Foreign diplomats visiting London haven’t paid charges of almost £120 million

Foreign diplomats visiting London haven’t paid charges of almost £120 million
Over £118.5 million in Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) fees owed by foreign diplomats – that should have been re-invested into the transport network – remains unpaid, according to Transport for London (TfL).

With a further £1.4 million in skipped parking-related penalty charge notices (PCNs), TfL says it’s owed as much as £120 million from global embassies, with US debts alone standing at £12.6 million.

But loopholes in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations mean it’s possible the missed revenue will never materialise.

Legislation states that diplomats are immune from paying taxes in their host country – a stipulation they argue means they’re not legally obliged to cough up.

TfL though is still pursuing the payments, insisting the charges are for 'services' not ‘taxes’, and embassies should not be able to skip payment.

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By law, TfL has to re-invest its earnings into London’s transport system, in accordance with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. The amount owed represents a large proportion of its total earnings last year in CCZ and fines.

It claims at the end of March 2019 the total CCZ sum owed by embassies was £118,543,795. The backlog of Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) fees goes right back to the launch of the initiative in 2003, while the parking fines go back six years.

As much as £2 million of this total was racked up in the first three months of 2019 alone.

TfL’s general manager for road user charging, Paul Cowperthwaite said: “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.

“We continue to pursue all unpaid Congestion Charge fees and related penalty charge notices.”

Figures obtained from a Freedom of Information request to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) made by Hippo Leasing, clearly show the American Embassy is the worst offender, racking up £12,598,845 in CCZ debt.

Japan, Nigeria, Russia and India complete the top five list of embassies with the highest unpaid congestion charge bills – each accruing debts in excess of £5 million.

According to TfL only the New Zealand High Commission owes nothing in CCZ fees.

Copyright Press Association 2019. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.

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