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

Gwyn Worth made this Freedom of Information request to Caerphilly County Borough Council

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

WWW: FOI, Caerphilly County Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Gwyn Worth

 

INFORMATION REQUEST

 

Thank you for your request for information, which we received on 7^th
November 2017. This e-mail is intended to acknowledge your request, and we
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Corporate Information Governance Unit

 

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WWW: FOI, Caerphilly County Borough Council

Dear Gwyn Worth
 
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 - INFORMATION REQUEST
 
Thank you for your request for information received on 7^th November. We
have considered your request and enclose the following information -
 
How does Caerphilly Council have its computer software set to deal with
non-specific payments. Current or oldest year's liability?
 
The council tax system software used by this Council has various layers of
payment matching routines and the system parameters which we can alter
form just part of that functionality.
 
We supply this information based on your original request.  If this is not
what you wanted or if you feel we have not fully understood your request
please do not hesitate to contact us to clarify your exact requirements.
 
If you have any queries or concerns or are in any way dissatisfied with
the handling of your request please contact [1][Caerphilly County Borough Council request email].
 
Yours sincerely
 
W J Carpenter
Council Tax & NNDR Manager
 
 

Freedom of Information Act 2000 / Environmental Information Regulations
2004
 
You have the right to appeal against our decision.

If you wish to appeal please set If you are unhappy with that decision you
out in writing your grounds of have the right to appeal to:
appeal and send to:  
Corporate Information Governance Information Commissioner’s Office –
Unit Wales
Caerphilly county borough 2nd Floor, Churchill House
council, Churchill Way
Penallta House Cardiff CF10 2HH
Tredomen Park  
Hengoed. CF82 7PG Tel: 029 2067 8400
  Fax: 029 2067 8399
Appeals will be determined by an Email: [2][email address]
appropriate senior officer. Website: [3]www.ico.org.uk
 

 
Re-use of information without permission may infringe the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988. Re-use can include, but is not limited to,
making multiple copies, publishing and issuing copies of the information
to a wider audience. If you would like to re-use copyright material owned
by Caerphilly County Borough Council, please contact us. Authorisation to
re-use copyright material not owned by this Authority should be sought
directly from the copyright owner.
 
____________________________________________________________________________________
 

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References

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1. mailto:[Caerphilly County Borough Council request email]
2. mailto:[email address]
3. http://www.ico.org.uk/

Dear WWW: FOI,

Thank you for your response.

Following the council tax system being unable to match a payment is it allocated to the current or oldest year's liability or is it processed in some other way, for example is it dealt with as floating cash?

If allocated 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 arrears 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

WWW: FOI, Caerphilly County Borough Council

Dear Gwyn Worth
 
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000 - INFORMATION REQUEST
 
Thank you for your supplementary request for information received on 8th
December 2017. We have considered your request and enclose the following
information –
 
Following the council tax system being unable to match a payment is it
allocated to the current or oldest year's liability or is it processed in
some other way, for example is it dealt with as floating cash? If
allocated 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
arrears 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.?
 
The question asked is a straightforward one but 'real life' situations are
often much more complicated.  For instance, an account may often have more
than one bill outstanding for a given financial year, or a number of
different financial years.  Therefore, the council tax system software
used by this Council has various layers of payment matching routines and
the system parameters which we can alter form just part of that
functionality. Below is a guide to how the system we use treats payments
and in what circumstances we may manually reallocate a payment.
 
1. The system will first look to match a payment against any of the total
demand or adjustment notice balances, or any combination thereof. i.e. a
match is attempted on the total amount outstanding on a bill or
accumulated amounts on all bills.
 
2. If there is no match at notice balance level, the secondary action is
to attempt a match with the individual amounts owing on all notices. To do
this the system draws up an array of all amounts outstanding on an
account, ordering them by due date.
 
3. For unmatched payments where the account holder makes no reference to
where a payment should be allocated and the amount gives no clue, the
payment would be allocated to the oldest overdue amount but giving
enforcement action amounts a higher priority.
 
4. Please note that in addition to point 3 above, in cases where there is
an enforcement action ongoing for an older debt, for example an attachment
of earnings order or a deduction from benefit, where a payment is received
from the account holder which does not match the current year statutory
monthly instalment(s) or the total notice amount(s), we endeavour to
reallocate such payments to the current year bill; these checks are made
on a daily basis.  We do this where we believe it is reasonable to make an
assumption in such circumstances that the payment is intended for the
current year bill; this, in turn, may prevent the account holder from
facing unnecessary recovery action and incurring further costs in respect
of the current year’s liability.
 
Likewise, if an account holder contacts us about allocation of payments
made on his or her account, we will review the allocation made and alter
it if needed; we also offer them appropriate advice on how best to make
payments in future so as to keep any additional costs to a minimum.
 
We supply this information based on your original request.  If this is not
what you wanted or if you feel we have not fully understood your request
please do not hesitate to contact us to clarify your exact requirements.
 
If you have any queries or concerns or are in any way dissatisfied with
the handling of your request please contact [1][Caerphilly County Borough Council request email].
 
Yours sincerely
 
W J Carpenter
Council Tax & NNDR Manager
 
 

Freedom of Information Act 2000 / Environmental Information Regulations
2004
 
You have the right to appeal against our decision.

If you wish to appeal please set If you are unhappy with that decision you
out in writing your grounds of have the right to appeal to:
appeal and send to:  
Corporate Information Governance Information Commissioner’s Office –
Unit Wales
Caerphilly county borough 2nd Floor, Churchill House
council, Churchill Way
Penallta House Cardiff CF10 2HH
Tredomen Park  
Hengoed. CF82 7PG Tel: 029 2067 8400
  Fax: 029 2067 8399
Appeals will be determined by an Email: [2][email address]
appropriate senior officer. Website: [3]www.ico.org.uk
 

 
Re-use of information without permission may infringe the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988. Re-use can include, but is not limited to,
making multiple copies, publishing and issuing copies of the information
to a wider audience. If you would like to re-use copyright material owned
by Caerphilly County Borough Council, please contact us. Authorisation to
re-use copyright material not owned by this Authority should be sought
directly from the copyright owner.
 
    
 

show quoted sections

Dear WWW: FOI,

Thank you for clarifying my query. I consider Caerphilly County 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*: "...in cases where there is an enforcement action ongoing for an older debt, for example an attachment of earnings order or a deduction from benefit, where a payment is received from the account holder which does not match the current year statutory monthly instalment(s) or the total notice amount(s), we endeavour to reallocate such payments to the current year bill; these checks are made on a daily basis. We do this where we believe it is reasonable to make an assumption in such circumstances that the payment is intended for the current year bill; this, in turn, may prevent the account holder from facing unnecessary recovery action and incurring further costs in respect of the current year's liability."

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

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