Council Tax APPENDIX 1

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1 Council Tax APPENDIX 1 Version & Policy Number Version 1 Guardian Date Produced Next Review Date Approved by Scrutiny Approved by Cabinet Approved by Full Council Andrea Grinney, Revenues & Benefits Manager, x227

2 Summary of document Guidance on the collection and recovery of Council Tax including billing, instalments, recovery stages and courses of action available to collect unpaid Council Tax. The guidance explains what processes we follow and what taxpayers can do if they have difficulty in making payments and how to seek help and advice. This appends the Council s Corporate Debt Policy. Page 2 of 20

3 Contents Page 1.0 Introduction Demand Notices (Bills) Payment of Bills Action taken in cases of non-payment Summonses Liability Orders Attachment of Earnings Orders Attachment of Members Allowances Attachment of Benefits Bailiff Action Instigating Bankruptcy Proceedings Committal to Prison Charging Orders Small Debts Collection from Persons who have been made Bankrupt Collection from Estates of Deceased Persons Collection from Students Collection from Prisoners Collection from Property Owners Collection from Persons who have moved home Collection from Persons subject to Administration Orders Prioritisation of Debt Seeking Advice on debt Appeals Write Off of debt 19 Page 3 of 20

4 1.0 Introduction 1.1 The purpose of this document is to describe the methods to be adopted to collect Council Tax liabilities. The guidance aims to ensure that the collection of Council Tax is undertaken in a fair but firm manner, having regard to the Councils Corporate Debt Policy. 1.2 Rutland County Council (RCC) has a legal duty to all council tax payers to ensure cost-effective billing, collection and recovery of all sums due to the council. 1.3 For the guidance to be effective it is vital that we ensure: Accurate, clear and prompt billing arrangements A quick response to changes in circumstances Fast and accurate delivery of benefit entitlements 1.4 The guidance aims to: Take positive action to prevent arrears occurring, for example by maximising income and providing a range of payment methods. Take positive enforcement action against deliberate non-payers or those who continually delay payment. Ensure we make early contact to avoid build up of debt. Encourage people to make early contact with us to avoid build up of debt Where people have fallen or are likely to fall into arrears, we will work with them to set acceptable payment levels that they can maintain. The Council aims to recover all Council Tax levied. For 2012/13 the aim is to collect 99% of all council tax billed. 1.5 The need for the taxpayer to get in touch is central to the guidance. Where a person makes contact their circumstances will be considered with a view to agreeing a reasonable payment arrangement, minimising recovery action and helping to alleviate hardship. Where people fail to make contact or maintain arrangements, recovery action will continue. 1.6 The Council will take a pro-active role in promoting Income Maximisation. When a benefit application form is received it will be reviewed in light of any entitlement to other welfare benefits and eligibility for a Single Person Discount. Where eligibility for these or other benefits is identified, the claimant will be notified accordingly and advised how to claim Demand Notices (Bills) 2.1 Annual demand notices (bills) are despatched every March (by 16 th ) for the forthcoming financial year. Amended bills or adjustment notices are issued daily as a result of changes to the Council Tax database, such as the removal of a single person discount, or as a result of adjustments to Council Tax Benefit. 2.2 An annual bill is issued to each person shown on the Council Tax database as being the current liable person. Amended bills are sent out Page 4 of 20

5 daily whenever there is a change in liability or Council Tax Benefit. 2.3 Where two or more persons are shown as being "jointly and severally" liable for payment of Council Tax; each will receive identical documentation throughout the collection process from summons stage onwards. This permits the recovery process to continue where joint liability exists. 2.4 Annual bills are sent out to all taxpayers, whatever the value, to inform them of their gross liability for the forthcoming year and to advise them of any benefit entitlement. Annual bills are sent for zero balances to taxpayers in receipt of 100% Council Tax Benefit. 2.5 Amended bills are issued in all cases where the change in liability results in a decrease or increase in net liability. 2.6 Where 100% benefit is awarded, a NIL bill is always issued to confirm benefit entitlement. 2.7 The Living in Rutland booklet is enclosed in March annual bills and during the course of the year for new liabilities. This provides statutory information and local information for residents; such as payment options. 2.8 Taxpayers may opt to have their bills sent to them electronically. All paperwork relating to recovery action will be issued through the postal system Payment of Bills 3.1 A variety of payment methods exist incorporating the statutory instalment scheme which provides for payment of the annual bill by 10 monthly payments. 3.2 The Council's preferred method of collection is direct debit as the charges incurred by the Council are far lower than those incurred from collection by any other method. Taxpayers should therefore be encouraged to pay by direct debit wherever possible. Taxpayers will not normally incur any charges with their bank. This scheme is also backed by the Direct Debit Guarantee. We also offer the option to set up a direct debit with our customers over the telephone using the Paperless Direct Debit (PDD) system. 3.3 Customers adopting direct debit as a method of payment have a choice of three payment dates in the month; the 1 st, the 15 th or the 24 th. 3.4 Customers can also opt to have their bills sent to them electronically. 3.5 Appendix D sets out the current payment methods and dates. 3.6 If the customer contacts to say that they cannot pay on the date provided (1 st ), they can be offered the alternative dates by direct debit (15 th or 24 th ). All other methods of payment must be paid by the first of each month. 3.7 Instalments can be extended beyond January in some circumstances. These should only be agreed if the circumstances of the taxpayer justify the decision and clear notes are made that this is a one off agreement and in the majority of cases we would expect this to be made by direct debit. Page 5 of 20

6 3.8 The customer should be advised that payment of future years would be in line with the normal instalment plan. 3.9 Each case is assessed on its own merits, examples of such circumstances are: The taxpayer has been made redundant recently. The taxpayer or a dependant has suffered a serious illness. The taxpayer has left employment to care for their new baby Arrangements made under 3.7 should be communicated to the customer with a revised instalment plan. The taxpayer should also be advised that failure to maintain the agreement will result normal recovery action Only one such agreement will be allowed before a Liability Order is obtained, in any financial year. 4.0 Action taken in cases of non-payment 4.1 Where a taxpayer fails to make payment in accordance with the instalments shown on their most recent bill, recovery action is taken in accordance with the statutory procedures contained in the Local Government Finance Act 1992, the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992/613 and subsequent regulations. 4.2 Reminder notices are issued after a default to all taxpayers failing to pay as requested. The reminder includes a Questions & Answers leaflet giving guidance to the taxpayer. 4.3 On the first occasion of default in any financial year a reminder will be sent requesting that the taxpayer pays the unpaid instalment within 7 days and informing the taxpayer that if not paid the whole balance for the year will become due after a further 7 days. 4.4 If the taxpayer pays the missed instalment no further action will be taken. 4.5 If the taxpayer pays some, but not all of the amount due, a final notice will be issued. This has the effect of cancelling the right to pay in instalments. If the amount shown on the final notice is not paid in full within 7 days, summons action will be taken. 4.6 If a taxpayer does not pay a further instalment later on in the financial year a further reminder will be issued. A maximum of 2 reminders will be issued during a financial year. 4.7 If the taxpayer pays some, but not all of the amount due following a second reminder, a final notice will be issued. This has the effect of cancelling the right to pay in instalments. If the amount shown on the final notice is not paid in full within 7 days, summons action will be taken. 4.8 A final notice cancelling the right to pay in instalments will be issued following a third default. If the full amount shown is not paid within 7 days of issue, summons action will be taken in order for a Liability Order to be obtained through the Magistrates Court. 4.9 If a customer agrees to pay by direct debit, instalments can be Page 6 of 20

7 reinstated under the start afresh procedures. See Appendix D for full details Where a taxpayer leaves a property the closing account shows one instalment date. A reminder notice/final notice or summons will be issued dependant on previous action taken if payment is not made as requested. If a summons has already been issued and the balance of the account is reduced, a Liability Order will be obtained for the reduced amount In cases where there are also summonsed amounts outstanding Recovery staff will look at the action currently being taken on the other debts and will advise the customer to pay the missed instalment; otherwise further recovery action may ensue If the taxpayer has no other Council Tax debts he/she must, in the first instance be asked to bring payment of the instalments up to date and to continue paying on the due dates If it transpires that the taxpayer cannot bring the instalments up to date, the reason for this should be established. If the taxpayer won t pay, then the next stages of the recovery process should be explained. If the taxpayer can t pay the reasons why should be considered and if appropriate, an arrangement offered. Each case is assessed on its own merits If an arrangement can be made prior to any further recovery action, the taxpayer should be encouraged to set up a direct debit for this. Wherever possible any arrangement must be completed before the end of that financial year and in most cases before Mid January of that year The taxpayer should be advised that any default in payment will result in a summons being issued and a liability order obtained to protect the Council's position. Costs of the summons will be payable, see Appendix D for details All agreements must have regard to the rate at which the Council Tax liability is accruing and when the next Council Tax bill will become due Where the taxpayer fails to pay the amounts requested on a Reminder and no contact is made the account will progress automatically to Summons The right to pay by instalments is only forfeited in the year of default and will automatically be reinstated for subsequent years At all times, staff should encourage taxpayers to pay by direct debit Taxpayers have the option to start afresh with Direct Debit paperless sign-up The start afresh procedures can only be used once within a financial year. For details and the criteria for start afresh please see Appendix D Instalments should still be paid and recovery action should continue as necessary, regardless of any outstanding benefit claim. Customers should be advised of this when making contact Instalments should still be paid and recovery action should continue as Page 7 of 20

8 5.0 Summonses necessary even if a taxpayer has an appeal outstanding. 5.1 By agreement with the Magistrates Court, hearings against defaulters take place at regular intervals. 5.2 Prior to the hearing the Complaint is made to the Magistrates and summonses sent to each liable person named on the complaint. A Questions & Answers leaflet is included to advise taxpayers about the summons process. 5.3 Costs are incurred on the making of a Complaint and subsequent issuing of a summons. This represents the court fees paid to the Court by the Council and the costs incurred by the Council in respect of issuing the summons. These costs are reviewed and agreed annually with the Clerk to the Magistrates. See Appendix D for details of costs. 5.4 The summons states the date and time of the hearing at which the Council will apply for a liability order. 5.5 Where full payment of the Council Tax liability including costs is received, after the issue of a summons but before the date of the application for a liability order, all action will be terminated. 5.6 If a person contacts and agrees to pay by direct debit before the hearing date, the start afresh procedures can be applied, provided that an unpaid direct debit was not the reason for the default, and costs will be removed. See Appendix D for details. 5.7 This will only happen once in a year. If the Direct Debit fails and another summons is issued it will not be withdrawn and costs will be incurred. 5.8 If no response is received by the date of the court hearing, the Magistrates will be requested to grant a Liability Order for the outstanding debt including the summons costs. 5.9 No application is made for additional Liability Order costs There is no legal requirement for the taxpayer to attend the court hearing. The hearing will proceed in the taxpayer s absence If a taxpayer wishes to dispute the granting of the order they may do so at the court hearing, however the Magistrates powers are limited and the order will be granted if the taxpayer does not have a valid defence The Questions & Answers leaflet sent with the summons document outlines the defences that the Magistrates will consider Taxpayers are always encouraged to contact the Council before a hearing in order to resolve any queries in advance. If there is an alternative route which they follow to address the issue the taxpayer will be advised of this upon contact When a summons has been issued and the taxpayer wishes to enter into an arrangement to pay by regular instalments which will clear the debt within a reasonable period of time, this may be agreed. However, the taxpayer should be informed that the application for a Liability Order including the summons costs will continue but that no further action will be taken if all payments are made as agreed. Page 8 of 20

9 5.15 All costs will be pursued, where the amount of the summons excluding costs is paid before the court, we will still apply for a Liability Order for the unpaid costs Each set of summonses generated for a single court hearing is referred to as a "recovery cycle". Each recovery cycle has a number which is shown on the Council Tax system Where it is necessary to issue more than one summons in a year because of changes in liability or benefit alterations, costs will be payable for each occasion Reports will be generated of all arrangements not adhered to for further action to be taken All arrangements set up after Court that are in arrears will be cancelled without further notice. An alternative method of recovery action will then be taken. 6.0 Liability Orders 6.1 Where no valid defence is offered the Magistrates will grant a liability order for the amount of the unpaid Council Tax including costs as described above. 6.2 A Liability Order enables the Council to use a wider range of options in order to continue its efforts to collect the unpaid debt. 6.3 Following the issue of an order one of the following options will be taken: Set up a payment arrangement if agreed under 5.14 Issue an attachment of earnings order Issue an attachment of benefits order Pass the details of the debt to a bailiff firm who will issue a statutory notice advising that the liability order has been obtained. They will also issue a request for information form and a copy of the bailiff fees. Taxpayers have 14 days to respond. Failure to do so would result in a bailiff visit and costs would be incurred as notified in the statutory information. 6.4 Recovery staff will determine further action based on the information available. 6.5 Any arrangement made with our appointed bailiff company is confirmed by letter with details of how payments can be made. 6.6 The acceptance of an offer to pay by instalments is dependent on the amount that would be forthcoming if an Attachment of Earnings or Attachment of Benefit was used to collect the debt. Each case is assessed on its own merits. 6.9 Where, for whatever reason, payment is not made, the Council can change to another method and can use each method several times as necessary to obtain payment, e.g. if a defaulter on Employment Support Allowance is paying by way of an Attachment of Benefit Order and finds employment, collection can continue by way of an Attachment of Earnings Order. Page 9 of 20

10 6.10 If the offer of payment will not clear the debt within the current financial year, but having regard to the information supplied on the Request for Information form and the accrual rate, it will result in the debt being paid in a reasonable time, the offer can be accepted. Each case should be considered on its own merits having regard to each individual s circumstances Reports will be produced of all arrangements made that fall into arrears for the agreements to be terminated and further action to be set up without further contact with the taxpayer, unless required by statute Only one course of action can be taken for individual liability orders at any one time, however, if more than one liability order is held, a different course of action may be taken on each. Recovery staff will usually try to use the same action on all orders; however, this is not always possible and will depend on whether there has been any contact from the taxpayer. 7.0 Attachment of Earnings Orders 7.1 Attachment of Earnings can only be used following the granting of a liability order. It cannot be implemented at the request of customers. 7.2 Where the taxpayer's employer is known and an order will result in payments at a greater rate than the accrual rate and no acceptable offer has been made by the taxpayer, an Attachment of Earnings Order should be set up. 7.3 The taxpayer will be advised that the order has been issued at the same time as the necessary documentation is sent to the employer. 7.4 The amounts to be deducted from the taxpayer's wages are set by the Government and information setting out the employer's responsibilities under the order and the rate of deduction to be made is sent with the order and is available to view on the Council s website. 7.5 Attachment Orders are monitored and appropriate action is taken if payment has not been forthcoming from the employer. 7.6 If the Council Tax liability is reduced, the employer will be advised in writing of the revised amount. 7.7 If the taxpayer asks the authority for a set deduction, this can be considered and if accepted the employer should be asked in writing. It should be made clear to the taxpayer that this is only acceptable at the employer s discretion. 7.8 If the order is cancelled for whatever reason the next step would normally be to instruct a bailiff. If bailiffs have already been used to collect this debt and we have a 'Nulla Bona' certificate, other action such as committal or bankruptcy proceedings should commence. 7.9 A second bailiff company may be used to try to collect the debt if the first company has been unsuccessful We may also use the services of our bailiff company to issue attachment of earnings orders on our behalf. Page 10 of 20

11 8.0 Attachment of Members Allowance 8.1 When a Liability Order has been granted, the Council may apply for an Attachment of Member s Allowances if the Order was made against an elected member of a billing or major precepting authority. 8.2 Such an order will be sent to the authority of whom the debtor is a member. 8.3 Should a Councillor fall behind with two or more of their council tax instalments a declaration must be made to this effect and restrictions will be placed on voting at meetings where certain matters are being dealt with. 9.0 Attachment of Benefits 9.1 Attachment of Benefits can only be used following the granting of a liability order. It cannot be implemented at the request of customers. 9.2 The powers to issue an Attachment Notice are restricted to Employment Support Allowance, lncome Based Job Seekers' Allowance and pension credit only. 9.3 In the case of couples where the person named as responsible for payment of Council Tax is not the Benefit claimant the Council Tax records should be amended accordingly and the couple billed as "jointly and severally" liable. 9.4 Before attaching benefits, the accrual rate should be checked to ensure that the deduction rate is greater than the accrual rate. If the accrual rate is greater (e.g. due to non-dependants living in the household), an attachment of benefits will only be set up if other recovery options are considered ineffective. 9.5 Information that a taxpayer is in receipt of an attachable benefit may sometimes only be received from the bailiff after he has called at the property. 9.6 Where this occurs, bailiff action is discontinued whilst documentation is sent to the Benefits Agency to ascertain whether attachment is possible, or an arrangement can be made with the bailiff for a sum equivalent to the deduction amount. 9.7 In cases where attachment is not possible, collection is to be returned to the bailiff. 9.8 All cases where the taxpayer is in receipt of a state benefit that cannot be subject to attachment should be closely monitored, as the taxpayer is likely to be in a poor financial situation. 9.9 When attempting to set up an Attachment of Benefit regard must be paid to Benefits Agency regulations The weekly deduction amount in 2012/13 is 3.55 per week Bailiff Action 10.1 Bailiff action can only be taken once a liability order has been obtained Following the issue of a Liability Order, if alternative recovery routes are not undertaken by the Council, details of the liability order will be Page 11 of 20

12 passed to our bailiff company and they will advise the taxpayer in writing of the recovery options available and what can happen next. Details of the bailiff fees are included with the letter and a minimum of 14 days must pass following the issue of the letter before bailiff visits can commence The taxpayer will incur minimum costs as follows: First visit Second visit The bailiff will also charge further costs if payment is not forthcoming and it is necessary to take further action Where we have joint and several liability; bailiff instructions can be created against all joint and severally liable persons Where a request for information form is returned to the bailiff alternative action will be considered. The bailiffs may refer the case to the Council if the taxpayer is in receipt of any attachable benefit or they may issue an attachment of earnings order on our behalf If an offer of payment is made and is accepted the bailiffs will write to the taxpayer advising of how and when to pay If payment is not made, the bailiff is entitled to continue with action to take possession of goods belonging to the taxpayer and to remove those goods for sale by public auction. The bailiff should advise the Council that goods are being removed Bailiff activity is governed by a Code of Practice approved by RCC. Refer to Appendix D for details If the bailiff is unable to locate goods or where the goods are of insufficient value to pay the debt, the liability order will be returned to the Council endorsed Nulla bona to enable either a second bailiff company to be instructed, or committal or bankruptcy proceedings to commence Bristow & Sutor are bailiffs appointed to collect unpaid council tax on behalf of RCC. We may also refer cases to other approved bailiffs Instigating Bankruptcy Proceedings against a Taxpayer 11.1 Where the total debt is 750 or more, the Council can take action to have the taxpayer declared bankrupt (or in the case of a company take winding up proceedings) Cases are referred to an insolvency practitioner for them to prepare and serve a statutory demand Debts to be referred for bankruptcy are those where we have a liability order (not legally necessary but good proof of debt) and the liable person is the property owner. This can be either an owner occupier or a landlord where there are several properties involved If the debt is not paid within four months of the statutory demand, a bankruptcy petition must be applied for before a judge. The insolvency practitioner will attend the hearing on behalf of the Council. Page 12 of 20

13 11.5 The costs of applying for a bankruptcy petition are substantial and approval should first be obtained from the Revenues and Benefits Manager Committal to Prison 12.1 In cases where the bailiff has been unsuccessful in obtaining payment and has provided a 'Nulla Bona' certificate the Council can apply to the Magistrates Court for the taxpayer to be committed to prison for nonpayment When this occurs the defaulter can either be summonsed to appear or where appropriate the Magistrates can issue a warrant for the defaulter's arrest in order to secure attendance The taxpayer will be summonsed to Magistrates Court. Where the taxpayer fails to appear a warrant of arrest will be applied for The minimum value for which committal action is normally taken is Committal action is not taken in cases where the current address of the taxpayer is not known (i.e. no trace cases) Approval must first be obtained from the Revenues and Benefits Manager to take committal action as the costs involved are substantial. These costs will be passed onto the taxpayer When a taxpayer attends a court hearing Recovery staff will interview him/her before the hearing in an attempt to reach a payment arrangement and obtain full details of the financial circumstances. The taxpayer will be advised that the case will be adjourned to a future date for payments to be made Further costs will be incurred if a taxpayer fails to attend the hearing and a warrant of arrest with or without bail is obtained If information becomes available that the taxpayer is working or on ESA and it would be more beneficial to set up an Attachment of Earnings or Benefit, committal proceedings will be postponed and an attachment set up If no agreement can be reached or payments are not made the taxpayer will be brought before the Magistrates who will conduct a Means Enquiry and consider whether the taxpayer has been guilty of either "wilful refusal" or "culpable neglect" If the Magistrates decide that the taxpayer is guilty of either of the offences they can impose a prison sentence of up to 90 days The sentence may be postponed to allow payment at a rate determined by the Magistrates. The rate of payment will be set as a result of the information supplied during the Means Enquiry Magistrates have the power to remit all or part of the debt after conducting the Means Enquiry The council will secure the services of a 3 rd party to carry out the execution of arrest warrants If a person is actually committed to prison for non-payment of Council Page 13 of 20

14 Tax, he/she can be released before their sentence is served in full if they pay the debt outstanding. The amount to be paid will be apportioned according to the period of sentence already served. The prison governor will calculate the amount to be paid and pass the money to the Council after the taxpayer has been released. No further action will be taken for the amount by which the debt was reduced and the amount will be written off Charging Orders 13.1 Where a case has been unpaid and the liable person is a property owner, the department will investigate whether there is sufficient equity the property. This procedure will not be applicable where the taxpayer is privately renting or a Social Housing tenant. The assessment will be made using Land Registry records and credit referencing agencies Please refer to Appendix D for our Charging Orders Procedures for further information Small Debts 14.1 There is an accepted value where it is considered to be uneconomic or either politically or socially unacceptable to pursue a debt to the full in accordance with procedures mentioned above The Revenues and Benefits Manager will determine the most appropriate action to take for small debts, each case will be considered on its own merits Collection from Persons who have been made Bankrupt 15.1 The Council can take action to make a person bankrupt as referred to in section Notification of Bankruptcy will be received from the Official Receiver or the person appointed to act on behalf of the taxpayer Alternatively the taxpayer may seek to set up an Individual Voluntary Arrangement to pay his debts. This is dependent on the taxpayer obtaining agreement from the majority of his/her creditors The liability will need to be apportioned at the date of receivership In all cases a new account will be set up from the date resulting from the apportionment Once the amount to be included in the proof of debt has been calculated and notified to other relevant sections, no further action can be taken and the debt will be written off. If any dividend is received the appropriate amount will be re-instated Collection of any liability accruing after the date of bankruptcy will be subject to the normal recovery procedures The Council retains the services of an expert company to advise on matters of liquidation or bankruptcy. Page 14 of 20

15 16.0 Collection from Estates of Deceased Persons 16.1 There will be instances where an account remains unpaid because of the death of a Council Taxpayer When the date of death is entered into the system for the liable person, further new recovery actions cannot automatically be taken. Care must be taken with any action already ongoing e.g. bailiffs There is no automatic recovery hold on any new account which has been created after a date of death has been entered e.g. where there is a liability after grant of probate or letters of administration and bills are issued An apportioned bill is normally sent. Occasionally this will cause distress and staff should deal sympathetically with any enquiries If the property remains occupied after the liable person's death, whether or not there was joint and several liability, the account will need to be adjusted to reflect the new situation If the amount outstanding is less than a recovery inhibit can be set for one month after the issue of the bill. If no response has been received a letter will be issued, if there is still no response the debt can be considered for write off Where the debt is greater than a letter will be sent to the Executors or Personal Representatives requesting payment If no response is received to the bill either by way of payment or receipt of communication advising of the deceased taxpayer s assets, a further letter is to be sent If no response is received to the second letter and the deceased taxpayer was living in rented accommodation it will be assumed the taxpayer died without leaving an estate and the debt can be considered for write off If the deceased person was a property owner a letter will be sent to the Personal Representatives of the Estate. Efforts will be made to establish the date of Probate or Letters of Administration Where joint and several liability existed and a liability order obtained against all liable persons recovery action can continue against the remaining liable person(s) Collection from Students 17.1 Properties occupied by students are normally exempt under classes M or N of the Exempt Properties Order Where a liability exists because not all the residents are students, the student cannot be held liable for the charge, even if he/she has the greatest legal interest in the property. This took effect from 1 st April 2004 following an amendment to the regulations by the Local Government Act Recovery action will be taken against a student if the debt is due for a period prior to him/her becoming a student. Page 15 of 20

16 18.0 Collection from Prisoners 18.1 If the taxpayer is committed to prison for non-payment of Council Tax the debt will be written off because there are no further powers of recovery available to the Council Where a taxpayer is sentenced to a prison term other than for nonpayment of local taxes and the Probation Service confirm the earliest date of release is at least 12 months in the future the debt can be considered for apportionment to the date of sentence of custody. This decision is made by The Revenues and Benefits Manager For sentences less than 12 months the debt is to remain on file and collection attempted after release If the person sent to prison remains the owner of the property; the debt should remain on file until their release If the property remains occupied, one or more of the remaining residents will become liable to pay Council Tax from the date the prisoner is taken into custody or from the date of sentence If the property becomes unoccupied due to the imprisonment of the liable person, the property would become exempt under Class D for the period of his/her imprisonment, except if the imprisonment was due to non-payment of a fine or non-payment of Council Tax Collection from Property Owners 19.1 Where the owner of a property has been determined to be liable for Council Tax, bills will be sent and recovery action taken in the normal way if he/she fails to pay Collection from Persons who have moved home 20.1 Where the taxpayer has moved from a property leaving unpaid Council Tax, recovery action will be continued If the system holds the current address of the taxpayer, documents will be sent to that address. In other cases documents will be sent to the last known address (often the property where the charge was incurred) and recovery action will proceed unless correspondence is returned by the Post Office Where a liability order has been granted, action will be taken according to the amount of the debt If correspondence is returned undelivered by the Post Office and the debt is greater than the case will be referred for tracing A "no trace" report from the bailiff or a collection agency will be sufficient to allow the debt to be referred for a final trace attempt If the trace is unsuccessful can then be referred to the Strategic Director of Resources to consider the amount for write off If the taxpayer is traced, recovery action will restart at the point in the recovery cycle that it had reached prior to either the return of correspondence by the Post Office or bailiff or information received that the taxpayer had moved. Page 16 of 20

17 20.8 If the taxpayer is traced and any balance had previously been written off, the balance will be written back onto the account and recovery action will restart at the point in the recovery cycle that it had reached prior to the write off Where the Magistrates have issued a warrant for the arrest of a defaulter but the Magistrates' Warrant Officer reported that they are unable to trace him/her a second no trace report is not required, the debt can be referred for consideration to write off irrespective of the size of the debt Collection from persons subject to Administration Orders 21.1 Where a taxpayer has other debts and at least one is subject to a county court judgement he/she can apply to the County Court for an Administration Order, provided that their overall debts do not amount to more than Under the Administration Order debts will be paid at a rate determined by the judge presiding at the taxpayer's enquiry All debt included in the Administration Order is to be placed on recovery inhibit and monitored A new account should be set up for any ongoing liability The date from which liability will recommence will depend on the debt included in the Administration Order The debt will need to be apportioned at the date of receivership A new account will be set up from the date of apportionment Prioritisation of debts 22.1 Priority will normally be given to clearing unpaid Council Tax for the current year If a taxpayer wishes to make an arrangement to clear their total indebtedness (arrears and current liability) by the end of the financial year, this may be agreed dependant upon the circumstances of the debtor. Recovery action will be held on the unsummonsed balance provided the arrangement is kept up to date. Each case will be considered on its own merits. The taxpayer will be advised in writing that if payments are not made strictly as agreed further recovery action will be taken straight away on any summonsed debt and recovery action started in respect of any unsummonsed debt in accordance with the original instalments shown on the bill An arrangement can be agreed as described in 21.2 to include future liabilities if full details of the person's financial circumstances are obtained and the agreement made is genuinely believed to be the most the person can afford to pay. Clear notes must be made and the account must be reviewed on a regular basis to check for changes in circumstances and levels of Council Tax All arrangements to clear Council Tax debts must have regard to the rate at which ongoing Council Tax liability is accruing so that at a very minimum the financial situation is stabilised. Page 17 of 20

18 22.5 Where a customer's income is at Employment Support amount levels and the accrual rate is below the Attachment of Benefit deduction rate, the minimum payment arrangement should be at the deduction rate In cases where it appears that the taxpayer is unable to pay a reasonable sum and has other arrears the taxpayers should be signposted to seek independent advice All agreements will be confirmed in writing stating how payments are to be made and that failure to pay as agreed will result in the arrangement being cancelled without further contact Seeking advice on debt 23.1 Where possible all documents will advise taxpayers to seek free independent advice from Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or National Debt Helpline If a taxpayer indicates during contact that they are experiencing financial difficulties, the Recovery Officer will discuss the possibility of claiming for council tax and housing benefit and will also advise them to seek help from the local CAB branch RCC will work with CAB to identify cases that are deemed appropriate for extended arrangements due to their financial circumstances Information relating to housing and council tax benefit can be found on our website Appeals 24.1 Anyone dissatisfied with the valuation band of their property should contact; The Listing Officer, Leicester Valuation Office, Enkalon House, 92 Regent Road, Leicester LE1 7DD, telephone , or go to For more information about what to do if you disagree with your banding the Valuation Office have produced an information leaflet which can be viewed on their website You may also appeal if you consider that you are not liable to pay Council Tax e.g. because your property is exempt. If you wish to appeal on these grounds you must first notify this Council in writing so that we have the opportunity to consider the case If you are still dissatisfied following an initial appeal you can progress your appeal further to an Independent Valuation Tribunal. We will provide details of how to do this when necessary If you are dissatisfied with something the Council, an employee or agent has done, failed to do or has done in a way that is considered unacceptable then you have the right to make a complaint. Please do so in writing to The Revenues and Benefits Manager, or complete a Complaint Report Form which you can obtain from our Customer Services Centre, along with a copy of our Customer Care Standards or lodge a complaint on our website The Magistrates will not consider an outstanding appeal or complaint to be a valid defence against the granting of a liability order. These matters must be pursued through the appropriate channels and not the Magistrates Court. Page 18 of 20

19 25.0 Write Off of debt 25.1 Council Tax debt will only be written off as a last resort and in accordance with the Council s Standing Orders and financial regulations Action will be taken to seek approval through the appropriate channels. Page 19 of 20

20 A large print version of this document is available on request Rutland County Council Catmose, Oakham, Rutland LE15 6HP Page 20 of 20

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