Bradford Council recognises that some households are experiencing financial pressure through reduced income and increasing inflation and energy costs.

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1 COUNCIL TAX COLLECTION POLICY Bradford Council recognises that some households are experiencing financial pressure through reduced income and increasing inflation and energy costs. This will inevitably lead to difficulties in the collection of Council Tax, however all Council Tax payers can be assured that Bradford Council will seek to maximise the collection of Council Tax by;- 1. Providing clear and prompt information about bills and liabilities The Council will issue bills and adjustment notices promptly and in accordance with Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations All correspondence concerning Council Tax will be in plain English and contain details of how to pay, when payment is required, how to access the Council s website for more information and how to contact the Council if assistance is required. 2. Providing relevant and timely information on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and other discounts and exemptions and encouraging take up. Information will be provided, through a variety of means, on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, discounts and exemptions, and where possible net bills will be produced. 3. Always acting in accordance with the relevant legislation covering Council Tax Administration and Enforcement. Council Tax was introduced by the Local Government Finance Act 1992, with effect from 1st April 1993, and it is collected in accordance with the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations Bradford Council will collect Council Tax in accordance with the Guidance to Local Councils on good practice in the collection of Council Tax arrears (Department for Communities and Local Government June 2013) and will act in accordance with the Taking Control of Goods National Standards for Enforcement Agents and creditors who use their services. 4. Offering flexible payment solutions and payment dates. The preferred method of payment is by Direct Debit and the Council encourages all Council Tax payers to pay using this method. Alternative payment methods for those who prefer not to pay by Direct Debit include:- On-line via the Councils website By phone using the 24 hour payment line By Internet banking (see details on the bill) Via a Paypoint outlet - March

2 Standing Order from a Bank or Building Society. For Direct Debit Payers the Council offers a choice of four monthly payment dates - the 5 th, 10 th, 15 th or 25 th. Additionally, for Direct Debit Payers, payments can be spread over 12 months instead of 10, if the request is made at the beginning of the billing year For Non - Direct Debit payers, the Council offers a choice of three monthly payment dates - the 5 th, 15 th or 28 th of each month Payment dates may be revised, on request, but only on accounts where payments are up to date. Payments may be made weekly or fortnightly, on request, but the payment frequency will be calculated so that it totals the sum of one monthly instalment.. 5. Working with partners, for example Advice Agencies to offer timely support and guidance to those experiencing difficulties in paying their Council Tax. For those experiencing difficulty in paying their Council Tax, the Council may refer to non fee paying Advice Agencies for advice and support (see our list of advice agencies). The Council will work with these Agencies and the Council Tax payer, in specific cases, and will be willing to negotiate payments at any point in the process and/or withhold action for a short period of time to allow for an affordable and sustainable payment plan to be arranged. 6. Distinguishing between those who will not pay and those who are experiencing difficulties in paying, tailoring any further action accordingly The Council will try to take individual circumstances into account before proceeding with action against Council Tax payers and those, identified by the Council, as requiring the maximum time available to pay e.g. those in receipt of Council Tax Reduction, will be given this. If a Council Tax payer is experiencing difficulty in paying, they should seek assistance immediately by contacting the Council. Council staff are trained in obtaining the relevant information to make realistic arrangements in line with an individual s circumstances. Only in exceptional circumstances and for a limited period would the Council accept an offer of payment below the monthly amount of Council Tax on a property, to avoid arrears building up on a Council Tax account For Council Tax payers who are able to pay but refuse to do so or fail to engage, the Council will, implement the enforcement procedure Please see What can happen if I don t pay my Council Tax page on 7.Taking prompt action in cases where payment is not made or is late, to prevent arrears occurring Enforcement is a necessary and important part of the Council s activity as every penny of Council Tax that is not collected could result in a higher Council Tax for the Council Tax payer who does pay on time. Additionally when Council Tax is paid late then there is a financial impact on the Council which may affect the services the Council is able to deliver. March

3 For those Council Tax payers who are unable to pay on time, early contact with the Council is essential to avoid arrears. Prompt payment at the outset will avoid costs becoming payable. It is important that the Council Tax account is paid in the year it is due. If payment is not received, as required by the bill, a reminder notice will be issued which will require payment within 7 days. Where this happens, Council Tax payers will be able to continue to pay monthly. The Council will, at each stage, provide full information about what the Council Tax payer can do to avoid this situation, where they can go for help and advice and be clear about the next steps. 8. Taking enforcement action, not as a punishment for non - payment, but as a means of securing payment in the fairest and most effective and efficient way. Where, following a reminder or final notices, payment of Council Tax is not brought up to date, and kept up to date, the Council will ask the Magistrates Court to issue a summons for non-payment. This will incur costs of which will be added to the Council Tax account. Where payment in full or an affordable arrangement, including costs, is made prior to the hearing then attendance at Court will not be required however it should be noted that costs will still be payable. When the Magistrates Court grants a liability order the Council will, in accordance with the legislation, consider the most appropriate means of collecting the debt. This could involve recovering this money from ongoing benefits or earnings, asking an Enforcement Agent to visit to obtain payment or remove goods, or as a last resort placing charging orders on property, implementing bankruptcy proceedings or asking the Magistrates to send the debtor to prison. Once a liability order has been granted the Council will request details of the Council Taxpayers income and employment or benefit details in order that the most efficient and effective way of collecting the debt can be identified. In cases where these details are not provided within 2 weeks of the request, the Council will, in accordance with the legislation, consider taking further Court action to obtain the information, which may result in a fine of up to 500. Additionally the Council may have no other option than to move on to the next stage of the recovery process. Enforcement Agent action for recovering Council Tax arrears The Council, in accordance with the legislation, will add extra costs when a case is referred to the Enforcement Agent but before this happens the Council will give advance notice, including what the costs involved will be, so that payment in full can be arranged to avoid paying the additional costs. The Council s Enforcement Agents or Enforcement Agents acting for the Council will ask for payment in full or make an appropriate arrangement and will act in accordance with the National Standards for Taking Control of Goods for Enforcement Agencies / Enforcement Agents. March

4 The Council recognise that, where they are aware a Council Tax payer is potentially vulnerable (see section 12), each case will be considered on their individual circumstances before referring to an Enforcement Agent. Where Enforcement Agent action has already started and the Enforcement Agent or Council are made aware a person is vulnerable, recovery will be put on hold for a minimum of 7 days to allow the Council Tax payer or their representative further time to engage with the Council and/or the Enforcement Agent acting for the Council. 9. Considering Bankruptcy / Liquidation, Committal and Charging Orders as last resort options. The Council is committed to only considering the following options as a last resort, i.e. when all other efforts to collect the debt have been exhausted and the debtor has a history of failing to fulfil payment arrangements. The Council will consider a *charging order on a Council Tax defaulters property only where the total debt exceeds 1,000. *A charging order is placed on the property, owned by the defaulter, allowing the Council to enforce the sale of the property, to recover the outstanding council tax debt from the proceeds, or whenever the property is sold at a future date. The Council will consider taking bankruptcy / insolvency action only where the total debt exceeds 5,000. The Council will usually consider obtaining a Charging Order prior to commencing bankruptcy proceedings to recover a debt. *Bankruptcy action is designed to protect a person from creditors and deal with debts that cannot be paid. Once in place there is an opportunity to sort out debts and once freed from bankruptcy make a fresh start. The Council will only consider committal proceedings where all appropriate methods of recovery have been exhausted. *Committal proceedings are where the Magistrates Court issue a summons to decide on whether non payment of Council Tax is due to wilful refusal or culpable neglect. If a defaulter is found guilty then they may be sent to prison for a maximum of 90 days. 10. Ensuring all Council staff, involved in the collection and enforcement of Council Tax, are polite, professional, helpful and fair at all times. All Council staff under take a prescribed period of training prior to becoming involved in the collection and enforcement of Council Tax. This training includes dealing with customer enquiries. The Council expects all staff to be polite, professional, non - judgmental and helpful when dealing with enquiries from Council Tax payers. To ensure that this happens on an ongoing basis, the Council will monitor staff and carry out regular appraisals and reviews and provide regular support, advice and where appropriate, training. Any Council Tax payer who experiences unprofessional or discourteous behaviour from a member of staff, or any agent acting on their behalf can make a complaint by following the Councils complaints procedure at March

5 11. Treating all citizens fairly and remain committed to ensuring that individuals are not discriminated against on the grounds of gender, gender reassignment, colour, race, nationality, ethnic or racial origins, disability, marital status, sexuality, trade union activity, age, political or religious beliefs. The Council s Equality and Diversity Policy will be followed. To see the policy: go to click on Your Council click on Equality and diversity click on Policies and strategies 12. Ensuring that vulnerable Council Tax Payers are treated fairly and given appropriate and timely advice in connection with all Council Tax related matters Bradford Council recognises its role in ensuring that the vulnerable and socially excluded are treated fairly and given appropriate and timely advice and will use discretion and treat each case on its merits, in connection with the collection and enforcement of Council Tax. Those who may be potentially vulnerable could include: the elderly; people with a disability; the seriously ill; the recently bereaved; single parent families; pregnant women; unemployed people; and, those who have obvious difficulty in understanding, speaking or reading English. Debt and benefit advice centres You can get free, independent and trustworthy help from local advice centres across the Bradford District. You can find your nearest advice centre on the Community Advice Network website at Just click on debt on the home page and enter your postcode in the box on the next page to find your nearest help. If you have a problem, don t ignore it get advice. March

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