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

The request was partially successful.

Dear Woking Borough 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. Does Woking Borough 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

Comments, Woking Borough Council

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Woking Borough Council, Civic Office, Gloucester Square, Woking, Surrey GU21 6YL
Phone: 01483 755855 | Fax: 01483 768746 | Web: www.woking.gov.uk

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Comments, Woking Borough Council

“Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Your request was received on 06/05/2020

Coronavirus - Covid-19 important information

As a key public sector body, we are diverting our resources to help with challenges associated with the current public health emergency. This means that we are not able to deal with Freedom of Information (FOI) or Subject Access (Data Protection) requests. The position will be reviewed at the end of May 2020.
______________________________________________
Woking Borough Council, Civic Offices, Gloucester Square, Woking, Surrey, GU21 6YL
Phone: 01483 755855 | Fax: 01483 768746 | Web: www.woking.gov.uk

________________________________________
From: Helen Barker [[FOI #662384 email]]
Sent: 06 May 2020 07:40
To: Comments
Subject: Freedom of Information request - Exercising discretion when applying to the court for a Council Tax Liability Order

Dear Woking Borough 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. Does Woking Borough 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

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Woking Borough Council

Dear Sir/Madam,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Information Request.

Reference: (5183-11031668)
Subject: Exercising discretion when applying to the court for a Council
Tax Liability Order

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.
Your request was received on 06/05/2020

Coronavirus - Covid-19 important information

As a key public sector body, we are diverting our resources to help with
challenges associated with the current public health emergency. This means
that we are not able to deal with Freedom of Information (FOI) or Subject
Access (Data Protection) requests. The position will be reviewed at the
end of May 2020.

Democratic Services (FOI Request).
Civic Offices,
Gloucester Square,
Woking,
GU21 6YL.
[1]Email: [email address]
Tel: 01483 755855

Yours faithfully,

Woking Borough Council,
Civic Offices,
Gloucester Square,
Woking,
GU21 6YL.

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Woking Borough Council

Dear Sir/Madam,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Information Request.
Our Reference (5183-11031668).

Further to your request for information dated 06/05/2020, I can confirm that your request has been dealt with as a formal request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

You requested;
FOI Request Subject `Exercising discretion when applying to the court for a Council Tax Liability Order`.
FOI Request Details;
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. Does Woking Borough 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

.

I confirm that the Council holds information which meets the description contained in your request and the information requested is set out below.

A.1: Yes
A.2: All 7 of the factors you have mentioned.

I hope that you are satisfied with the way in which your request for information has been dealt with. If not, the Council has decided that any complaint regarding requests for information that cannot be dealt with satisfactorily on an informal basis should be dealt with in accordance with its established complaints procedure.

Complaints.
Woking Borough Council,
Civic Offices,
Gloucester Square,
Woking,
GU21 6YL.
Email: [email address]

Details of the Council's complaints procedure may be found at:
https://www.woking.gov.uk/council-and-de...

Alternatively, I can forward you a paper copy of a leaflet giving details. I am also happy to discuss any queries that you may have regarding how we have dealt with your request for information. In addition, you may apply to the Information Commissioner for a decision whether your request for information has been dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Act (although I understand that the Information Commissioner may decline to become involved if you have not first exhausted the Council's complaints procedure).

The Information Commissioner may be contacted at:
Information Commissioner's Office.
Wycliffe House,
Water Lane,
Wilmslow,
Cheshire,
SK9 5AF.
Tel: 08456 306060 or 01625 545745
Email: [email address]
Website: www.ico.org.uk

Yours faithfully,

Terry Stocks.
Revenues Team Manager,
Woking Borough Council,
Civic Offices,
Gloucester Square,
Woking,
GU21 6YL.
[email address]

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Dear Woking Borough Council,

Thank you for your response.

I would like a matter related to this request clarifying please.

I have obtained a template document for the council's summons for non/late payment which states on it the following:

"If an arrangement to pay is agreed, the Council will still request a liability order in Court...but there would be no need for you to attend the hearing. However, no further action would be taken on the order, unless you subsequently fail to keep to the payment arrangement. Should you elect to pay by Direct Debit the Council will usually be prepared, depending on the individual circumstances, to spread the balance over the remaining instalment period."

This implies that a customer who is prepared to switch their payment method to Direct Debit will be given favourable treatment but it is not clear in what way he will benefit. The only indication is that he will be allowed to spread the balance over the remaining instalment period, but wouldn't that be a reasonable expectation of anyone entering into a payment arrangement?

A decision would also be dependent on the individual circumstances of the customer (to allow the balance to be spread etc.) so what criteria would need to be satisfied?

Yours faithfully,

Helen Barker

Comments, Woking Borough Council

Good morning,

Thank you for your email. I can confirm your request for information has been forwarded to our Policy team who will reply to you direct.

Kind Regards

Customer Services

______________________________________________
Woking Borough Council, Civic Offices, Gloucester Square, Woking, Surrey, GU21 6YL
Phone: 01483 755855 | Fax: 01483 768746 | Web: www.woking.gov.uk

________________________________________
From: Helen Barker [[FOI #662384 email]]
Sent: 31 July 2020 19:30
To: Comments
Subject: Re: FOI Request Reference: (5183-11031668) Subject: Exercising discretion when applying to the court for a Council Tax Liability Order

Dear Woking Borough Council,

Thank you for your response.

I would like a matter related to this request clarifying please.

I have obtained a template document for the council's summons for non/late payment which states on it the following:

"If an arrangement to pay is agreed, the Council will still request a liability order in Court...but there would be no need for you to attend the hearing. However, no further action would be taken on the order, unless you subsequently fail to keep to the payment arrangement. Should you elect to pay by Direct Debit the Council will usually be prepared, depending on the individual circumstances, to spread the balance over the remaining instalment period."

This implies that a customer who is prepared to switch their payment method to Direct Debit will be given favourable treatment but it is not clear in what way he will benefit. The only indication is that he will be allowed to spread the balance over the remaining instalment period, but wouldn't that be a reasonable expectation of anyone entering into a payment arrangement?

A decision would also be dependent on the individual circumstances of the customer (to allow the balance to be spread etc.) so what criteria would need to be satisfied?

Yours faithfully,

Helen Barker

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Woking Borough Council

Dear Sir/Madam,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Information Request.

Reference: (5524-11374415)
Subject: Exercising discretion when applying to the court for a Council
Tax Liability Order

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.
Your request was received on 31/07/2020

Coronavirus - Covid-19 important information

Thank you for your FOI request.

Please note your request will be responded to as soon as it is possible.
This position will be reviewed in September 2020.

Democratic Services (FOI Request).
Civic Offices,
Gloucester Square,
Woking,
GU21 6YL.
[1]Email: [email address]
Tel: 01483 755855

Yours faithfully,

Woking Borough Council,
Civic Offices,
Gloucester Square,
Woking,
GU21 6YL.

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