Diplomatic Standoff: Embassies Face TfL Over Unpaid Congestion Charges

Transport for London is pressing several foreign embassies, including India's, for unpaid congestion charges dating back 20 years. Despite claims of exemption under the Vienna Convention, TfL insists these dues are not taxes but charges for services. The matter may escalate to the International Court of Justice.

PTI | London | Updated: 21-05-2024 21:13 IST | Created: 21-05-2024 21:13 IST
Diplomatic Standoff: Embassies Face TfL Over Unpaid Congestion Charges
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Transport for London (TfL), the local government body responsible for the UK capital's transport network, is pursuing the High Commission of India in London among several foreign embassies who have refused to pay the city's Congestion Charge dating back 20 years.

The Congestion Charge is a GBP 15 daily charge for vehicles driven within a specified central London zone until 6pm as part of the city's anti-pollution measures. The American Embassy in London tops TfL's list of allegedly unpaid dues between 2003 and December 2023 released recently, owing GBP 14,645,025, followed by the Japanese Embassy's diplomatic vehicles (GBP 10,073,988) and India ranked third with GBP 8,551,835. On the bottom end of the ranking is the Embassy of the Republic of Togo which owes just GBP 40.

The foreign missions have consistently maintained that London's Congestion Charge is a form of tax and therefore makes them exempt from paying it under the Vienna Convention.

We believe that the congestion charge imposed by the UK authorities is not a service charge but a tax, which should be exempt under the Vienna Convention and therefore the Indian High Commission, like several diplomatic missions in London, do not pay the congestion charge, stated the High Commission of India in London back in 2016 – a position that is said to remain unchanged ever since.

The US Embassy in London echoes the same stance, saying: ''In accordance with international law as reflected in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, our position is that the congestion charge is a tax from which diplomatic missions are exempt.

''Our long-standing position is shared by many other diplomatic missions in London." However, TfL – overseen by the Mayor of London's office – has refused to back down and indicated plans to take it up at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – the Hague-based United Nations court which adjudicates disputes between nations.

In its statement alongside a lengthy list of foreign diplomatic missions who allegedly owe them millions in fees and penalties, TfL said: "We and the UK government are clear that the Congestion Charge is a charge for a service and not a tax. This means that diplomats are not exempt from paying it. ''The majority of embassies in London do pay the charge, but there remains a stubborn minority who refuse to do so, despite our representations through diplomatic channels.

"We will continue to pursue all unpaid Congestion Charge fees and related penalty charge notices and are pushing for the matter to be taken up at the International Court of Justice."

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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