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Monday, 10 November 2014 | By Gerry Mulvaney


By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing

Yet another blow to print in the face of the onward march of technology occurred on the 1st October in the UK. Since 1921, if you wanted to drive on the UK’s roads, it has been necessary to display a disc on the windscreen showing that you have paid the vehicle excise duty demanded by the government.

Now the UK Chancellor George Osborne has decided in his wisdom that technology can do the job equally as well and the obligatory circular perforated tax disc is yet another printed document consigned to history. In future the authorities can check the status of the vehicle, including Insurance certificate, road worthiness and road tax on line and so the humble disc is now redundant.

In 1747 the government decreed that all horse drawn vehicles were to be taxed. Of course this was great news for printers since the tax documents had to be produced in ever increasing numbers. The first road tax documents were issued by local county councils and consisted of a sheet of thin headed paper containing the name and address of the vehicle owner, a description of the vehicle and the amount of tax paid. Mind you since there were no number plates on horse carriages in those days, you wonder how easy it was to enforce the tax.

In 1903 the motor car act was passed in parliament, bringing in number plates and the necessity to register them with the local county authority, with the tax to be paid. In those days it cost all of £1.00 to tax a car but soon a scale of charges based on the horsepower of the engine was introduced and the charging system became a bit messy.

Driving Printing into the Future

Finally in 1920 the Road Traffic Act was passed and in 1921 tax discs were issued. To begin with they were a simple round mono design, cut out by hand. By 1923 security marking was coming in the form of intaglio background printing and a green security band. Extra revenue for the lucky printers of course! The colour was then changed each year so that the expired discs could be identified. In 1938 the design was changed yet again to incorporate perforations that enabled the purchaser to remove the disc from the page, rather than having to cut it out – a feature that remained right up to today. In recent years the disc has undergone a number of changes, mainly to counter fraud as the value of the tax disc has increased.

1921 UK vehicle tax disc

Printed vehicle tax discs

Each of the new features – embossing, gold foiling, holograms and barcodes – has been great extra revenue for the printers but of course pushed up the production cost of the tax disc, so I suppose it is no surprise that in this age of austerity the government has decided to cut costs and do away altogether with the printed version.

So the Nanography® process will not be used to print the discs in future, but there are plenty of other applications for Landa’s printing technology!

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Landa S10 - Printing Press