Ensuring customers are not subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs or hardship

The request was successful.

Dear North East Lincolnshire Council,

A council taxpayer who owes more than just the current year's liability runs the risk of incurring additional recovery costs through a further application for a liability order if payments which are intended for the current year's liability are allocated by the council's computer to the previous year's liability. This would most likely happen where a non specific payment is made and the computer software is set to automatically allocate these payments to the oldest year's debt.

Councils computer systems have the necessary flexibility to be set to allow non specific payments to be allocated to the arrears or the current year's liability.

I understand that the majority of billing authorities have their computer software set to ensure that their customers are not subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs or hardship, i.e. so non specific payments are allocated to the current year's liability.

How does North East Lincolnshire Council have its computer software set to deal with non specific payments. Current or oldest year's liability?

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

Davo38 left an annotation ()

I believe its put into a holding account until customer queries then they should allocate to correct account. But they probably dont and youl end up with a summons and costs before you realise cause thats what this council does

Gwyn Worth left an annotation ()

Thanks Davo38.

What I meant by "non specific payments" are payments which don't match either the instalment amounts of the current year's liability or the arrears. I should have been clearer as the expression could be interpreted to mean payments made with no account number.

Although each year's council tax liability is a separate account, some local authorities don't change the account reference each year (others do I believe) so the customer has no way of electing which particular debt the money paid is allocated to when paying from an internet bank account for example (the debtor's right). Hence, those councils rely on payments matching the instalment which is an unwarranted assumption.

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Mr Worth

 

I am pleased to acknowledge your request for information, which has been
allocated the reference number NELC/6880/1718.

Your request has been passed to the relevant department for processing and
you can expect your response within the 20 working day limit. If it will
take us longer than 20 working days to respond to you, we will inform you
of this and provide you with the expected date for receiving a response.

Further information about how we will deal with your Freedom of
Information requests is available on our website at:

[1]https://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council-infor....

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information or
assistance quoting the reference number above.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

 

 

 

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Sir / Madam

 

Thank you for your information request reference NELC/6880/1718. I can
confirm that North East Lincolnshire Council holds the following
information:

 

North East Lincolnshire Council allocates non-specific payments to the
oldest liability.

 

If you believe that your request for information has not been handled in
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to
request an internal review by the Council. Please be clear about which
elements of the Council’s response or handling of the request you are
unhappy with, and would like the Council to address during the internal
review process.  If following this you are still dissatisfied you may
contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request
an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary
arrangements.

 

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

 

Feedback Officer

 

 

Dear PPD - FOI,

Thank you for stating that 'North East Lincolnshire Council allocates non-specific payments to the oldest liability'.

Would you please confirm whether or not any measures are in place to check that allocating an unmatched payment to the oldest debt in these circumstances would have the consequences of putting the current year's liability also in arrears, and if so, in accordance with R. v Miskin Lower Justices [1953] 1 Q.B. 533, whether the payment would be moved in respect of the current year's account to avoid unnecessary recovery action, additional costs etc.?

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear  Sir / Madam

 

Thank you for your further correspondence in relation to Information
Request reference number NELC/6880/1718.

Your request has been passed to the relevant department for processing and
you can expect your response within the 20 working day limit. If it will
take us longer than 20 working days to respond to you, we will inform you
of this and provide you with the expected date for receiving a response.

Further information about how we will deal with your Freedom of
Information requests is available on our website at:
[1]https://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council-infor...
.

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information or
assistance quoting the reference number above.

 

Yours sincerely

 

North East Lincolnshire Council

 

 

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Sir / Madam,

 

Thank you for your information request, reference number NELC/6880/1718. 
I wish to confirm that North East Lincolnshire Council holds the following
information:

 

Would you please confirm whether or not any measures are in place to check
that allocating an unmatched payment to the oldest debt in these
circumstances would have the consequences of putting the current year's
liability also in arrears, and if so, in accordance with R. v Miskin Lower
Justices [1953] 1 Q.B. 533, whether the payment would be moved in respect
of the current year's account to avoid unnecessary recovery action,
additional costs etc.?

 

As originally stated, non-specific payments are allocated to the oldest
liability. If after the payment is made, the customer wishes to have the
amount allocated to a different liability then they are well within their
rights to request this before further action is taken

 

If you believe that your request for information has not been handled in
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to
request an internal review by the Council. Please be clear about which
elements of the Council’s response or handling of the request you are
unhappy with, and would like the Council to address during the internal
review process.  If following this you are still dissatisfied you may
contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request
an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary
arrangements.

 

Yours sincerely

 

North East Lincolnshire Council

 

 

Dear PPD - FOI,

I consider North East Lincolnshire Council has provided the information I requested.

The purpose of my request was to ascertain whether or not the principles surrounding the appropriation of payments were being adhered to.

If no instruction is given at the time of payment, then the council has a duty to allocate payment to the account which it is most beneficial to the debtor to reduce. That would be the current liability if the consequences of allocating payment to the arrears meant that the customer was subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs etc.

I understand by the council being unable to confirm that there are measures in place to ensure that unspecified payments are allocated to the account which it is least burdensome for the debtor that the laws surrounding the appropriation of payments are not complied with.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

Whatshouldtheyknow left an annotation ()

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/4...

Response:

'The Income Manager amended the process effective 10 October 2016 so that payments are allocated to the current year’s debt if the payment amount does not match an instalment amount or a payment arrangement for arrears. The Income Manager did this to prevent recovery action on the Council Tax payer’s current year’s debt. Of course, if the customer wishes for the payment made to be used for previous years debt then they have the option to advise us of this and we would allocate the payment as per their wishes.

By allocating payments to the current year’s debt the Council is preventing further charges being applied to their Council Tax account.'

Whatshouldtheyknow left an annotation ()

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/4...

'Where a sum is not recognised as a “normal” instalment the system is set to allocate that payment to current year. The reason for this is to prevent recovery action on the Council Tax payer’s current year’s debt.

By allocating payments to the current year’s debt, and thus preventing further chargers being applied to the account, the Council is acting in a fiduciary capacity.'

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