Motor tax is charged under the Finance (Excise Duties) (Vehicles) Act 1952 as amended from time to time.  The tax applies to mechanically propelled vehicles used in public places.  The tax is to be paid annually on licenses taken out by persons who keep the vehicle.  Provision may be made for payments for periods of less than a year, including for example half yearly and quarterly.

The Regulation is made by the Minister for Finance prescribe the test for measuring cylinder capacity, horsepower and seating capacity of a vehicle.

The following are exempt from the duty:

  • refuse carts, sweeping machines, watering machines for cleansing streets and roads,  ambulance, road-rollers or fire engines, local authority vehicles used for fire brigade,
  • Vehicles used for the transport (whether by carriage or traction) of road construction machinery
  • Vehicles which are used exclusively for the transport  of lifeboats and gear,
  • Vehicles not exceeding 400 kilograms in weight, unladen and adapted and used by invalids,
  • Vehicles used for mountain and cave rescue purposes,
  • vehicles used for underwater search and recovery purposes (there are conditions attached to some of these exemptions).
  • Vehicles used for spreading grease or clearing snow.

The Regulations provides for limited and conditional exemption for vehicles entering the State on a temporary basis.

Public places are a street, road or place which the public have access with mechanically propelled vehicles whether subject to or free of charge.

Where a vehicle enjoys a lower rate subject to compliance to condition, the higher rate becomes chargeable if the condition ceases to apply.

Notwithstanding that the duty is in the nature of an excise duty, Garda Síochána may sue to take proceedings to recover road duty in the context of a road traffic prosecution.  The court may have power to mitigate the penalty but not the processing authority.

The duties charged are set out in the schedule to legislation which is amended from time to time.  The rate of duty depends on a number of factors.  This includes the following:

  • weight,
  • cylinder capacity,
  • seating capacity,
  • whether the vehicle is used as a public service vehicle or as a large public service vehicle, whether the vehicle is used for off road purposes, whether it is a track or  a way, engine capacity, compliance with certain environmental criteria.

The duty applies to a very wide category of motor propelled vehicles and the rates that are charged vary. Though distinct categories of license fee payable in respect of certain categories of vehicles and the criteria vary:

Vehicle less than 500 kilograms including particular certain motorbikes; the licence fees are relatively modest.

Certain construction site vehicles, licence fees vary considerably depending on size,

Public transport vehicles, licences fees are relatively modest, but vary with the passenger capacity.


The  duty on vehicles for the carriage of goods vary, depending on engine capacity and weight.  Licenses can be up to €4500 in the case of heavier vehicle.

Certain environmentally unfriendly vehicles are subject to relatively high levels of charge.

The generality of mortal vehicles are subject to a sliding scale of charge that varies from approximately €286 for engine capacity of 1000 cc up to 1200 and €1566 for those over 3000 cc.

There are special rates for electric vehicle.

There are rules for determining whether a vehicle comprises more than one vehicle such that each must be licensed.  This belongs to larger lorries and cabs etc.

There are exemptions which are for farm vehicles which are used only on public road.  This is subject to conditions.

The Revenue  establish a valuation of vehicles under the Vehicle Registration Tax introduced in 1993.  Where a vehicle is added in the register, a license has to be taken out, and the duty on it paid.  Where there was a gap between  the time it was registered and the first use in the public place, an application may be made for an exemption.

When application is made for license more than seven days after the first registration or more than a month after the expiry of the latest license, excise duty must be paid in respect of the gap period if the vehicle was used in the public place during that time.  The duty may be recovered as a debt by the authority.

Trade licences may be issued to persons manufacturing, dealing, distributing or repairing vehicles or a prescribed business.  Subject to compliance with conditions a trade license may issue.

A trade license consist of a plate containing identification marks as may be prescribed.  There are flat rates or trade licenses.  They may only be exhibited on vehicle’s temporarily while in the possession of the holder.  It is an offense to fraudulently make or alter a plate which is or purports to be a trade license.  The issues with trade license can be appealed to the district court.

A person who fails to have the requisite licenses is subject to in summary conviction, a fine up to €1270 and imprisonment for up to six months or both.  Upon conviction, the District Court shall order the trade license to be revoked, A person may be disqualified and may be automatically disqualified in some cases, from holding a trade license.

Where a person keeps a vehicle in respect of which a duty is chargeable, prescribed particulars must be given  in the application to the licensing authority.

Where a person transfers his interest in the vehicle, the person making the transfer must notify the particulars of the licensing authority of the transfer and give the particulars prescribed by Regulation. Failure to comply with the obligation is an offence.

Finance Act 1976 makes it an offence to use, park or keep a vehicle in a public place without payment of the requisite tax.  An employee has a defence where he can show that  he is using the vehicle under the express orders of his employer.  The court shall on conviction order the person to pay a sum equal to the aggregate amounts of the vehicle duty due to the licensing authority.

Where a motor vehicle license is used, parked or kept in the public place, the person so using it parking or keeping it must display a licence (tax disc).  Failure to do so is an offence.  The offence may be charged in addition to the offence of failure to have paid the tax.

Local authorities and the Minister establish records of licences containing information in prescribed form.  Officers of the Minister, the licensing authority, members of the Garda Síochána, Revenue and other persons as may be prescribed are there to examine and inspect the record.  They may be furnished with records as may be reasonably required. A certificate signed by officers of the authority are evidence of the contents.

The registered owner is a person whose name is most recently entered in the licensing records.  Where the vehicle has not been registered in the state, it is the owner.  Under  a trade license, it is the holder of the license.

The relevant licensing authority in relation to a vehicle is the one in whose functional area the vehicle is  ordinarily kept.  If it is not ordinarily kept in a particular area, the relevant licensing authority is where the principal place of business of the person who keeps the vehicle or where he ordinarily resides.  A vehicle is deemed ordinarily kept in the area in which is situated, the garage or the place where it is ordinarily kept.

There is provision for application for a license in paper or by the Internet through  The owner of a fleet may apply to the licensing area where it has its principal place of business.

Evidence of insurance by way of certificate of insurance must be produced on the application.  Alternatively, evidence of exemption from requirement of insurance must be produced.

Upon receipt of an application in hard form or by Internet on payment of the relevant fee, a license is issued bearing the date of expiry, and new license is entered in the register.  A declaration is required in prescribed form.

The register shows the details of the identification mark (registration plate, cc) class,  make , annual rate of duty, date of issue of a license, licensing authority code.

The licence must be carried on the vehicle and exhibited on it.  There are particular rules for bicycles, invalid carriages and vehicles drawing side-car.

It is an offence to manipulate, deface or alter a licence or exhibit a licence which has been so altered, defaced, mutilated etc.  It is an offence to imitate a license or to alter it.

The procedure on sale of a vehicle is set out in Road Vehicles Registration and Licensing Regulations.  The owner transferring the vehicles and the new owner must complete certain forms.  The new owner is to retain proxy of the form and the owner transferring is to deliver Part A and B completed by the owner and transfer it to the licensing authority.  A motor dealer must deliver the registration book for the vehicle to the new owner.  The new owner is to retain it until subsequent transfer. Where the registration book is not delivered it becomes void.

Upon receipt of the completed form and registration book, the authority is to acknowledge the same for the transferring owner and record the details supplied on the licensing record.  It is to verify the details in the registration book and to stamp and forward the registration book to the new owner.  Where a current license for the vehicle has issued, the owner transferring the vehicle has delivered the license to the new owner and this will operate as a transfer of license.  If not so delivered it shall become void.

There is a different procedure for vehicles registered before or after 1  January 1993.  The former owner transferring the vehicle and the new owner completes appropriate forms.  There are different forms and procedures for  transfers by motor dealers.  The former owner and new owner, complete appropriate forms and remit them to the Minister.  The Minister notes the change of ownerships and issues a registration certificate to the new owner. There are different procedures where the seller or buyer is a motor dealer.

Where a vehicle is permanently exported or destroyed, the owner shall notify the licensing authority and deliver the registration book in the case of a pre-1993 vehicle.  He shall deliver the unexpired licence at the same time and notify the authority.

Where a vehicle is first licensed after 1993 or scrapped or destroyed, the owner shall enter the particulars in the relevant certificate and deliver the certificate to the Minister who shall note that the vehicle was scrapped or destroyed and notify the licensing authority.

A licence may be surrendered

  • if the vehicle is stolen and not recovered,
  • the owner ceases to use it because of illness, disability or injury,
  • the vehicle has not been used in the public place since the issue,
  • the owner has ceased because of service in the Defence Force outside the country to use the vehicle or
  • because of absence from the state for business or educational purposes.

Where a licensing authority is satisfied that a license registration book or certificate have been defaced, destroyed, lost, mutilated etc.  a duplicate may be issued.  It is marked as a replacement.

The identification mark of a vehicle is in a prescribed format.  It is commonly described as the registration plate.  It must be maintained on the vehicle.

The form of the identification mark, its size and location is prescribed.  It is generally to be exhibited on the front and rear of a four wheeler vehicle.

In the case of trailers, a duplicate identification mark must be exhibited at the back of the rearmost trailer.  No figures, or letters, design or ornamentation may be placed near the mark so as to render it more difficult to read or distinguish it in motion.

There are provisions for diplomatic plates.

The designs of the identification marks (registration plates) are specified.  The plate must exhibit the flag of the EU and the letters IRL in prescribed colour.  The Roads Act 1920 make a provision for recovery of an excise penalty for three times the amount of duty payable where the requisite license is not held.  Proceedings must be brought within 12 months.


Important Notice! This website is provided for informational purposes only! It is a fundamental condition of the use of this website that no liability is accepted for any loss or damage caused by reason of any error, omission, or misstatement in its contents. 

Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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