Why Do Foreign Dignitaries Owe Millions In Motoring Charges?

Thu 13th Jun 2019

US diplomats are amongst the worst offenders on a long list of debtors to the UK’s Congestion Charge zone and unpaid parking PCNs.

Figures released by Transport for London show that the total owed on unpaid Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) and Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) totals almost £120million, with the unpaid CCZ easily the biggest debt.

The huge debt is made even more considerable when you take into consideration that most of the fines won’t be paid due to diplomatic immunity. Under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomats are immune from paying taxes in their host country, so legally they don’t have to pay for the congestion fees or parking fines.

But despite this loophole, Transport for London are still keen to recoup some of the monies.
“We are clear that the Congestion Charge is a charge for a service and not a tax. This means that foreign diplomats are not exempt from paying it,” said Tfl’s general manager for road user charging, Paul Cowperthwaite.

“We continue to pursue all unpaid Congestion Charge fees and related penalty charge notices.”
The US Embassy owes the largest amount in CCZ debt, with a receipt for £12,598,845. The biggest offender on unpaid parking PCNs is the High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who owe £272,740.

Putting the debts into context, Tfl made £155.9million from congestion charge payments and fines in 2018.