Unpaid Congestion Charge fees and fines by embassies set to break £50m barrier

As of yesterday, the total in unpaid Congestion Charges and penalties run by embassies in London was £49.4m and at the current rate of growth that figure will break the £50m barrier later this month.

Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon has said, “The amount in unpaid Congestion Charges and Penalty Charge Notices owed by embassies is now so large that it could pay for more than 260 new buses on London’s streets, or fund the significant expansion of the cycle hire scheme, or alternatively reduce fare rises.”

Or, as she didn’t say, £50m could pay for one Fernando Torres.

A London streetCaroline Pidgeon has also attacked the excuses embassies use for avoiding paying: “The Congestion Charge is exactly what its name suggests – it is a charge, not a tax. Embassies that claim that it is a tax are just clutching at poor excuses to justify their insulting behaviour”.

Diplomats around the world are exempt from paying local taxes to their host country under Article 34 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 save for taxes such as those which are included in the prices of goods.

The biggest bills have been run up by the American Embassy, where staff stopped paying the Congestion Charge in 2005 and have now run up a £5m backlog. Just under three quarters of embassies pay the Congestion Charge regularly, but the Americans are joined in their non-payment by Russian, Germany, Japan and Nigera, all of whom owe over £2m, amongst others. However, in both Oslo and Singapore US diplomats do pay their equivalent of the Congestion Charge and the OECD has concluded that embassies should pay.

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9 Comments

  • clamp, tow, sell at auction

  • The U.S. Embassy in London conscientiously abides by all UK laws, including paying fines for all traffic violations, such as parking and speeding violations. Our position on the direct tax established by Transport for London in 2003, more commonly known as the congestion charge, is based on the 1960 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which prohibits the direct taxation of diplomatic missions. Our position is wholly in accordance with that agreement to which the United States and the United Kingdom are both signatories, and it is a position shared by many other diplomatic missions in London.

    – U.S. Embassy Spokesperson

  • The US now owes Londoners £5 million. However, this is not some “anti US issue”, indeed while the US Embassy might be at the top of the list of cheating embassies that are robbing Londoners it is worth noting that behind them stands countries such as Cuba, that owe Londoners £0.5 million. What great company these countries are in!

    No one has to pay the Congestion Charge. You can easily travel around central London without having to pay it – it is called using public transport or getting in a taxi. If you decide you must drive into central London at specific times of the day there is charge – which should be paid by everyone.

  • Andrew Suffield 5th Feb '11 - 9:01pm

    Yeah, clamp and tow. There is no diplomatic immunity for cars, only the people inside them.

  • U.S. Embassy Spokesperson, do you refuse to pay for tube tickets as well, on the grounds that they are a tax on embassy personnel travelling on the tube?

    What is the difference?

    Except that on the tube you have to pay in advance, and could not get away with this.

  • It seems ludicrous, the Police should impound and crush these vehicles. Try not paying a fine in the USA . Why are we always so soft when it comes to these people walking all over us surely Boris can do something about these people totaly flouting the rules and as for Germany. When I lived there I routinely had the Police at my door for hanging my washing out on a sunday or washing my car on the road I soon learnt their ways and then abided by them pity these people can’t and won’t abide by our rules.

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