Israeli delegation one of the best-behaved embassies on Congestion Charge shame list

Payments owed by overseas embassies based in London total more than £143 million


The Embassy of Israel in London

Israel is one of the best-behaved on a list of the worst offending embassies in London when it comes to outstanding congestion charge payments.

The latest figures published by Transport for London show payments owed by overseas embassies based in London have risen to £143 million, as of December 2023.

While the American Embassy owes Tfl a staggering £14,645,025, Israel owes a modest £370.

Tfl have threatened to take the offending countries to the International Court of Justice over the unpaid charges.

“We and the UK Government are clear that the Congestion Charge is a charge for a service and not a tax,” TfL said in a statement.

“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.”

The congestion charge is applied to vehicles entering the congestion zone, although many embassies argue that it is not a charge but a tax.

Many embassies argue that they are exempt from paying domestic taxes under the terms of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

TfL does not have the power to recover the unpaid fees as they would a normal unpaid charge as the diplomatic status of the offending embassies protects them from being sued.

Only central government can trigger proceedings against international embassies, so TfL relies on the UK government to act on its behalf.

The Congestion Charge is a fee for driving in central London at certain times of the day and its aim is to reduce traffic congestion.

As well as reducing air and noise pollution in the central London area it is meant to raise investment funds for London's transport system.

Among the most offending embassies is Japan who owes £10,073,988 and the Office of the High Commissioner for India, which owes £8,551,835.

The Embassy of the State of Qatar owes TFL £48,260 while the Embassy of the Republic of Togo is bottom of the list with only £40 worth of debt outstanding.

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