Electric car registrations cancelled over road user tax

More than 240 Victorian drivers have had their car registrations cancelled for failing to pay Australia’s first tax on electric and hybrid vehicles.

Photo: AP/Mark Baker

Photo: AP/Mark Baker

The Zero and Low-Emission Vehicle road user charge, which is currently facing a High Court challenge, levies a fee on every kilometre electric vehicle drivers travel each year.

But one Victorian driver said the tax had caused her registration to be cancelled without her knowledge and she only discovered her car was not allowed on roads six months later.

Victoria’s controversial electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle tax was introduced in July 2021 – a move Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said was designed to “ensure all motorists pay their fair share to use our roads”.

The charge, raised to 2.6 cents per kilometre for electric vehicles last year, was introduced to replace revenue that would have been collected by the national excise on fuel.

A move by South Australia’s former Marshall Government to introduce a state EV road user tax was scrapped by parliament in February.

Electric vehicle drivers in Victoria must submit a photo of their car’s odometer annually to determine their payment and face having their registration cancelled if they fail to provide it.

VicRoads Registration and Licensing Services chief operations officer Michael Hooper said the government had cancelled 243 car registrations since the law was introduced, which he said was a small percentage of those charged the fee.

“Less than one per cent of ZLEV-registered operators have had their registration cancelled from non-declaration of odometer readings,” he said.

“Registered operators have 14 days from the date of request to provide their odometer reading.”

The Victorian government suspends vehicle registrations if their owners fail to pay ZLEV charges within 56 days and cancels registrations within 78 days.

Lisy Kane said she did not know her Nissan Leaf had been deregistered until she tried to change the address on her account.

Unable to edit her details online, Kane said she phoned the transport department and discovered her registration had been voided.

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“It turned out I was driving my car unregistered for about six months. I was really, really shocked,” she said.

“It seems like an extreme remedy for not paying a small fee.”

Kane said she had not intended to avoid paying the ZLEV road user charge but a colleague administering the car’s payments had not received any warnings about the tax by email, post or phone call.

“There was no email or any follow-up saying ‘we’re going to cancel your registration in 30 days’ or anything like that,” she said.

“We’re fairly certain we did submit the odometer reading but we might have missed it. It was very stressful.”

Kane said she was forced to pay for a temporary registration for the car to sell it and went without a vehicle for three months.

The cancellations come as the Victorian government faces a High Court challenge to its electric vehicle road user charge after two Melbourne drivers claimed the tax was unconstitutional and could only be levied nationally.

The case has become a larger battle between governments after state and territory authorities backed the Victorian government and the federal government intervened on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The matter is expected to be finalised after further submissions are made to the High Court in April.

-with AAP

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