Exercising discretion when applying to the court for a Council Tax Liability Order

The request was successful.

Dear Oxford City Council,

The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 (the "Regulations") confer a duty on the billing authority to exercise discretion under regulation 34(1) when deciding whether to institute a complaint to the Magistrates' court to enforce payment.

Regulation 34(1) as amended by Regulation 15 of SI 1992/3008 states, with the relevant part emphasised, as follows:

"If an amount which has fallen due under paragraph (3) or (4) of regulation 23 (including those paragraphs as applied as mentioned in regulation 28A(2)) is wholly or partly unpaid, or (in a case where a final notice is required under regulation 33) the amount stated in the final notice is wholly or partly unpaid at the expiry of the period of 7 days beginning with the day on which the notice was issued, THE BILLING AUTHORITY MAY, in accordance with paragraph (2), apply to a magistrates' court for an order against the person by whom it is payable."

Regulation 34(2) states as follows:

"The application is to be instituted by making complaint to a justice of the peace, and requesting the issue of a summons directed to that person to appear before the court to show why he has not paid the sum which is outstanding."

The following are examples (but by no means exhaustive) of what are reasonable factors a recovery officer should take into account in exercising discretion to institute a complaint to the Magistrates court under paragraph (2) of regulation 34 of the Regulations:

1. the level of debt outstanding

2. any payments made subsequent to the full amount becoming due and time remaining of the financial year

3. are circumstances indicative of the debt being settled without resorting to enforcement

4. consider if enforcing the debt would unnecessarily subject the taxpayer to additional costs etc. and therefore amount to a penalty (see 3 above)

5. ensure monies have been prioritised to maintaining the in-year debt

6. allocate to the in-year any monies posted to arrears (or sufficient of it) that would if it had not been misallocated prevented the in-year liability also falling in arrears (see 5 above)

7. check for benefit claims or appeals already in the system and refrain from taking enforcement action where such genuine cases are unresolved

Q1. Oxford City Council exercise discretion before proceeding under regulation 34(2) of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 to request a summons from a justice of the peace (it may be an automated process)

Q2. If yes to (1) what factors are taken into consideration

Yours faithfully,

Helen Barker

freedomofinformation, Oxford City Council

Dear Ms Barker,
 
Oxford City Council – Reference: 9162
 
Thank you for your email below.  Your request was received on 15th April
2020 and you will be sent a response within 20 working days (of receipt)
in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000/ Environmental
Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), subject to the information not being
exempt or containing reference to a third party.
 
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recognises the unprecedented
challenges all are facing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
 
In particular they understand that resources, whether they are finances or
people, may be diverted away from usual compliance or information rights
work. Whilst the ICO can’t extend statutory timescales, they will not be
penalising public authorities for prioritising other areas or adapting
their usual approach during this extraordinary period.
 
Therefore while the Council will make every effort to comply with the
Statutory Requirements you may experience understandable delays when
making information rights requests during the pandemic.
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Kathryn Winfield
Freedom of Information Officer 
 
Kathryn Winfield | Freedom of Information Officer | Oxford City Council |
Law and Governance |
St. Aldate's Chambers | Oxford | OX1 1DS | Email: [email address]
| T: 01865 252007
My working days are Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays
 
 
 

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freedomofinformation, Oxford City Council

Dear Ms Barker,
Oxford City Council – Reference: 9162
Further to the acknowledgement below, I can respond to your Freedom of
Information Act 2000 request received on 15th April 2020 as follows:
 
Oxford City Council’s Complaints process for both Council Tax & Business
Rates is automated however the council has parameters set in regards to
this.
 
Summonses are not issued for less than £50.00 and these are processed  in
batches of no more than a 1000.
 
Before the Complaint is raised the council carries out a process called
Pre-summons.
 
Recovery officers within the Revenues section try to contact customers
either by phone/text/email who are on the Pre-summons list to receive a
summons.
 
The process adopts the following procedures:-
 

* First Pre-summons of that Financial Year

Before the Complaint is raised - if payment is made in full for the missed
instalment then the reminder will be removed and the instalments
re-profiled.
 

* Second Pre-summons of that financial year

Before the Complaint is raised - as they have defaulted again, we would
require them to pay the full amount outstanding.
 

* Matters brought to the Councils attention

Before the Complaint is raised - we would consider this on a case by case
basis.
 
Please note at present all Recovery/Enforcement action has been suspended
due to COVID 19 and the council are offering payment extension to all
customers
 
If you disagree with any part of the response to your request, you are
entitled to ask the Council for an internal review of the decision(s)
made.  You may do this by writing to the Monitoring Officer, by either
email – [1][email address] – or by post to Monitoring Officer,
Oxford City Council, St Aldate’s Chambers, St Aldate’s, Oxford, OX1 1DS. 
After the result of the internal review, if you remain dissatisfied, you
may ask the Information Commissioner to intervene on your behalf.  You may
do this by writing to the Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe
Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Kathryn Winfield
Freedom of Information Officer 
 
Kathryn Winfield | Freedom of Information Officer | Oxford City Council |
Law and Governance |
St. Aldate's Chambers | Oxford | OX1 1DS | Email:
[2][email address] | T: 01865 252007
My working days are Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays
 
 
 
_____________________________________________

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