Japanese import car tax 26

Introduction – car tax, CO2 and a minor indiscretion from Volkswagen

Pictures of old Japanese import car tax discsApologies for mentioning a German manufacturer on a site about Japanese cars, but VW have been in trouble recently over their use of clever ECU programming to cheat emissions tests.

This has prompted me to write about Japanese import car tax (or vehicle excise duty to use the proper term).  Why?  Exhaust gas emissions are linked to car taxation in the UK. The majority of cars in the UK are now taxed according to how many grammes of carbon dioxide they produce per kilometre.  Broadly speaking, you’ll pay anything from £0 to £500 according to how much CO2 your car produces.  This is the case for all cars registered after 1st March 2001.

‘Dieselgate’ is mainly about nitrogen oxides (NOx), but a key concern is that ‘fixing’ the NOx emissions problems with these fiddled cars could put their CO2 emissions up and therefore put them in a higher car tax bracket.  Our transport secretary recently reassured worried VW owners that this wouldn’t happen.

Diesel cars aren’t so popular in Japan.

Is Japanese import car tax based on CO2 output?

I can understand why you’d be concerned about this.  A lot of the Japanese imports mentioned on this website either:

  1. Have large capacity engines.
  2. Have a turbo.
  3. Are fast.
  4. Are heavy.

Some have more than one of these:  Subaru Forester STi – large capacity engine, turbo, fast.  Nissan Elgrand – large engine, heavy.

These don’t sound like they’re going to have low CO2 outputs, do they?

Fear not, imported Japanese car enthusiast!

Most Japanese imports are not taxed on their CO2 output

The majority of cars imported to the UK from Japan are not taxed according to their CO2 output.  Most of them haven’t even had it measured.  This is a good thing.

CO2 isn’t on the agenda for cars over 10 years old

Let’s consider a car over 10 years old.  Before we do, why do I keep going on about cars that are 10 years old?  This is the point at which they only require a standard MOT before registration, instead of a more complex test for ‘younger’ cars.

The MOT doesn’t test a car’s CO2 output, so this will not be on the agenda in the inspection and registration process.  Instead, owners of Japanese imports over 10 years old are charged a flat rate of £255 or £155 per year, depending on whether the engine is over or under 1549 cc.  You can check the most up to date figures here.

A Subaru-based example of the tax differences

Subaru Forester STiI mentioned the Subaru Forester STi earlier and will now use this as an example.  The annual tax for this car would be £255.

What if you bought a UK market Subaru Forester XTE instead?  The STi is better of course, but bear with me for this example 🙂

Like the STi, the XTE has a  2.5 litre turbocharged engine.  How much tax would you pay on this car?  Well, UK taxes are rarely simple and this is no exception.  If it was registered between November 2005 and 23rd March 2006, you’d pay £315.  If it was registered after 23rd March 2006, you’d pay £540.  Either way you’ve saved some money on vehicle tax with the imported car over the UK car.

CO2 also doesn’t feature for most cars under 10 years old

Younger cars under 10 years old will need an individual vehicle approval (IVA) test.  I’ll go into more detail in a separate post, but think of this as an extra hard MOT.

Does the IVA test cover analysis of CO2 output?  Again, generally not.  In many cases, this is a good thing.

IMG_9109What if you’re buying a kei car or hybrid?  Will you reap the benefits of their small engined / battery powered environmental loveliness?

I’m sorry to say that in most cases, you won’t.

Some cars have something called a ‘model report’ available, which contains specifications for a particular model of a particular car (I think I can see how it got its name).   If a model report exists, it may specify a CO2 output against which the imported car’s CO2 emissions can be checked at the IVA test.  This route can be used to get cheaper car tax than the rates I described above by basing it on the car’s CO2 emissions.  If there isn’t a model report, or if the car is over 10 years old you’ll just be charged the cubic capacity based rates described above.


If you’re buying a fast/heavy/big car from Japan, you could pay a few hundred pounds less in car tax than you would if you were buying an equivalent UK market car.  Of course a lot of the time the whole reason you’re importing a car from Japan is because you can’t buy an equivalent car on the UK market.


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26 thoughts on “Japanese import car tax

  • faz

    Hi, i have 2 nissan march K13 2013; i registered one and it was placed under the PGV section when applying for v5. This means i have to pay £120-130 for road tax a year. has anyone got a model report or other method which could help me before i register my second vehicle, thanks.

    • Andrew

      Hi Faz,

      Thanks for your question. As far as I can tell, there is not a publicly available model report for the K13 Nissan March / Micra (only K11 & K12). So unfortunately I think you are stuck with the road tax amount as you mentioned.


  • Joan Weir

    I am looking at a estima hybrid but cant find out how much to tax it anywhere its a 2003 model but the uk gov site says registered june 2009? any ideas how i can find out if this car would be worth buying

    • Andrew

      Hi Joan

      This car would have been imported into the UK in 2009, but built in Japan in 2003. The amount of road tax will depend on how the car was tested prior to registration when it arrived in the UK. The seller should be able to tell you how much the tax will be. If they can’t, perhaps it might be better looking elsewhere! If they will give you the latest V5C reference number, you can find information about the tax rates on the DVLA website.

      Here is a bit more explanation in response to your question:
      Cars less than 10 years old when imported into the UK require extra testing in addition to the MOT. 2009 was around the time when this vehicle approval process started to change from something called single vehicle approval to individual vehicle approval. Emissions testing to allow a lower taxation class is not compulsory in the IVA testing process, but can be done if an additional fee is paid and a model report is provided against which the vehicle can be tested. This is why the Estima could be in 2 different tax bands.

      As to whether it would be worth buying, it is very difficult to answer this without seeing the car, or at the very least the advert for the car. I’d be happy to pass comment on the car if you could share the advert with me via email – click here to get in touch.


  • Imran Jamil

    I just bought Toyoya Prius 2010 model Japan imported I would like to know normally Toyota Prius have no road tax but I need to pay £240 per I don’t know why anyway I can reduce or cancel this road tax

    • Imran Jamil

      I jus wanted to know how I can reduce or cancel my road tax because I’ve Toyota Prius 2010 model imported from Japan
      I much appreciated if you guide me

    • Andrew

      Hi Imran

      It sounds like whoever registered your Toyota Prius in the UK didn’t submit it for the IVA test with the model report. This would have required them to pay to rent the model report for the test and would have reduced your annual road tax to £40 if I remember correctly (not to zero as for a UK Toyota Prius).

      I don’t know for certain whether you can submit your car for another IVA test with the model report, to take advantage of lower car tax rates. There will be substantial costs involved in this, which you may decide aren’t worth it, depending on how long you plan to keep the car. I would call the DVSA (VOSA) service centre on 0300 123 9000 to check the best way to proceed.


  • ajay bahtoa

    . In the past I have imported cars 10 years + so it was straight to the MOT followed by registration .. simple and straight forward.

    I am now considering importing a 2013 Toyota crown athlete 2.5 saloon
    Can you tell me the process of the IVA and model report situation with this particular car?


    • Andrew

      Hi Ajay

      Nice choice of car! There isn’t a publicly available model report for the Toyota Crown Athlete as far as I know.

      For more information on the IVA process, have a look at this document, which is a guide to the IVA scheme published by VOSA / DVSA.

      For the detailed standards against which a car would be tested in the IVA test process, have a look here. I haven’t yet submitted a Toyota Crown for the IVA test, but it is usually rear fog light, speedometer and headlights that require attention.

      I’d be interested to hear how you get on if you import a Toyota Crown Athlete.


      • ajay bhatoa

        Thanks Andrew

        Looks like one detailed list of Do’s ?
        Looks like I will have to commission a report, what would be the likely cost?

        • Andrew

          Hi Ajay

          The car doesn’t need to have a model report to go through an IVA test, but it will need to meet all of the standards in the IVA inspection manual (link as posted before).


  • Andrew Fitzsimmons

    Hi Andrew I have just bought a Honda Stepwagon the it has been in the country since 2012 but its not recognised in any search critera I managed to get it insured but struggling to tax it any advice please would b appreciated thanks for your time .

    • Andrew

      Hi Andrew

      Assuming the car is registered, it should just be a case of following the steps on the DVLA vehicle tax website. You’ll need either a reminder letter, the green new keeper supplement or the V5/logbook. Do you have any of these?


      • Jeremy

        Hi Andrew – I have read a number of forums such as this and many people (importers as well) seemed to have a very confused understanding of the new vehicle tax regime. If you read the DVLA website which you yourself have alluded to in the post above, you will see that – as at today – the amount of vehicle tax is determined based upon ‘when the vehicle was registered’.

        For emphasis – I will reiterate – ‘when the vehicle was registered’.

        I do not interpret this as when the vehicle type was classified
        I do not interpret this as the date of vehicle import
        I do not interpret this as the vehicle manufacture date

        I interpret this (rightly, or wrongly, but I am trying to take a literal interpretation of the DVLA’s own words) – as being ‘when the specific vehicle in question is first recorded as a registerable vehicle on the DVA database’

        I see a lot of conjecture and confusion as to whether tax is based on emissions or some other factor. From what I can see, the most significant determinant is ‘date of first registration’ (see the issues with interpreting this…above), and from there other factors come into play, such as cubic capacity, fuel type, emissions and – now – even the ‘list price’ of a vehicle (I have not delved into the definition of list price).

        Now…specifically with regards to imported vehicles….unless the DVLA is specifically willing or intending to accept some form of documentation (such as Shaken) from another country with regards to the date of registration of that vehicle in its previous country – and I see no clear statement that this is the case….I see the following as playing out.

        Let’s use a 1992 Honda NSX as an example…..

        As it is being ‘first registered’ in April / May 2017, it’s tax will be calculated as follows;

        * Year 1 – based on emissions and fuel type – for an NSX this would cost 2000 GBP!
        * Year 2 onwards – based on fuel type only – 140 GBP
        * Years 2 to 6 – a special surcharge based on list price over 40K. If this gets the NSX, add 450 per year

        So year 1 will cost 2000 in tax
        Years 2 through 6 will likely cost 590 in tax
        Years 7 onwards will cost 140

        Of course….presuming future governments do not muck with this even more!

        I understand if you do not agree – but if so, please take the time to both state your definition of first registration, and maybe provide your audience with 3 examples – many of which may be relevant to you;

        * A 1992 Honda NSX
        * A 2002 Toyota Supra twin turbo
        * A 2009 Nissan Skyline 370 SP

        I would be interested to see the calculations!

        • Andrew

          Hi Jeremy

          Thanks very much for your question. This is a confusing area, but I’ve spoken with the DVLA on several occasions in the past about it. The new car tax rules from 1st April 2017 only apply to brand new cars registered after 1/4/2017. As such they would not apply to used imported vehicles, which would continue to be taxed at the old rates.

          The cars you mention will all cost £245 for the year at the current rates.


  • Dan

    Hi Andrew,

    Any idea how japanese imports are going to be treated by the road tax changes coming in 1st April?

    I’m looking at a 10 year old 4.2 Jag, but it isn’t yet registered in this country, so I’m worrying that it will fall foul of the top rate £2k ist year tax.

  • Garry

    Hi I’m looking to buy a Toyota estima 2.4 I’m trying to find out how much the road tax is and can you recommend any insurance companies I can try thank you garry

    • Andrew

      Hi Garry

      The tax will be at the PLG rate, which is currently £245 for the year.

      Regarding insurance companies, I have read positive feedback from Alphard owners for the following: Churchill, Liverpool Victoria, Direct Line, Sky insurance, Adrian Flux. This is by no means an exhaustive list nor a recommendation. You’ve probably already gathered that most Japanese imports don’t appear on insurance price comparison sites, so it is a case of phoning round each company. Many of them do have the more popular imports on their own databases.

      I hope you get a decent quote.

      • Viki

        Is there a Model Report available for “Toyota Estima Hybrid” Year 2010? Engine size 2362 cc. Based on the Engine size what will be the yearly road tax roughly?
        Since it is a Hybrid I am expecting it be lower than the standard £230?

        • Andrew


          Assuming this is an AHR20W model code Toyota Estima Hybrid, I don’t think there is a model report available. Without a model report the road tax will be £245 for the year.


          • Viki

            OK thanks. Yes it is AHR20W. Car have passed IVA after doing all necessary modifications by myself. Now I am in the process of applying for registration. While filling V55/5 form I noticed this section 35: CO2 (g/km), What should I write here? I know the actual value of CO2 (g/km) for Toyota Estima Hybrid 2010 is 129. Can I write this value in V55/5 form in the absence of “Certificate of Conformity” or Model Report? The IVA report is also missing this information I believe due to the missing Model Report.

  • Rob C

    Hi Andrew
    Reading with interest, so a 2005 3ltr Toyota Alphard would be a yearly tax of £230 regardless of it being register for example 2017/18 Correct?

    Does the engine in this model crop up in any UK specked vehicle?

    Thanks Rob

    • Andrew

      Hi Rob

      Yes the Alphard would be £245 at current rates.

      The same engine is used in the Lexus RX300.


  • Richard McCann

    So I’m looking at buying a Nissan elgrand 2001 2.5 diesel automatic and your telling me it’s only going cost £230 a year to tax

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Richard

      The rates have gone up slightly since I wrote the article, so I’ve gone back and updated them. The current rate for the Elgrand would be £255 for the year.