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Discretionary Reduction Policy

POLICY FOR THE AWARD OF COUNCIL TAX DISCRETIONARY REDUCTIONS

Under Section 13A(1)(c) Local Government Finance Act 1992

This Policy applies to decisions made on or after 1 February 2016

1.            Background

 

1.1      Section 13A(1)(c) of the Local Government Finance Act allows a billing authority to reduce the Council Tax payable after taking into account any discounts, disregards, reliefs, and exemptions.  It can be used for individual cases or the Council can determine classes of case in which liability is to be reduced.

 

2.            Statement of objectives

 

2.1      The Council will consider using its powers to reduce Council Tax liability for any Council Tax payer or class of payer.  The Council will treat all applications on their individual merits, however, subject to section 6 below, some or all of the following criteria should be met for each case:

 

-          There must be evidence of financial hardship or personal circumstances that justifies a reduction in Council Tax liability.

 

-          The taxpayer must satisfy the Council that all reasonable steps have been taken to resolve their situation prior to application.

 

-          The taxpayer has applied for Council Tax Support (if the dwelling is the taxpayer’s sole or main residence).

 

-          The taxpayer has applied for all other eligible, discounts, reliefs and exemptions.

 

-          The taxpayer does not have access to other assets that could be used to pay Council Tax.

 

-          The taxpayer can demonstrate that the current circumstances are unlikely to improve in the following 12 months, making the payment of Council Tax extremely difficult.

 

-          The Council’s finances, taking into account the effect on Council Tax yield, allow for a reduction to be made.

 

-          It is reasonable for the Council to award a reduction having regard to the interests of other local Council Tax payers.

 

2.2      A Discretionary Reduction should not normally be awarded where the outstanding Council Tax has arisen as a result of fraud by the taxpayer or the taxpayer has failed to provide information promptly.

 

3.         Applying for a Discretionary Reduction

 

3.1      An application requesting the Council to use its discretionary powers under Section 13A(1)(c) Local Government Finance Act 1992 to reduce the amount of Council Tax payable must be made either in writing or by electronic communications.  It may be requested that an application is made in a specific format or using a form that is provided for the purpose of making an application.  Such evidence as the Council considers reasonable to enable it to make a decision regarding an application must also be provided upon request.

 

3.2      Applications must state the reason for the request and should supply evidence to support the request.

 

3.3      Applicants are required to provide all information reasonably requested by the Council.  No reduction will be awarded in cases where information reasonably requested by the Council is refused or has not been supplied.

 

3.4      The Council may, at its sole discretion, waive the requirement for a written application where is it satisfied that it holds sufficient evidence to support a decision to make an award of a discretionary reduction in accordance with the other requirements of this Policy.

 

4.         Determination of Applications for Discretionary Reduction

 

4.1       Applications which relate, or potentially relate, to a class or classes of case (for example to grant an exemption to dwellings in a locally flooded area) will be determined by the Executive following consideration of a report from the Finance Portfolio Holder and Chief Finance Officer.

 

4.2       The Council’s Chief Finance Officer shall designate suitably experienced and qualified officers to determine applications and requests for review of decisions in respect of individual cases.  In making a determination under this Policy the decision maker shall have due regard for the requirements of the Policy.

 

4.3       Any Discretionary Reduction awarded will normally be a percentage of the net Council Tax liability (i.e. the Council Tax payable after taking into account any exemption, discount, disregard, or relief) for a specific period.  The reduction may be up to 100% of the Council Tax liability where this is considered appropriate having regard to the individual circumstances of the application.

 

5.            War Pensions

 

5.1       It was the Council’s policy under the Council Tax Benefit regulations where discretion was allowed to disregard in full any income from war pensions.  To the extent that Council Tax Reduction Scheme (Prescribed Requirements) (England) Regulations 2012 and the Council Tax Reduction Schemes (Default Scheme) (England) Regulations 2012 allow, those sums shall also be disregarded for the purpose of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

 

5.2       Where the law does not allow for such sums to be disregarded then a discount shall be awarded under Section 13A(1)(c) Local Government Finance Act 1992 so that the amount of Council Tax the person is required to pay for any day shall be the same sum that the persons would be required to pay were the income disregarded.

 

6.            Awards outside the Scope of this Policy

 

6.1       The Council does not wish to unduly fetter its discretion and recognises that from time to time exceptional circumstances may arise where it is appropriate to award a discretionary reduction outside the criteria set out in this Policy.

 

6.2       The Finance Portfolio Holder (or other person authorised through the Council’s Constitution) may determine an award outside the scope of this policy if satisfied that there are very exceptional circumstances that justify an award having regard to the interests of other local Council Tax payers.

 

7.            Period of Award

 

7.1       The award of any reduction will not normally be backdated to reduce liabilities in respect of which a demand notice was first issued more than 12 months prior to the date that the application is received by the Council.  In exceptional circumstances an award may, within the scope of this Policy, be backdated beyond 12 months where the applicant can demonstrate good cause for not applying earlier.

 

7.2       The award of a reduction will normally be considered as assistance of a temporary nature and the Council would not normally award a reduction indefinitely although each case would be considered on its own merits.

 

7.3       The award of a reduction will normally cease at the end of the financial year unless an earlier date is specified, but an applicant is not precluded from reapplying for a further award in subsequent years.

 

8.            Notification of Awards

 

8.1       The Council will normally determine applications within two months of the application and all supporting information being received, and the decision will be notified to the applicant as soon as practicable thereafter.

 

9.            Action to Recover Unpaid Council Tax whilst a Decision is Pending

 

9.1       There is no entitlement to withhold the payment of Council Tax pending the determination of an application or a request of a review.  Receipt of an application for a reduction will not negate in any way the taxpayer’s obligation to pay the Council Tax as demanded.  If a taxpayer has overpaid Council Tax it will be refunded.

 

9.2       The Council may, at its sole discretion, agree not to take action to enforce payment whilst an application is being considered.

 

10.         Review of Decision

 

10.1    The Council will accept a taxpayer’s request for a further review of its decision.  Applicants may request a review within a calendar month of the issue of the letter notifying them of the Council’s decision.  Such requests must be made in writing and must give the reasons why it is believed the decision should be amended.  The Council can, at its discretion, allow such representation to be made electronically.  New or additional information may be included, but only if it is relevant to the decision making process.

 

10.2    A person aggrieved by a decision made regarding an application for a Discretionary Reduction may submit an appeal against the decision to the Valuation Tribunal where either:

 

(a)       the aggrieved person is notified in writing by the Council that the Council believes the request for review is not well founded, but the person is still aggrieved;

(b)       the aggrieved person is notified in writing, by the Council, that steps have been taken to deal with the request for a review but the person is still aggrieved;

 

(c)        the period of two months, beginning with the date of service of the aggrieved person’s notice, has ended without his being notified under paragraph (a) or (b) above.

 

10.3    Request for a review of the Executive’s decision in respect of a class or classes of case can only be made by a judicial review as the Council would be exercising a discretionary power.

 

11.         Policy review

 

11.1    The Policy will be reviewed regularly as considered appropriate to take account of operational adjustments and or changes to legislation and at least once every five years.

 

You should contact the Local Taxation Office for more information or it you wish to apply for a reduction. 

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