Following the abolition of Council Tax Benefit in April 2013 many claimants who were previously entitled to 100% benefit will now be expected to pay part of their council tax.
This is a standard letter which may be used by anybody who has difficulty in paying any part of a council tax bill at any point between now and March 31st 2014.
It applies and can be used for:
- An application for support under the Council’s own statutory reduction scheme
- An application for a reduction for the Council to use its discretionary power to reduce a sum of council tax (including previous years)
- Grounds for applying for an adjournment in the magistrates’ court
- An appeal to the Valuation Tribunal England.
- A basis for calling on bailiffs to cease acting where a debt is being enforced.
Under section 13A(1)(C) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 the Council has a general discretionary power to reduce liability for Council Tax in relation to individual cases or class(es) of cases that it may determine and where national discounts and exemptions cannot be applied. This letter serves to request such a discretionary reduction in the event that the taxpayer does not receive 100% benefit under the local authority own statutory scheme.
Make at least three copies of this letter (1) one for personal records (2) one to serve on the local authority (3) a copy to be served on other parties e.g. the magistrates’ courts or the bailiffs.
Even if the local authority turns down the statutory reduction scheme, there is still the discretionary reduction scheme which should be considered.
Failure to reply
If a Council fails to answer in two months the matter should go to the Valuation Tribunal England, based at Whitechapel, as an appeal under section 16 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992.
After the letter has been sent
Once the local authority has been served with the letter it must determine the application for (1) a council tax reduction under the local scheme (2) the application for a discretionary reduction (which can be made at any time and for any sum in council tax including previous years)
How long does the council have to decide?
The Council has two months decide the reduction and say yes or no.
What if the reduction is granted?
If one or both of the reductions is granted and the Council tax is paid, then all is well for this year 2013-2014.
However, if the Council does not agree to grant the reduction or grants only part of it, then the matter has to go to the Valuation Tribunal England, a free procedure under section 16 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992.
What if the reduction is refused?
If the reduction is refused then the application becomes an appeal to the Valuation Tribunal England.
Response of the Local Authority
Do not take “no” for an answer if it is rejected by an authority. To reject a bona fide request is maladministration – and this letter doubles as a letter of appeal to the Valuation Tribunal England. So take the letter forward as the basis of an appeal.
The local authority and the Valuation Tribunal England may want you to fill in standard forms for them as well.
Summons to the Magistrates Court
If taxpayer is summonsed to the magistrates’ court s/he should seek an adjournment of the hearing on the basis that either (1) the reduction application is still to be decided or (2) or that the matter is on appeal to the Valuation Tribunal England. If the Council does not agree an adjournment in writing then the taxpayer should ask the Court for an adjournment.
The local authority will claim that it is entitled to apply for a liability order. However the council cannot be certain how much the council tax will be if it is deciding the amount of a reduction. If the Council cannot be certain, then the court cannot be certain and cannot make an order. Furthermore, any liability order may have to be quashed as a result of a Valuation Tribunal England ruling.
The local authority may agree to an adjournment rather than have the request argued in court (note it is the final decision of the magistrates’ not the local authority as to whether an adjournment is granted). So if the authority refuses to agree an adjournment – get their agreement in writing – then go before the court and ask for the adjournment in the interests of justice.