A rolling period of 40 years was introduced during 2015 that enables conforming vehicles to be classified as Historic and thus have zero vehicle excise duty (road tax) to pay. Effectively, soon after any vehicle registered with the DVLA in the UK, excluding Northern Ireland, turns 40 years' old, the cost to tax the vehicle will be nothing. Hitherto, it was only vehicles registered on or before 1 January 1973 that could be classed as Historic. The onus is on the vehicle's owner to contact the DVLA either directly or via a local Post Office to reclassify their Historic vehicle as such; otherwise the DVLA will continue to charge you for vehicle excise duty.
The DVLA will look at the date of first registration on their database to confirm whether the vehicle conforms or not. The DVLA is also able to use a date of construction should this be significantly different to the date of first registration. You'd need to be able to prove the former.
This Historic application process can only be undertaken when road tax is being applied for/renewed. Importantly, this process cannot be completed online, only via post with the DVLA or by visiting a local Post Office branch.
The final thing to note is that despite a rolling period being in force, there is a cut-off point of 8 January each year. So, unless your vehicle was first registered before this date, you will have to effectively wait a whole year before being eligible for Historic classification. An example would be if your vehicle was first registered on 1 March 1976 and you had to renew the vehicle's tax before 28/29 February each year. Your vehicle would turn 40 years' old on 1 March 2016; however, this is after the cut-off point of 8 January that year, which means you'd be unable to claim foe Historic status until you renewed before 28/29 February 2017.
I was incredibly fortunate that, while GCT 113 was build during late-1976 and delivered on 14 December of that year, she was first registered on 1 January 1977, entering service 13 days later. This meant the bus would be eligible from 8 January 2017 for Historic status, but frustratingly Stagecoach hadn't cottoned onto this and had handed over half a grand when the tax renewal was due during May of this year. Since this tax was now established for the bus for the next year, when I collected GCT 113 on 27 August, I'd need to pay the £500 road tax and claim eleven-twelfths back from the DVLA in due course (you always have to pay for the first month's road tax upon purchase).
Only after this money was paid and I'd be legally entitled to drive the bus away from Chesterfield depot, would I be able to then start the process of claiming Historic status for GCT 113. There is no other way round this unless you're being accompanied by someone classified as a motor trader and who has the requisite trade plates and who is able to drive the vehicle back to their premises for you. In this very specific instance, purchasing tax before driving the vehicle away would not be needed. Happily, I fell into this category which saved me the hassle of paying for something I really didn't need to do.
Once GCT 113 was back in Lincolnshire and being the recipient of the V5C/2 (green) slip of paper cut from the V5C (log book) document, I set about classifying GCT 113 as Historic and visited my local Post Office, but sadly the DVLA system wouldn’t allow it. I phoned the DVLA who suggested they should be able to do it. To err on the side of caution, I opted to send my documentation to Swansea for them to sort for me. I needed to send off my V5C/2 slip, the bus’s MOT certificate, a completed application form for a new V5C and another for applying for a change of tax class.
Applications may not even be looked at before 21 working days after receipt by the DVLA, so don’t expect to be able to drive your vehicle anytime soon. That wasn’t too much of an issue since GCT 113 spent nearly her first month in private ownership having minor modifications made to her interior, so driving it wasn’t a requirement.
The DVLA Vehicle Tax Checker is the place to go to see what your vehicle’s tax status is, as it is updated ‘live’, so you’ll find our here before the manila envelope from Swansea arrives on your door mat.
One final thing to mention is that when you apply for Heritage vehicle class via post to the DVLA you will also be granted your first year’s road tax at the same time; thereafter you renew your road tax in the same way as before, except having nothing to pay, of course.