Car road tax: your guide to statutory off-road notification (SORN)

  • SORN - Statutory off-road notification - reduces car tax fraud
  • Part of continuous licensing for all the UK's vehicles
  • It's free and easy to make a SORN online - here's how

How to SORN a car that's off the road

Before the introduction of continuous licensing, it was up to the police and local authorities to verify if a car was being used on the road legally. That verification was most often a visual inspection of a small disc of paper in the windscreen. Car tax discs were abolished in 2015, but SORN has existed since 1998, introduced as legislation in 1997.

What is SORN?

SORN stands for statutory off-road notification. It's pretty self-explanatory; you have to notify the DVLA the car is 'off the road', rather than simply letting your road tax expire, or as it used to be, cashing it in for a refund (still the case if you pay for a year and then transfer the car to someone else).

>> How much will it cost to tax my car?

SORN used to be an alternative to a tax disc and had to be renewed; now it applies from the date it's declared, to the date the car is taxed again or sold/transferred.

Why is SORN required?

Cars used or parked on the road need to be taxed - but cars move around, change hands, hide in garages, get forgotten in barns; essentially before SORN, the DVLA had no way of knowing if an untaxed car was off the road, or just untaxed. Although numperplate recognition and computerised enforcement mean an untaxed car is easily spotted in cities and on motorways, in many rural areas, it's possible to drive an untaxed car and never be seen by any enforcement agencies.

While SORN doesn't prevent the car being used that way, physically, you've legally told the DVLA that the car is off the road. Therefore, if it's seen in use without trade plates, or parked on the public highway, there's no ambiguity.

Remember Del Boy's 'Tax in Post' sticker? That little excuse disappeared with SORN, and was truly eradicated with the end of tax discs.

When should I make a SORN?

If your car is not being used, and it is parked on private land, in a garage or on your driveway, then you should make a SORN. It's not worth doing for less than a month, as tax runs from the start to the end of the calendar month. If you intend to use the car again, you have to tax it right away and that tax runs from the start of the month you're in.

If your car is parked on a public road or carpark, even if you're not using it, it should be taxed and legal for use on the road. This also ensures the car is insured, or at least has been long enougfh to get taxed.

You don't need an MoT or insurance to delcare the car off-road. However, you do need the V5C (logbook) in your name if you want to do it online.

If a car has been off the road continually since 1997, it will need a SORN if it changes keeper.

How to SORN your car

You can make a SORN by post with form V890, downloadable from the link below. You can do this alonside a change of address or ownership by including the V5C at the same time.

It's quick and easy to declare your car off road online - Register your vehicle as off the road (official .gov website).

You will need either the number from your road-tax reminder letter - in which case the SORN will apply from the start of the month - or from your V5C to declare SORN immediately.

If you have sold your car, it is up to the new owner to delcare SORN or tax it, and you will receive a refund of any tax remaining automatically; remember that it's your responsibility to inform the DVLA of a change of keeper. This can also be done online.

SORN FAQs

Q: Does a car need to be insured to make a SORN?
A: No. However, you may want to get laid-up insurance to cover your car against accidental damage, vandalism or theft while it is off the road

Q: How often does SORN have to be renewed?
A: Once a SORN is made, it will only need to be renewed if the car changes keeper. However, it must be done right away, otherwise the new keeper is liable for tax.

Q: How much does making a SORN cost?
A: It's free - but some scam websites advertise on search engines and charge a fee (the same scams offer to renew your tax or driving licence, adding fees for services that are free or much lower cost).

You should always ensure you're using the official DVLA/government websites.

Further reading:

>> Parkers: Car Tax Calculator
>> Vehicle excise duty (car tax) explained
>> More car tax advice from Parkers