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Singapore Road tax offences creeping up again

COMPANY director Lee Dong Taek was fined $1,000 yesterday after a car owned by his company was driven without valid road tax and insurance cover.For the second offence, he also received a 12-month driving ban.Lee, 45, was among dozens of people hauled to court this month for road tax-related infringements.

According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), about 11,000 motorists are late in renewing their vehicle road tax each month.There are as many reasons for being late as there are owners, but most often, it is plain forgetfulness, or at times, one spouse thinks the other has renewed it.Other reasons include financial difficulty.The majority of taxes owed are for smaller cars, with the sums involved usually less than $1,000 each.Late road tax renewals are the most common infringement recorded by the LTA - ahead of other offences such as keeping deregistered cars and using a vehicle without insurance.

Offences related to off-peak cars are also on the rise.This is despite the LTA sending out tax renewal notices close to the date of expiry, and the prospect of fines for late payments.An owner of a 1.6-litre car who is late in renewing its road tax faces fines of between $10 - if he is late for up to a month - and $235 - if he is more than three months overdue.Motorists who are late with renewals should not drive those cars.

In fact, it is technically an offence to keep a vehicle without a valid road tax. Thousands of people are caught and summoned each year for driving without a valid road tax.Mr Alvin Chia, LTA's deputy director of investigations, said 3,570 such summonses were issued last year. And in the first half of this year, 1,508 summonses were issued.Both the owner of a vehicle and whoever uses it without valid tax can be taken to task.In some cases, such as when an owner is unable to pay the road tax or the fine for late renewal, the LTA will seize the vehicle.Mr Chia said that 1,195 vehicles were seized last year. The number this year could be significantly higher, with 891 seized in the first six months already.

The numbers, although lower than the tally five years ago, are creeping up again because of the economic slump and the recent spurt in Singapore's vehicle population. Seized vehicles are held in a pound before they are auctioned off to recover the taxes owed. Each quarter, the authority auctions off about 100 vehicles, the majority of which are two-wheelers.Owners can redeem their vehicles by paying the backdated taxes and penalties. Those who are caught driving without a valid road tax are usually also found guilty of not having valid motor insurance cover. The latter offence carries a heftier penalty, including a mandatory driving ban of 12 months. The LTA's Mr Chia said such stiff measures are necessary "to protect the interests of other motorists as victims of road accidents involving an uninsured vehicle may not be able to seek due compensation". Road tax cases have been taking up courtroom time for some years now, prompting at least one district judge to suggest that LTA do more to remind owners of the seriousness of such offences.

The Automobile Association of Singapore suggests another measure. Its chief executive Lee Wai Mun said: "Under the current difficult economic climate, it is not uncommon for people to delay in making payment for some of their bills. The LTA could send reminders to motorists on their road tax payment. We also encourage motorists to keep track of their road tax renewal dates." Mr Chia said: "A renewal notice is sent to the vehicle owner about four weeks before the expiry date."Over the years, LTA has also made it more convenient for motorists to pay or renew their road tax by increasing the number of payment channels." These include the Internet, AXS stations and Giro. There are also more than 100 road tax collection centres islandwide, including all SingPost branches and vehicle inspection centres."

source: Strait Times

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