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Author Topic: SORN and Exporting UK Cars  (Read 1883 times)

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Offline Allan Mason

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SORN and Exporting UK Cars
« on: March 28, 2016, 10:35:52 PM »
Another thread in this topic has mentioned SORNing cars that are taken from the UK to Italy. I've been meaning for a while to post on my experiences of bringing a UK-registered car back to Britain from Italy and importing an Italian-registered car to the UK.

When I moved to my new Italian home in 2006, I brought over a UK registered car and drove it (legal for insurance, MOT and UK tax) in Italy for a few months before I bought an Italian-registered car. I then informed the DVLA that the car had been exported. It sat outside the house for nearly seven years while I occasionally pondered what I was going to do with the thing. It was a perfectly good car that I'd bought new, it had been well-maintained and it didn't have that many miles on the clock, so it seemed a shame to scrap it. On the other hand, I didn't want to go through the hassle of getting it registered in Italy, I already had a car I could use and I didn't want to take on the expense of yet another Italian insurance policy.

So I just let it sit and occasionally felt guilty about not sorting it out one way or another.

When we decided to move to the UK in 2014, the obvious thing to do was to bring the car back and use it here. The Abruzzo mountain climate had been kind to the car and it was still in very good shape in terms of body work. Somewhat to my surprise, only minimal maintenance was needed to get the thing running after it had sat unused for nearly seven years. I arranged UK insurance cover, booked an MOT in a garage near our new home, flew out to Italy and drove the car back without any problems.

However, the difficulties started when I tried to pay Vehicle Excise Duty. Since I had officially exported it, I had to jump through all the hoops necessary if you import a car to Britain. The fact that it was a 2002 British-spec car that I had originally bought in Britain made no difference. Because I had filled in the "Permanently Exported" section of the registration document, it was no longer a British car as far as the DVLA was concerned.

In fact, getting the British car DVLA-legal again in the UK was only slightly less complicated and time consuming than getting our Italian car registered in the UK. The main difference was that I had to take the Italian car to an official DVLA garage for a sort of super-MOT.

Prior to December 2013, you had to annually renew a SORN and that would not have been possible for me since I had no UK address. Now, however, once a SORN notification has been sent to the DVLA, it applies until the vehicle is sold or scrapped.

The most obviously sensible thing to do with a UK-registered car if you're moving to live in another country is to sell it in the UK and buy a car registered in your new country of residence. However, if the car has sentimental value or minimal sale value and if there's the smallest possibility of a return to the UK someday, then I would suggest considering SORNing the car rather than sending the DVLA a permanent export notice.

I've not gone through the current SORN process, but I suspect there's some point in the application form when you have to declare where the vehicle will be kept. If you don't actually have a UK address, some creative thought could be required at this point. However, since the car will definitely be off British roads when it's sitting in Italy, giving a less than totally accurate answer to that question seems to me more a bending of the rules rather than an attempt to actually defraud the taxman.  ;)