Help with Council Tax

Are you late paying your council tax instalment? Have you received a liability order? Are you concerned that the magistrate’s court will order your imprisonment?

These are all serious matters for property owners. Fortunately, there are available options for getting assistance with paying any tax due to the council. While it can be challenging to get help with this particular expense, assistance generally comes in the form of helping to address arrears or through an appeal.

Assistance with Council Tax Arrears

When you cannot afford your bills and begin to fall behind, you could be putting yourself in some serious hot water. First of all, you risk losing your ability to make normal instalments. It is possible that your council might take what some consider to be extreme measures. For example, many may demand payment of a full year of council tax at one time. You would have to be barmy to demand a full year’s worth of payments tax when someone cannot pay a fraction of it. Still, that is the reality.

Expect to receive a reminder whenever you fail to pay your tax bill on time. The notice gives you 7 days to come up with the payment, or there may be repercussions. Failure to come up with a plan to make payments to your council could land you in prison, although the usual option is to seize the funds. This is normally done through deductions from your Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance or wages, or worse yet, a bailiff could seize your personal property to cover the taxes owed.

In 2014 a local man was given a suspended prison sentence as long as he made payment of £150 per month to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council. It shows how some councils are starting to take action against those who avoid meeting their public duty.

Getting help with any arrears on the tax you owe to the council is also possible by making an appointment with an adviser of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. This charitable organisation provides information and advice on how to handle complex financial situations where you cannot afford to pay all of your liabilities. That can help you understand your rights and responsibilities, as well as helpful arrangements that may be necessary to get you back on track. Call Citizen’s Advice at 08454 04 05 06.

Appealing your Tax Obligation

In some cases, a mistake may have been made in determining the amount that is due. This will often occur due to an incorrect council tax band. Assuming you are not already in Band A, there is a possibility that you could successfully change it.

Prior to an appeal, you may be able to get this changed simply by calling the Valuation Office Agency at 03000 505 505. If your band is changed, it may occur either by an immediate review by the representative, or at the conclusion of an official enquiry in which you will be notified by postal mail within two months.

Making a proposal will be necessary to change your council tax band. There is a formal process involved in this. To do it, you must complete an application and file it with the Valuation Office Agency.

Common reasons for approving a band change include adaptations for a disabled resident, substantial valuation change in your home or property demolition. If you recently became a new payer for the property or were notified that your band was changed by the Valuation Office Agency, then you may make a proposal.

The local authority can also receive complaints about your council tax if there are mitigating circumstances that you would like them to consider. For example, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council provides a Local Tax Team that can help local residents make alternative arrangements as a result of a hardship. Do you feel that a discount applies? Is the property exempt? Are you jointly liable? Do you feel you deserve credit for the disability reduction scheme?

Beyond your appeal, you may pursue further actions through an independent valuation tribunal. Note that the level of discounts cannot be challenged in the tribunal. There are only certain actions they can take. A judicial review would be necessary to challenge discounts.

Before you pursue expensive legal options, it is recommended that you first speak with an adviser through a charity to learn your rights. Or take any of the steps noted above. It could save you a small fortune in legal fees!


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