Ensuring customers are not subject to unnecessary recovery action, additional costs or hardship
Dear Havant Borough 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 Havant Borough Council have its computer software set to deal with non specific payments. Current or oldest year's liability?
Dear Ms worth
Thank you for your request for information about Council Tax Recovery
which we received on [insert date]. Your request is being dealt with under
the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and/or the Environmental
Information Regulations 2004.
As required by the legislation, we aim to answer your request within 20
working days from the date we received it. If for any reason we are unable
to meet this deadline we will keep you fully informed of the reasons for
If you have any queries about this letter please do not hesitate to
contact Customer Services on 023 9244 6019.
Customer Services Officer
Havant Borough Council
Public Service Plaza
Civic Centre Road
Telephone: 023 92 446 019
Email: [Havant Borough Council request email]
If you are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act,
Environmental Information Regulations or Data Protection Act then please
re-direct your email to [Havant Borough Council request email] Any statutory
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Thank you for your information request received on 28 October 2017.
If anyone makes a payment which does not exactly match an instalment for a
particular period, it is allocated by the computer system to the oldest
Should a customer contact the council at any stage (ie before, during or
after making the payment) to explain their intentions with regard to this
payment, it is ensured that the payment is allocated correctly and this
may involve transferring it within the account.
Should someone receive a recovery document due to the payment not being
allocated as intended, the payment will be transferred and the recovery
document is then cancelled from the system. Should any costs have been
incurred, these are also withdrawn.
Please contact me again if you require any further assistance on this
matter and I will do my best to provide relevant help and advice.
If you have any complaints in respect of your information request, please
write to the Complaints Monitoring Officer at the address below or
complete the on-line complaint form that can be found at
www.havant.gov.uk. If your complaint is not resolved to your complete
satisfaction, you have the right to apply to the Information Commissioner
for a decision.
Revenues & Benefits Contract Manager
Tel 02392 446335
Public Service Plaza
Civic Centre Road
Dear Robert Downing,
Thank you for your reply.
Re; "Should a customer contact the council at any stage (ie before, during or after making the payment) to explain their intentions with regard to this payment, it is ensured that the payment is allocated correctly and this may involve transferring it within the account."
Can you please confirm that where you have referred to 'transferring it within the account' this has the same meaning as transferring it from the account in arrears to the current year's account?
I query this because the phrase 'transferring it within the account' implies that there is no separation between a customer's liability, for example 2015-16 and 2016-17 tax years.
We only have an account for each property ( Charge Payer ) within this account the separate years are subdivided etc. We would allocate the payment in line with the intent of the charge payer. Ie if the charge payer had advised the payment was for 2016/17 not 2017/18 we would allocate it to 2016/17 year.
Hope that helps
Dear Robert Downing,
Thank you for your response. I consider Havant Borough Council has provided the information I requested. The purpose of this exercise was to ascertain whether or not the principles surrounding the appropriation of payments were being adhered to.
R v Miskin Lower Justices (1953)
It was held in R v Miskin Lower Justices, that where an amount obviously relates to a specific liability, it would be an unwarranted assumption to allocate the payment elsewhere.
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 in the majority of cases 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's response (see *NOTE*) that there are measures in place to ensure that unspecified payments are allocated to the account which it is least burdensome for the debtor, and consequently the laws surrounding the appropriation of payments are being complied with. This effectively means that an unmatched payment allocated to the oldest debt (having the consequences of putting the current year's liability also in arrears) would be reallocated to the current year's liability on account of the circumstances implying that this was the debtor's intention (least burdensome for the debtor). If it appears I have misunderstood anything from what I have stated I would appreciate if you would correct me.
*NOTE*: "Should someone receive a recovery document due to the payment not being allocated as intended, the payment will be transferred and the recovery document is then cancelled from the system. Should any costs have been incurred, these are also withdrawn."