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HMRC internal manual

VAT Personal exports - tax-free sales of new motor vehicles for use before export

HM Revenue & Customs
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Assurance procedures: identifying tax-free vehicles

The age of a vehicle is normally determined by looking at the registration plate. Export registration marks and pink log books (VX 302) are issued by a limited number of vehicle registration offices (see VEXMOTORS5000). Registration marks allocated to vehicles supplied tax-free for export have a specific format. Examples of current vehicle registration formats are shown below.

New vehicles - old registration plate format

This format applied up to 31 August 2001: P 123 AXP:

  • 1st letter (P) indicates the year of registration;
  • Numbers (123) are in a series specific to each VRO;
  • 1st letter (A) = month of supply (A = January, B = February, etc);
  • XP = supplied for export.

New vehicles - new registration plate format

From 1 September 2001 the format is: XA 51 ABC.

Element Explanation Definition
XA Local Memory Tag or Export identification Generally the first 2 letters identify the region where a vehicle is first registered. The letters I, Q and Z are not used.
However, in relation to cars supplied for export the first letter is always X and the second letter A to F represents the month of supply. The export registration marker may only be used by 15 of the 40 DVLA local offices and 1 in Northern Ireland.      
  51 Age identifier March 2002 - August 2002 = 02

Sept 2002 - Feb 2003 = 52

Sept 2003 - Feb 2004 = 53

March 2003 - August 2003 = 03

March 2004 - August 2004 = 04

Sept 2004 - Feb 2005 = 54

Through to:

March 2049 - August 2049 = 49

Sept 2049 - Feb 2050 = 99      
  ABC Random alpha characters The letters I and Q are not used.

If a vehicle is sighted with a number plate that appears to indicate that more than 12 months has elapsed since the vehicle was supplied, details of the sighting including date, location and vehicle registration number should be advised to the Personal Transport Unit (PTU) - see VEXMOTORS1300 for contact details.

Vehicles supplied to serving members of the armed forces are not issued with special export registration marks: to protect service personnel, the registration mark allocated is a standard UK registration mark.

Used vehicles

No special registration mark identifies a used vehicle zero-rated for export. However, the small numbers using the scheme allow the PTU to carry out a 100% verification check with DVLA that cars have been exported. In cases where no reply is received from the DVLA and the vehicle is of high value, PTU will issue a reference to VAT Intelligence Officers for further action.