp. These were either yellow or pink.

1976: Production and issuing of emergency discs stopped.

1977: Expiry date was digitised, although some office continued to issue the existing style for a further year. The discs were also embossed and given two small oval shaped holes. This digital design format was nicknamed the “Swansea Disc” and remained in use until August 1987.

1979: Farmers discs became mainstream with the large “F” no longer printed, although the “F” did continue in a crude overprint.

1981: The four-month taxation periods were abolished and motorists only had 6-month, or 12-month options.

1985: Some Post Offices started issuing “temporary discs” for first licences. These were only valid for two weeks.  

1987: Another design change. A ‘wavy line’ motif was introduced to again deter forgers. This stayed the course, with certain modifications, up to October 2003.

1993: The expiry date was considered too difficult to read quickly, so the format was changed from day/month/year to month/year with the month more prominently printed. A transition period entailed an overlap of five months between March and August.

1999: New counter forgery elements were introduced. The disignator letter of the DVLA are embossed across the top of the disc.

2003: As a further security measure the expiry date was changed to gold over black.

2005: It became apparent that the gold over black was a bad idea due to being hard to read, so this was reversed to black over gold.

2011: The gold colour was removed in this year.

2014: The DVLA ran down their stocks of tax discs and instead printed many of them at the bottom of an A4 sheet of paper. For the final time in the history of the tax disc there were no longer any perforations on them. From October 1 of this year, amid a blaze of national publicity, the Government abolished the tax disc. The last expiry date to be seen on any disc would be for 30 September 2015.


2. Brief History of the Tax Disc