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

The request was successful.

Dear Sheffield City 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 Sheffield City Council have its computer software set to deal with non specific payments. Current or oldest year's liability?

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

FOI, Sheffield City Council

Re – Freedom of Information Request – Reference – FOI / 1007
 
Dear Gwyn Worth,
 
Thank you for your recent request for information relating to Council Tax
system's handling of non-specific payments which we received on
06/10/2017.
 
This has been logged as a Freedom of Information Request, and will be
dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act.  The reference number for
your request can be found above.
 
The Freedom of Information Act states that we must respond to you within
20 working days, therefore, you should expect to hear a response from us
by 03/11/2017.
 
In the meantime, if you have any queries please contact us on the number
below.
 
Thank you.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Resources Business Support
Moorfoot Level 8 West Wing
Sheffield S1 4PL
Tel : 0114 20 53478
E-mail : [1][Sheffield City Council request email]
? Please don't print this e-mail unless you really need to
 
 
_____________________________________________
From: Gwyn Worth [[2]mailto:[FOI #436753 email]]
Sent: 06 October 2017 17:11
To: FOI
Subject: Freedom of Information request - Ensuring customers are not
subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs or hardship
 
 
Dear Sheffield City 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 Sheffield City Council have its computer software set to deal
with non specific payments. Current or oldest year's liability?
 
Yours faithfully,
 
Gwyn Worth
 
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FOI, Sheffield City Council

Re – Freedom of Information Request – Reference – FOI / 1007
 
Dear Gwyn Worth,
 
Thank you for your recent request for information relating to Council Tax
system's handling of non-specific payments which we received on
06/10/2017.
 
Please find below, Sheffield City Council’s response to your request:
 

* In Sheffield, the Council Tax Service allocates non-specific payments
to the oldest debt.

 
If you have any queries about this response, please do not hesitate to
contact us.
 
If you are unhappy with the response you have received in relation to your
request, you are entitled to have this reviewed.  You can ask for an
internal review by either writing to the above address or by emailing
[1][Sheffield City Council request email].
 
If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome of your internal review, you
can contact the Information Commissioners Office. The Information
Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner's Office,
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF, telephone 0303 123
1113, or for further details see their website [2]www.ico.org.uk
 
Kind Regards,
 
Resources Business Support
Moorfoot Level 2 North Wing
Sheffield S1 4PL
Tel : 0114 20 53478
E-mail : [3]FOI @sheffield.gov.uk
? Please don't print this e-mail unless you really need to
 
 
 
_____________________________________________

Dear FOI,

Thank you for stating that 'in Sheffield, the Council Tax Service allocates non-specific payments to the oldest debt'.

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

FOI, Sheffield City Council

Re – Freedom of Information Request – Reference – FOI / 1041
 
Dear Gwyn Worth,
 
Thank you for your recent request for information relating to Unmatched
Council Tax Payments and Effect on Current Year's Liability which we
received on 13/10/2017.
 
This has been logged as a Freedom of Information Request, and will be
dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act.  The reference number for
your request can be found above.
 
The Freedom of Information Act states that we must respond to you within
20 working days, therefore, you should expect to hear a response from us
by 1041.
 
In the meantime, if you have any queries please contact us on the number
below.
 
Thank you.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Resources Business Support
Moorfoot Level 2 North Wing
Sheffield S1 4PL
Tel : 0114 20 53478
E-mail : [1][Sheffield City Council request email]
? Please don't print this e-mail unless you really need to
 
 
_____________________________________________
From: Gwyn Worth [[2]mailto:[FOI #436753 email]]
Sent: 13 October 2017 07:44
To: FOI
Subject: Re: Response – Freedom of Information Request – Reference – FOI /
1007
Dear FOI,
 
Thank you for stating that 'in Sheffield, the Council Tax Service
allocates non-specific payments to the oldest debt'.
 
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
 

FOI, Sheffield City Council

Re – Freedom of Information Request – Reference – FOI / 1041
 
Dear Gwyn Worth,
 
Thank you for your recent request for information relating to Unmatched
Council Tax Payments and Effect on Current Year's Liability which we
received on 13/10/2017.
 
Please find below, Sheffield City Council’s response to your request:
 
The allocation of payments is an automatic process based on specific
rules/matching routines set in the software package we use for Council
Tax. These provide for example the matching of payments to instalment
amounts due so these are allocated to the current year, or where a payment
is in respect of an attachment to earnings or benefits or an amount
referred to an enforcement agent, payments will be automatically allocated
to these debt types. In these circumstances payments will not necessarily
be allocated to the oldest debt.
       
In addition, procedures are in place whereby should a payment arrangement
be made in respect of current year liability and an amount of arrears
these are set separately on the taxpayer’s account, and the taxpayer
advised to make two payments so that these are allocated to current year
liability and arrears respectively to avoid unnecessary and costly
recovery action.
 
There are also provisions should a taxpayer contact the Council to explain
that a payment(s) was intended for a specific year or debt for
consideration to be given, subject to the payment history, level of
arrears outstanding, recovery stage of debts on the account, to
re-allocating the payments as requested.  
 
If you have any queries about this response, please do not hesitate to
contact us.
 
If you are unhappy with the response you have received in relation to your
request, you are entitled to have this reviewed.  You can ask for an
internal review by either writing to the above address or by emailing
[1][Sheffield City Council request email].
 
If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome of your internal review, you
can contact the Information Commissioners Office. The Information
Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner's Office,
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF, telephone 0303 123
1113, or for further details see their website [2]www.ico.org.uk
 
Kind Regards,
 
Resources Business Support
Moorfoot Level 2 North Wing
Sheffield S1 4PL
Tel : 0114 20 53478
E-mail : [3]FOI @sheffield.gov.uk
? Please don't print this e-mail unless you really need to
 
 
 
 
_____________________________________________

Dear FOI,

Thank you for your explanation. I consider that Sheffield City Council has provided the information I requested, however, the purpose of this exercise 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 being fully complied with. If it appears I have misunderstood anything by what I have stated I would appreciate if you would correct me.

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

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