India among defaulters of London congestion charge

Congestion charge is levied on vehicles entering Central London during the day on weekdays.

London: The Indian High Commission here owes London authorities over 2 million pounds towards congestion charge, which is levied on vehicles entering Central London during the day on weekdays.

As of May 2, 2012, the Indian High Commission owes Transport for London (TfL), the government body responsible for transport in Greater London, 2,405,560 million pounds, official sources said on Wednesday.

The US embassy is the biggest defaulter with an outstanding amount of 6,532,680 pounds, while Russia (4,734,480 pounds) and Japan (4,389,300 pounds) among other top defaulters, latest figures indicate.

Paul Cowperthwaite, head of TfL`s Contracted Services, said that two-thirds of foreign missions in London pay the congestion change, but a "stubborn minority" refused to do so, despite representations through diplomatic channels.

The key issue in the row is whether the congestion charge is a charge for a "service" or a "tax".
Several foreign missions believe that it is a "tax", and thus they are exempt from paying it under the Vienna Convention.

A spokesperson of the Indian High Commission said: "The Government of India has decided not to pay congestion charges on diplomatic cars as these are in the form of a tax and Diplomatic Missions are not subject to taxation."

Cowperthwaite said: "TfL 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. Around two thirds 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."