What’s the difference between a tax and a duty, and does it really matter?
Interestingly - or not, depending on your point of view - duty is traditionally a levy on goods while tax is applied to individuals. Both hurt just the same.
Vehicle Excise Duty (which is neither one nor the other really because it’s an individual’s payment relating to a good – their car – they already own) is being reformed. It comprises something approaching forty different charging bands for everything from HGVs to Tricycles dependent on age and engine size or emission level. Frankly it’s bonkers, and just for good measure, from April Fools’ Day (I kid you not) the government is adding another seventeen new bands for newly registered vehicles.
A bit of history would be illuminating here. In 1888, the then Chancellor, George, 1st Viscount Goschen introduced two new vehicle duties the locomotive duty and the trade cart duty. Twenty-one years later, David Lloyd George announced that public roads would from now on be self-financing (that went well) and hypothecated vehicle taxes for that purpose. It never happened; Churchill, in particular, was notorious for snaffling road taxes for general spending and the pretence was finally given up in the 1950s.