US embassy refuses to pay £14.6m London congestion charge bill

The US embassy in London owes £14.6m in unpaid congestion charge fees, figures have revealed.

Unpaid fees and fines amassed by all embassies in the capital have been published by Transport for London (TfL).

The statistics show the Japanese embassy has the second highest debt at £10.1m, followed by India's high commission at £8.6m.

The embassy of the Republic of Togo, in central Africa, appears at the bottom of the list with a £40 bill.

Among all embassies, the total unpaid fees and fines accrued by diplomats between the launch of the congestion charge in London in 2003 and the end of last year is £143.5m.

TfL said in a statement: "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."

It said 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".

TfL added: "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 US embassy in London moved from Grosvenor Square to Nine Elms in January 2018.

A spokesperson for the US embassy said: "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."

Read more UK news:
Woman killed by pet XL bully dogs
Elvis Presley's granddaughter fights auction of Graceland

In February 2020, then foreign secretary Dominic Raab issued a written ministerial statement revealing his officials have written to "a number of diplomatic missions and international organisations" to "press for payment" of money owed relating to the congestion charge, parking fines and business rates.

The congestion charge scheme involves a £15 daily fee for driving within an area of central London between 7am and 6pm on weekdays, and between noon and 6pm on weekends and bank holidays.

There are discounts and exemptions for some people and vehicles - such as residents, taxis and fully electric cars.