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

The request was successful.

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

Yours faithfully,

Gwyn Worth

FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mr Worth

Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 7th November, 2017 and is being dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We are therefore required to provide a response within 20 working days, which will be on or before 5th December, 2017.

If we require clarification we will also contact you as soon as we can – please note that the timescale for response specified above may be subject to change if this is the case.

In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any queries, remembering to quote the reference number above in any communications.

Yours sincerely

John Tillman
Swyddog Gwybodaeth a Diogelu Data
(Rheolwr) Tîm Llywodraethu Gwybodaeth a Chwynion Adran Adfywio a Pholisi Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin

Information & Data Protection Officer
(Manager) Information Governance & Complaints Team
Regeneration & Policy Department
Carmarthenshire County Council

Mewnol/Internal: 4127
Allanol/External: 01267 224127

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FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mr Worth,
 
Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 7^th
November, 2017 and has been dealt with under the Freedom of Information
Act 2000.
 
The specific information you requested was as follows:
 
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.
 
Council’s 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 Carmarthenshire Council have its computer software set to deal
with non- specific payments? Current or oldest year's liability?
 
In response there are rules setup to allocate payments within customer
accounts but ultimately these cannot cover all eventualities.
If no match can be made then payments are allocated to the oldest
outstanding debt.
 
Yours sincerely
 
John Tillman
Swyddog Gwybodaeth a Diogelu Data
Tîm Llywodraethu Gwybodaeth a Chwynion
Adran y Prif Weithredwr
Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin
 
Information & Data Protection Officer
Information Governance & Complaints Team
Chief Executive's Department
Carmarthenshire County Council
 
Mewnol/Internal: 4127
Allanol/External: 01267 224127
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dear FOIA,

Thank you for stating that 'if no match can be made then payments are allocated to the oldest outstanding 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

FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mr Worth

In response to your query below, due to their nature we are unable to ascertain which outstanding debt these payments are to be allocated to but must allocate them to the customer's account.
Due to the large volumes of payments received daily we are unable to monitor individual payments but also would not be able to make any further judgement on the payer's intentions without more information.
However, if a payer should contact us we would consider any reasonable request to adjust how their payments are allocated and make the necessary adjustments to their Council Tax account which could include limiting further recovery action.

Yours sincerely

John Tillman
Swyddog Gwybodaeth a Diogelu Data
Adran y Prif Weithredwr
Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin
Information & Data Protection Officer
Chief Executive's Department
Carmarthenshire County Council
Mewnol/Internal: 4127
Allanol/External: 01267 224127

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Dear FOIA,

Thank you for clarifying my query. I consider Carmarthenshire 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.

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 indicating that there are no measures in place to ensure that unspecified payments are allocated to the account which it is least burdensome for the debtor (other than relying on customer contact) that the laws surrounding the appropriation of payments are not being complied with. If the laws of appropriation were being complied with, 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).

Yours sincerely,

Gwyn Worth

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