COUNCIL TAX COLLECTION POLICY

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1 COUNCIL TAX COLLECTION POLICY Bradford Council recognises that all households are experiencing financial pressure through reduced income and increasing inflation and energy costs. This will inevitably lead to more difficult collection of Council Tax, however all Council Tax payers can be assured that Bradford Council will endeavour to maximise the collection of Council Tax by;- July

2 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 on Council Tax 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 encourage 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 May 2013) and will act in accordance with the National Code for Enforcement Agencies / Enforcement Agents. 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 Via a Paypoint outlet - Standing Order from a Bank or Building Society. July

3 Whilst the Council will accept cheques Council Tax payers will be asked if they are able to pay by direct debit or an alternative payment method listed above, in the first instance. 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. 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 can be revised, on request, but only on accounts where payments are up to date. Payments can 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 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 endeavour 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, however, 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 assess a person s ability to pay and make affordable arrangements in line with their circumstances. For Council Tax payers who are able to pay but refuse to do so or fail to contact, the Council will, implement the enforcement procedure read the What can happen if I don t pay my Council Tax page on July

4 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 citizen 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. For those Council Tax payers who are unable to pay on time early contact with the Council is essential to avoid arrears and prompt payment at the outset will avoid costs becoming payable. At the beginning of April each year the Council produces a timetable (see pages 8 to 13 of this document) for recovery action to be taken against Council Tax payers who have not made payment or where payment is late. Before the Council issues a Reminder notice for payment, to all those Council Tax payers who do not pay on the due date, it may send an , text message or make a visit to prompt payment. The Reminder notice, once issued, will require payment within 7 days and where this happens, will allow Council Tax payers 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 reminders and final notices, payment of Council Tax is not brought up to date or paid in full, the Magistrates Court will issue a summons for non-payment which will include costs of Where payment in full or an affordable arrangement, including costs, is made prior to the hearing then attendance at Court will not be required. The Council will take all reasonable steps to exhaust other options available prior to obtaining a liability order, however if there has been no contact from the Council Tax payer and payment in full or arrangement is not made then the Council will ask the Magistrates Court to grant a Liability Order to secure the debt including costs of 40. Where the Magistrates Court grants a liability order the Council will, in accordance with the legislation, consider the most appropriate means of collecting the debt which could involve recovering this money from ongoing benefits or earnings, asking an Enforcement Agent to visit to obtain payment or as a last resort placing charging orders on property, bankruptcy or the debtor could be sent to prison. July

5 Once a liability order has been granted the Council will request details of the debtors income and expenditure in order that the most efficient and effective way of collecting the debt can be identified. In cases where details of income and expenditure are not received 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 organise an Enforcement Agent visit. Enforcement Agent action for recovering Council Tax arrears The Council, in accordance with the legislation, will add extra costs where an Enforcement Agent visit is appropriate 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 Code for Enforcement Agencies / Enforcement Agents. The Council recognise that where they are aware that a Council Tax payer is potentially vulnerable (see section 12) Enforcement Agent action will not be used. Where Enforcement Agent action has already started and the Council become aware that the Council Tax payer is potentially vulnerable, then Enforcement Agent action will be withdrawn. The Council will remain prepared to deal directly with Council Tax payers at any point, even where the Enforcement Agents are involved. 9. Considering Bankruptcy / Liquidation, Committal and Charging 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. It should be noted that these options will not be considered where direct deductions from benefits are available. The Council will consider a *charging order on a 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 July

6 The council will always consider a Charging Order prior to bankruptcy action being considered. *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 consider committal proceedings only when there has been an Enforcement Agent visit and attachments to benefit and/or earnings have failed or are not appropriate. *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 July

7 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. July

8 Reminder and Summons Issue Date The tables below show the dates of issue of Reminder notices and Summonses for non payment If you get Council Tax Reduction Payment Date If you are paying on the 5 th of each month If you fail to pay on or before the following payment dates Reminder Issued Summons Issued 05/04/ /05/ /06/ /05/ /06/ /07/ /06/ /07/ /08/ /07/ /08/ /09/ /08/ /09/ /10/ /09/ /10/ /11/ /10/ /11/ /12/ /11/ /12/ /01/ /12/ /01/ /02/ /01/ /01/ /02/ /02/ /02/ /03/ /03/2016 TBC TBC July

9 If you get Council Tax Reduction Payment Date If you are paying on the 15 th of each month If you fail to pay on or before the following payment dates Reminder Issued Summons Issued 05/04/ /05/ /06/ /05/ /06/ /07/ /06/ /07/ /08/ /07/ /08/ /09/ /08/ /09/ /10/ /09/ /10/ /11/ /10/ /11/ /12/ /11/ /12/ /01/ /12/ /01/ /02/ /01/ /02/ /03/ /02/ /02/ /03/ /03/2016 TBC TBC July

10 If you get Council Tax Reduction Payment Date If you are paying on the 28 th of each month If you fail to pay on or before the following payment dates Reminder Issued Summons Issued 05/04/ /05/ /06/ /05/ /06/ /07/ /06/ /07/ /08/ /07/ /08/ /09/ /08/ /09/ /10/ /09/ /10/ /11/ /10/ /11/ /12/ /11/ /12/ /01/ /12/ /01/ /02/ /01/ /02/ /03/ /02/ /02/ /03/ /03/2016 TBC TBC July

11 The tables below show the dates of issue of Reminder notices and Summonses for non payment If you do NOT get Council Tax Reduction Payment Date If you are paying on the 5 th of each month If you fail to pay on or before the following payment dates Reminder Issued Summons Issued 05/04/ /05/ /06/ /05/ /06/ /07/ /06/ /07/ /07/ /07/ /08/ /09/ /08/ /09/ /09/ /09/ /10/ /10/ /10/ /11/ /11/ /11/ /12/ /12/ /12/ /01/ /02/ /01/ /02/ /03/ /02/ /03/2016 TBC 05/03/2016 TBC TBC July

12 If you do NOT get Council Tax Reduction Payment Date If you are paying on the 15 th of each month If you fail to pay on or before the following payment dates Reminder Issued Summons Issued 05/04/ /05/ /06/ /05/ /06/ /07/ /06/ /07/ /07/ /07/ /08/ /09/ /08/ /09/ /09/ /09/ /10/ /10/ /10/ /11/ /11/ /11/ /12/ /12/ /12/ /01/ /02/ /01/ /02/ /03/ /02/ /03/2016 TBC 05/03/2016 TBC TBC July

13 If you do NOT get Council Tax Reduction Payment Date If you are paying on the 28 th of each month If you fail to pay on or before the following payment dates Reminder Issued Summons Issued 05/04/ /05/ /06/ /05/ /06/ /07/ /06/ /07/ /07/ /07/ /08/ /09/ /08/ /09/ /09/ /09/ /10/ /10/ /10/ /11/ /11/ /11/ /12/ /12/ /12/ /01/ /02/ /01/ /02/ /03/ /02/ /03/2016 TBC 05/03/2016 TBC TBC Debt and benefit advice centres Please read this first. It will help you make the most of this information Need advice about debt? You can get free, independent and trustworthy help from local advice centres, in communities across 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. July

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