Council tax bill given to dbt collectors - how to proceed?
July 11, 2009 6:56 AM   Subscribe

How to deal with Council Tax account being handed over to debt collection agency? (much more inside)

Recently I went to the council tax office in Glasgow to pay money that was owed to them. When I arrived I was informed that the account had been passed over to Buchanan Clark and Wells (a debt collection agency). This was the first time I had head this - there was no prior notification from Glasgow City Council. The woman at the desk told us we could not pay her for the account as it had been passed over.

We have since received a letter from Buchanan Clark and Wells demanding payment for the entire year from April to April, this amounts to around £1200. They have also removed, as far as I can see, the 25% discount that we received from the Council tax on the basis that there was only one non-student in the property.

While there were 2 monthly payments outstanding (the last payment we made was at the start of May) and I'm kicking myself for not having gone before to the office. It seems massively unfair that we have had the entire account passed on to debt collectors. This sum that they are demanding, therefore includes 10 months' worth of payment that we do not owe Glasgow City Council-as the bill runs to next April.

I don't want to have to pay Buchanan Clark and Wells at all. I don't want to have to deal with them. I don't want to have to pay their 10% fee on top of the total sum especially when our 25% single adult discount has been reduced, and we would have to pay this 10% extra on the entire account including the 10 payments that are not outstanding.

The issue is further complicated by the Council Tax account being in the name of one of my flatmates, as he is the main person on the lease. He is in out of the country at the moment so we can't, as we are not the named debtors, discuss this with Buchanan Clark and Wells without his permission. It was always stupid that he was the only name that the Council Tax would accept as the account holder - we tried to get this changed, he is a student so doesn't need to pay the Council Tax...but that's another story.

Any advice on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated.
posted by multivalent to Law & Government (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It may be worth contacting your local citizens advice bureau to get their take on this but generally council tax is due for the whole tax year in advance. You can normally only pay in instalments if you pay by direct debit, which it appears your flatmate hasn't set up.

To get single person discount you need to have the paperwork in place to support this i.e. apply for the discount and get a new council tax demand issued for the reduced amount.

To get any/all of this resolved you will have to get hold of your non council tax paying student flat mate urgently and get him to put the right paperwork in place - you can normally download the forms so his being abroad would only matter is he is in outer Mongolia and has no access to the internet at all. He needs to give the council permission to deal with you as well/get your name put on the account.

In addition he needs to talk to the debt collection agency as soon as possible to give them permission to deal with you - if the account is in his name it's formally his liability and failure to pay will impact on his credit record so he really needs to address this as the charges from the debt collection people will only increase.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:27 AM on July 11, 2009

Best answer: You can pay council tax monthly without a direct debit (at least down here in Lambeth, in London), but if you miss payments the council will threaten to revoke this 'privilege' - I missed a payment by 2 weeks once, and had a letter from them saying as much. Anyway, this is why you now have to pay the full year's amount.

If the council tax folk won't listen to you, call your MP and explain things to his/her office - it's their job to offer advice and support. Better yet, write to them and send a copy of it to the council tax office explaining the problem that the account holder is not in the country and therefore you'd rather continue a month-to-month payment plan in your (or another person's) name.

Good luck.
posted by mahke at 9:12 AM on July 11, 2009

The Citizens Advice Bureau should may also be able to set you up with a payment plan if you can't afford to pay the whole thing off all at once. Letting them negotiate for you may allow you to get your Student Discount knocked off again, also.
posted by munchbunch at 10:38 AM on July 11, 2009

Something similar happened to my mum. She just stopped handling the bills, so I ended up paying it for her (quite late). The whole amount came due at once as a result.

I was out of the country at the time, and the collections agency could only be reached using an 0845 number, which doesn't work from here.

I had to get a colleague of mine in our UK office to teleconference me through, only for them to tell me they wouldn't accept a payment from me, because I'm not my mum.

I had to use their website which didn't care. Then I found out my mum should have claimed the single person allowance off the bill, and called the council and they sent my mum a cheque.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 3:11 PM on July 11, 2009

Best answer: Been there, done that. I had an issue with missed payments due to a screwed up direct debit last year.

First up GCC don't mess around with unpaid monthly payments, things get handed over to BCW pretty quickly. If you'd caught this earlier you could have negotiated your outstanding payments to GCC by making an agreement for an increased monthly amount. But you're now in the hands of the dreaded debt collectors.

If the amount you owe them is wrong then take it up with the the GCC council tax office by phone and have the owed amount amended. They'll pass this onto BCW. After that it's just a matter of paying BCW instead of the council tax folk. If you arrange to have the debt cleared within the usual CTax year then BCW will usually waive their 10% fee. Just ask nicely.

I found BCW to be very easy to deal with, the people at the other end of the phone just want you to make an arrangement to pay up on a regular basis. They are happy to spread the outstanding amount over a year and you can do it via their website monthly as and when you have the funds.

Basically work out what you and your flatmates owe with the council tax folk, arrangement payment terms with BCW and then cough up.

BTW if the account is in your flatmate's name then he's the only one liable. Let him sort it out! If he's a student and exempt then why are you getting a bill?
posted by theCroft at 10:36 PM on July 11, 2009

Best answer: I've got the solution -- get three foreign girls to move into his room!* It worked before, didn't it?

*multivalent and I used to live together and this kind of happened once. Seriously, though, this sucks. Hope it gets smoothed out. I can just hear T. saying how stupid the whole thing is.
posted by nímwunnan at 9:45 AM on July 15, 2009

Response by poster: Heh, yeah how I miss those girls.
posted by multivalent at 6:20 AM on July 23, 2009

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