Licensing / Motor Tax

The annual licence (motor taxation) is administered by the local authorities.  The licence (tax disc) must be exhibited on the vehicle in a conspicuous positions.  It must not be defaced

It is an offence to use a vehicle in a public place without the relevant excise duty paid.  There are parallel provisions in respect of the older excise duties payable in respect of pre-1993 registration.

The owner as well as the driver is liable.  A public place includes any place to which the public have access whether as a right or by permission.

There are offences in relation to making false declarations in relation to licences.  It is possible to make a declaration that a licence has been off the road in order to gain exemption from the requirement for continuous licence.

Where vehicles are being sent permanently out of the State the unexpired licence must be surrendered.  There are similar provisions where the vehicle is scrapped or destroyed.  There are provisions for issue of replacement licences and certificates.

Limited exemptions apply.  The exemptions cover certain State owned vehicles, military vehicles.

Vehicle brought temporarily into the State by a visitor which is licensed in the country of normal residence of the owner in accordance with its laws and is duly registered is exempt or certain period subject to conditions. The licence issued in the country of origin must be exhibited. The relevant registration plate must be displayed.


The Department and licensing authorities establish a national vehicle file in place of the former local authority license records. The records include information derived from the earlier pre-1993 records and later registrations of vehicles. Provision is made for passing of information between the licensing authority and the Minister. Extracts from registers duly certified are deemed sufficient evidence of their content.

The registered owner is the person entered on the records as such. The register is not a register of ownership in the property law sense. However for Road Traffic Act purposes the registered person is treated as responsible for and the owner of the vehicle.

A certificate of registration is issued for vehicles first registered after 1 January 2004. . Formerly a registration book issued. The registration book was physically updated with changes of ownership and annual payments of road tax. Under the modern system the register and records are electronic.

Licence / Tax Disc

The vehicle licence, commonly referred to as a tax disc, is to be carried on the vehicle when it is used parked or otherwise kept in a public place. It is unique to each vehicle. Its location is specified. It is to be conspicuous on the front windscreen of  a motor vehicle. Other locations are specified for other types of vehicles.

The licence must not be defaced so as to become illegible. It must be replaced if this occurs. Falsification of a copy is an offence.

A replacement certificate may be issued. The licensing authority may require surrender of the certificate for correction if it believes the particulars are not correct.

Where the vehicle’s use is changed such that it is subject to a higher level of duty the licence and certificate must be returned and the difference in registration fee must be paid. When the vehicle is altered in such a way that changes the applicable registration particular or are fees the licence is to be re-delivered and updated.

Where there is a change in address the registered owner is to furnish the details to the licensing authority who notes the same. If this involves moving counties, the licensing authority shall transfer it to the relevant county.

Pre-1993 Vehicles Sales

The following procedure applies in respect of a vehicle licensed before 1 January 1993.

Upon sale of a vehicle other than one which is permanently being sent out of the State the owner transferring the vehicle is to complete the prescribed parts and the new owner is to complete its prescribed part. The same is to be sent to the relevant licensing authority.

If the new owner is a motor dealer then the owner/the   person transferring the vehicle shall deliver the certificate in respect of the vehicle to the dealer who shall retain it until any subsequent transfer of ownership. A certificate which is not delivered where required becomes void.

The licensing authority is to acknowledge receipt to the transferring owner and to update the records. It is to arrange to verify the details in the certificate by reference to the relevant licensing record, note the relevant particulars and forward the relevant certificate to the new owner. Where the current licence has issued in respect of the vehicle, the owner is to deliver the licence to the new owner. It  passes by delivery. It is not so passed, it becomes void.

On receipt of the certificate, the licensing authority whose name is in the relevant certificate last if not the appropriate licensing authority is the have the change in the appropriate licensing authority duly recorded in the licensing record.

Post-1992 Vehicles Sales

The following applies in respect of a vehicle licensed after 1 January 1993. The transferring owner and new owner shall complete and sign the appropriate parts of the certificate and deliver it to the Minister/ Department. The Department notes the change in ownership in the joint licensing records and issues the registration certificate to the new owner.

Where the new owner is a motor vehicle dealer, it is to complete a form and deliver it to the Minister/Department. Where the new owner is a motor vehicle dealer it may be authorised to give the information and return in electronic form.

In the case of a sale of a the motor vehicle the registered owner shall notify the Minister/Department of the new owner,  the date of transfer and deliver the prescribed form. A new licensing certificate form is issued to the new owner. The process may be permitted to be undertaken electronically.

Where a person acquires a vehicle other than in the above circumstances there are obligations to make returns to the licensing authority noting the changing of ownership notwithstanding the absence of a transfer by a seller.

The Minister/Department may accept a deficient transfer form and deem it valid if it is sufficient. There is provision for completion of a statutory declaration where  the relevant vehicle licensing certificate is not available. Full details of the vehicle and certain other particulars are required.

Termination of Licence

Where a vehicle is permanently exported scrapped or destroyed, the vehicle licence or registration certificate is to be returned to the authority. In the case of export the unexpired licence is to be returned.

Where a  vehicle has been

  • stolen and not recovered
  • is no longer used because of illness or injury of physical disability of the user
  • it is and has not been used in public place
  • the owner has ceased because of absence from the State to use the vehicle

the licence may be surrendered.

There is provision for issue of replacement licences and certificates when they become mutilated, defaced et cetera

Special Schemes

Certain vehicles are subject to a special scheme of licensing including

  • state-owned vehicles kept at the Department’s premises
  • vehicles covered by diplomatic legislation
  • military vehicles

A licence issues but no charge is made.


Trailers  and semitrailers over 3500 kg are subject to a separate system of licensing. These are usually part of large goods vehicles.  Trailers and semitrailers must be licensed in accordance with legislation. A register is maintained. The initial licence fee is €60 and thereafter there is no fee for subsequent licensing, subject to conditions.

Trailers s and semitrailers are subject to licensing and vehicle type approval measures similar to those applicable to vehicles. Similar testing obligations and certification requirements apply, as apply to vehicle testing and licensing generally.

Trailers  and semitrailers are subject to type approval under EU legislation. The relevant trailer  should conform with the approved type and have a declaration to this effect by the manufacturer.

Similar provisions apply to changes of owner destruction change of address and export as apply generally in respect of vehicles. Certain markings are required on the trailer. An index mark/registration plate is issued in respect of the trailer. It is an offence to use a trailer in a public place without the required mark. The size of the registration index mark is specified.

There is a requirement for certification in a prescribed format of the vehicle’s weight. This certificate is to be entered into the register in respect of trailers or semitrailers.


It is an offence to use or keep a vehicle in a public place for which the relevant licence (tax) disc) is not in force. It is subject to a penalty of €2500 or three  times the duty payable whichever is greater. Both the owner and user are liable for the offences. The burden of proof is on the defendant in relation to any issues relevant to licensing and the class of licence held.

Excise penalties under the legislation may be prosecuted and recovered by An Garda Siochana. Where a person is convicted of an offence in relation to motor taxation they may be ordered to pay the amounts of duty due to the licensing authority.

Motor taxation licences must be affixed to the vehicle.  Failure to display is itself an offence.  There is provision for a fixed charge offence.  There is provision for prosecution in the District Court with a fine up to €1,269.74.

It is a separate offence to use, park or keep a vehicle on which the required licence is not displayed. It is subject to a fixed penalty charge of €60 and on conviction and on summary conviction to a fine up to €2500. A vehicle in use in a public place without the relevant taxation may be detained and removed by An Garda Siochana.

It is an offence to use a vehicle which should have a licence carrying a higher duty. It is an offence to fail to make the requisite returns required to the licensing authority/Department.

It is an offence to give false declarations on any application for a  licence, permit, plate or other certificate under road traffic legislation.  A person may not forge or fraudulently use any license permit, badge, certificate etc. forging a fraudulent licence identification mark registration book under the legislation.  Breach is an offence subject to a fine up to €3,000 , six months’ imprisonment or both.

Trailers and semi-trailers must not be used in a public place without being licensed.  The system of licensing applies to semi-trailers with a maximum permissible weight exceeding 3,500 kg.

Powers of Gardai

Members of An Garda Siochana have powers in relation to an unlicensed or improperly licensed vehicles used, parked or kept in a public place. A public place is one to which the public can access whether  as of right by permission whether or not charged or free.

Parking for a time no matter how short is sufficient for this purpose. It is an offence to cause another to do the same. It is a defence if the person is an employee acting on express orders.

A person convicted of an offence may be in addition to the penalty, be ordered to pay the relevant licensing authority the aggregate amounts due in addition to the penalty imposed.

The powers of an Garda Siochana to detain remove and ultimately sell the vehicle applies where the licence is more than three months out of date.

Trade Licences

There are provisions for issue of trade licences for vehicles.  They may be issued to businesses of manufacturing, dealing and distributing, repairing vehicles. They must have the relevant liability insurance  covering their business.

A trade licence may be issued by the licensing authority to a manufacturer dealer distributor or repairer of motor vehicles and certain other prescribed businesses. A fee is payable to the authority. There is an appeal to the District Court against refusal of a trade licence.

A licence  in a prescribed format is to be exhibited at the front or back of a vehicle. There are fixed fees in respect of trade licences.Trade licences have a particular format.  The amount of trade licence duties are relevant small fixed amounts significantly lower down the equivalent payable on full licensing.

There are obligations on the holder of the licence not to exhibit, causes to be exhibited other than a vehicle temporarily in its possession. There are special provisions in respect of fleet owners.

Contravention of the trade licence requirements is an offence subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €2500 and or six months imprisonment or both.

Trade Licence Conditions

Trade licences expire on 31st December immediately following issue.  They enjoy exemption from road fund licences and display.

Records must be kept in relation to trade licences.  It is an offence to contravene regulations made in relation to trade licences.  There are conditions and limitations on use of trade licence.

There are requirements for the display of the trade licence plate. The use other than by the trade licence holder or its employees in the course of their business and persons testing a vehicle in the context of a test drive is prohibited.

They are broadly limited to testing, demonstration, delivery, rendering service to a broken down vehicle, proceeding from workshops, proceeding from premises of a motor trader to a place where the vehicle is to be exported or transported, proceeding to or returning from a garage, auction room or other place where a trailer is normally used or stored.

An unregistered vehicle may be used in a public place in accordance with the terms of a trade licence.


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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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