Discretionary Discount

Council Tax

Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 as amended, empowers a billing authority as follows:

Background

Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 as amended, empowers a billing authority as follows: (This power was inserted in 2003/4)

  1. Where a person is liable to pay Council Tax in respect of any chargeable dwelling and any day, the billing authority for the area in which the dwelling is situated may reduce the amount which he is liable to pay as respects the dwelling and the day to such extent as it thinks fit.
  2. The power under subsection (1) above includes power to reduce an amount to nil.
  3. The power under subsection (1) may be exercised in relation to particular cases or by determining a class of case in which liability is to be reduced to an extent provided by the determination."

A person who is liable to pay Council Tax on a chargeable dwelling has the right to apply to the Council for a reduction in the amount of Council Tax due to be paid. Usually discount is available via statutory rebate schemes for payers on low incomes or discount schemes for home alone and personal exemptions. Section 11 of LGFA 1992 also allows for empty property discounts but councils can use Section 11 to remove such discounts.

Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 is a general discretionary power to go further with discount in specific cases.

The Council has the power to award a discount for a period of time it thinks is reasonable and it can choose to reduce the amount of Council Tax payable.

The Council has the right to choose whether to use its powers on a case-by-case basis or it also has the right to specify a class of use. A class of use is where several people who pay Council Tax fall into a group because their circumstances are similar – for example; Council Tax payers that have had to leave their homes due to flooding.

Procedure to Consider Applications

Council procedure for using Section 13A in response to classes of property

The Council’s Cabinet will consider cases under Section 13A where a reduction may be claimed or identified as practical by class of property. This would only be exercised where other routes to Council Tax discount or reduction are exhausted. Reports in this regard must identify the relevant considerations shown in section 2(b) below

Council procedure for using Section 13A in response to individual requests

The Council via delegated powers will consider using its power to reduce Council Tax liability for any Council Taxpayer within the District.

Determinations will be made by the Head of Finance and Property Services in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Revenues

  • In receiving a request the Head of Service and elected Member would expect that there would have to be evidence of exceptional, unforeseen circumstances to justify any reduction and that it will be intended only as short term assistance and must not be considered as a way of reducing Council Tax liability indefinitely.
  • Any application made under Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 should be one of last resort and any entitlement to benefit, discounts or exemptions or Valuation Office/Valuation Tribunal action and appeal should be explored prior to an application being made.
  • The cost of any reduction awarded under Section 13A falls solely to the billing authority and so the determination must bear in mind the impact on the Council Tax payer in general.
  • Each case will be considered on its individual merits.
  • Requests for reductions in Council Tax liability (occupied or empty tax) will need to be submitted from the Council Tax Payer, their advocate/appointee or a duly authorised third party acting on his/her behalf.
  • The request must set out the circumstances on which the application is based and any hardship or personal circumstances relating to the application.
  • The application will require a full income and expenditure breakdown (Financial statement) of the applicant together with that of any other household members.
  • The Council may request reasonable relevant evidence in support of the application.
  • The Council Tax payer or applicant must satisfy the Council that all reasonable steps have been taken by him/her to resolve their own situation prior to application.
  • If the Council Tax account is in arrears, the Director/Member must be satisfied that non-payment was due to reasonable basis of withholding payment.
  • The length of time of the proposed reduction will be a maximum period of 12 months. The Council Tax Payer has the right to re-apply for one further period of 12 months if his/her circumstances have not changed

Decision Making Progress

The Head of Finance and Property Services and Cabinet member will determine all Section 13A applications from individuals. Decisions relating to class of property thereby affecting a group of tax payers will be taken by Cabinet.

Decision and Transparency

Cabinet decisions are minuted and recorded for transparency. Individual applications are subject to the requirements for data protection and care must be taken when handling requests for summary information of claims or awards. The Constitution delegates authority to the Head of Finance and Property Services to receive council tax applications. To satisfy transparency and use of public funds, annual information regarding claims or awards shall be submitted to an appropriate committee of Council, but subject to data protection.

Notification of Decision

The Council will notify a Council Tax Payer in writing within 14 days of receiving sufficient information to make a decision.

Amount of Discount or Reduction Granted

The amount of any discount or reduction will take into account the amount of the debt and the extent to which the criteria or guidelines are met.

Appeals

If an applicant is dissatisfied with the decision there is a right of appeal to the Council’s Chief Executive. A request for a review of a decision must be made in writing within one month of the date of the letter informing the applicant of the decision.

A reapplication for a period already considered by either the Head of Finance and Property Services or the Chief Executive will only be considered if there has been a substantial change in the applicant’s circumstances.

Equalities Statement

The Council is committed to equality and fairness. Equality is about ensuring people are treated fairly and given fair chances. It is also about ensuring that people receive fair outcomes in the standard of service they receive from the Council. This incorporates everyone, regardless of their race, gender, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation and/or disability.

Fraudulent Claims

If a reduction has been made as a result of a false or fraudulent claim the Council reserves the right to withdraw the award.

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