Car tax fines cause fury

THOUSANDS OF motorists are running the risk of having their driving licences confiscated and their vehicles taken off the road if they cannot present the police with proof of payment for their vehicle tax which, by law, had to be purchased by August 18. Confusion has arisen among motorists because the official deadline for actual display of the tax stamp in the vehicle is not the same. This deadline is now September 30, having been extended from the date of August 31.

For the first time ever, it was possible to pay for vehicle tax online and many motorists are still waiting to receive their tax stamp in the post. In addition, it was not possible to obtain a stamp over the counter when applying and paying in person at the Finanças office this year, as has been the case in previous years. A receipt was issued and people informed the stamp would follow in the post.

To confuse things further, the Finanças authority, which issues the stamps, has recently declared that the only real proof of purchase is the stamp itself and, therefore, is not in agreement with the police that fines are handed out before September 30.

The problem is mainly affecting the owners of car fleets, such as corporate car leasing firms and rent-a-car businesses, which are now required to buy all the stamps needed for their fleets via the new internet service. In using this service, the company is only provided with one receipt and a list of all the registrations of the cars it is purchasing car tax for, making it difficult for them to make proof of purchase available in every vehicle.  

Fines have already been handed out by the police to those owners who do not have a car tax stamp displayed on their vehicle or proof of purchase with them. The Finanças recognises this and has stated that it has begun trying to resolve the matter.

It has been reported, in the respected Diário de Notícias newspaper, that the Finanças has been seeking, through the government’s department of internal administration, which is the body responsible for the police, to have the fines revoked and the cases filed. Those who have been caught by the police without proof of payment have been asked to pay a 200 euro fine, had their licence confiscated and their vehicle taken off the road.

The Finanças authority confirms that the stamp, when personalised (purchased on the internet and sent to the applicant’s address), is the only real proof of payment. It has also stated that it sent a list to the police of all those motorists who have paid their vehicle tax. However, the police authorities believe that several thousand motorists have not respected the deadline and, therefore, have no vehicle tax.  

Carlos Fernandes, of Integris, one of the biggest service suppliers in the country that manages the documentation of 130,000 cars, commented: “From the north to the south of the country, the police are fining drivers and taking vehicles off the road,” causing a huge problem for many major car rental companies. “This is happening because it is not technically possible to obtain proof of purchase of stamps and there is no co-ordination between the authorities.”

The Resident’s Caroline Cunha contacted The Association for Foreign Residents and Visitors to Portugal (AFPOP) for its view on the current situation and asked it to provide advice for private car owners. “We have not heard of any private car owners being fined yet, this is a problem that does seem to be mainly affecting car hire companies and leasing operations, but yes, it could affect private car owners too due to the confusion at the moment,” said AFPOP’s Ana Lourenço.

She believes that the internet system was brought in too quickly, deadlines were announced and now there is a loophole that is causing problems. “This problem did not exist before because, last year, people just bought the stamp directly from their local Finanças office or from a papelaria (newspaper store). Our advice to vehicle owners, who bought their tax stamp on the internet or from Finanças and are still waiting to receive it in the post, is to make sure they keep the printed confirmation from the website and their multibanco receipt, or their receipt from the Finanças, in the vehicle at all times, just in case they are asked for proof of payment by the police,” Ana Lourenço concluded. For further information about this subject, contact AFPOP on 282 458 509.