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UK Council Tax back payment
April 2, 2014 5:24 AM   Subscribe

In recent years there has been a line of my council tax labelled "Disregard 25% reduction". It turns out this shouldn't have been applied, and I am potentially going to have to back pay for several years. Is there any limit on the time this can be back applied? Do I have any options?

An extract from last year's bill is here. I noticed the line a few years ago and literally "disregarded" it as that is what the label instructed. I just assumed it was a reduction for having the bill on direct debit (I get reductions on other bills for automatic/on-time payment so that made some sense) or because my property or area was zoned for a lower rate.

Basically - so many changes are always being announced in the press relating to council tax that I more or less don't pay attention and just settle the bill they send me. If the bill tells me to disregard it then I'm more than happy to do so!

But the entry apparently means that a member of the household is being disregarded, as someone explained to me recently when they were here as I opened my new bill. It turns out that it is left from when my wife was a student some 8 years ago and they have been billing us as a single person household ever since. In effect we have been paying 75% of the amount we should have been paying.

I wrote to them telling them the discount was being applied in error, but I only referenced the current bill in my letter. They have now written back stating that I have to provide "evidence of entitlement back to 2006 within 21 days or an amended bill will be issued". The tone of their letter is highly accusatory/inflammatory and is worded to suggest they have caught us engaged in some scam against them.

Potentially the discrepancy is extremely large if applied back many years (£340 on the most recent year alone!) and I am extremely concerned about such a demand being issued.

Do I have any options?
posted by samworm to Work & Money (7 answers total)
 
Get advice, start with the Citizen's Advice Bureau.
posted by epo at 5:40 AM on April 2


Seconding talk to CAB.

But from the sound of it and based on my experience, it may be difficult to fight this. Unfortunately, when they fuck up, they will do their best to lay it on you.

Best of luck.
posted by Drexen at 5:50 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Yes, talk to CAB sharpish. A similar thing occured to myself and my wife, although it was them that spotted the error in this case. They did allow us to space the payment out over time rather than pay it in bulk. I strongly suspect they will want all the missing money
posted by Cannon Fodder at 5:59 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


The council offered me a payment over three months rather than all at once. Do act quickly with this however, as they will jump to a court date then referring your balance to a collections agency faster than other bills or debtors.
posted by ellieBOA at 8:48 AM on April 2


I work in customer service for a local authority, and while I don't deal with it myself hear these sorts of queries all day.

Most people think of council tax as a utility bill, when in reality its as much a tax as anything else; so the onus is always on the payer to make sure that they're paying the correct amount and the council's job to pursue non payment as actively as if you'd underpaid any other tax, even to the extent of trying to track former residents down to Austrialia!

The authorities deal with hundreds of these queries a day and are usually happy to make an arrangement to pay by installments and very relaxed as long as people approach them in good faith, agree to terms and follow through on making good the balance.

Unfortunately they know a minority of people will sit on these for a while and an even smaller minority will try to get away with not paying at all and having very little in the way to extract payment by other means will quite happily refer the bill to baliffs to prompt non payers into action and ultimately to court, but only as a last resort and after many chances.
posted by Middlemarch at 11:43 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


My parents contacted our new local council after we moved house, for three years, telling them that we hadn't had a council tax bill. Eventually, they received a bill for three years tax to be paid immediately. When we rang to query it, we were told by the council representative that we should have been putting money aside ready for the bill. Eventually, they agreed a payment plan that by strange coincidence took 3 years to pay back.

Definitely talk to the CAB before you have any more dealings with the council. The CAB will look out for you, where the council will look out for themselves. Also, ask for advice on the MoneySavingExpert forums. The folk there really know their stuff.
posted by Solomon at 11:48 AM on April 2


Thanks for the comments. I will speak to my local CAB when they open on Monday and take it from there. It sounds like I need to get things moving along and avoid any opportunity for them to think that I'm trying to avoid payment.

Now I've had a little time to clear my head I take on board the "this is a tax and not a utility bill" comment. I can see that from a technical standpoint I should have done a more comprehensive check of the account earlier... but it doesn't help that they use impenetrable language.

I think we will be moving house fairly soon, and will need a new mortgage, so any kind of payment plan or drawn out settlement sounds like a risk. I think I'll be asking the CAB if it is all enforceable, and if it is then I'll just have to find some way to pay it off.
posted by samworm at 1:04 PM on April 2


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