Thanet District Council's difference of opinion on Council Tax summons costs

The request was partially successful.

Dear Thanet District Council,

In reference to Freedom of Information request ref: FOI 1600 (summons for non-payment of council tax) the document disclosed states that:

"...you have not paid the Council Tax for the above property by the instalments you were given. You are summonsed to Court at Canterbury Magistrates Court.... The amount of outstanding Council Tax is:" https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/4...

The document indicates that the Summons Costs (presumably £60.00) are included in the Total amount due

The High Court has ruled that the sum which is included as standard on Council Tax summonses in respect of costs is merely additional information to what is statutorily required on a summons under rule 98(2) of the Magistrates Court Rules. The amount stated is to inform the recipient of the amount of costs which will be claimed by the council if it proceeds to make the application at court for a liability order. The sum is not incurred until (and if) the court grants the costs which may be a different amount to that which is included on the summons. https://www.scribd.com/document/37563681...

Q1.Why does it say in the summons document that the summons costs (£60.00?) are included in the Total amount due when this is not incurred until (and if) the court grants the costs

Q2. At what stage in the proceedings are summons costs applied to the customer's account (it is implied to be when the summons is issued)

Yours faithfully,

Seb Tarantino

Dear Thanet District Council,

Please find the link which was provided incomplete in my previous email.

https://www.scribd.com/document/37563681...

Yours faithfully,

Seb Tarantino

Dear Thanet District Council,

Response to this request is delayed. By law, the Council should have responded by 11 June 2018.

Yours faithfully,

Seb Tarantino

TDC FOI, Thanet District Council

Dear Mr Tarantino,

Thank you for your request for clarification dated 11 May 2018, in
relation to the response given on 10 May 2018, to your Freedom of
Information request.

 

We are now in a position to provide further information and this is set
out below.

 

Thank you for your patience in this matter.

 

If you are unhappy with the way your enquiry has been dealt with, you may
ask for an internal review by submitting a request within two weeks of the
date of this response. Further information on the internal review process
is can be found here:
[1]https://www.thanet.gov.uk/your-services/...

Your request should be addressed to the Information Governance Manager,
Thanet District Council, PO Box 9, Cecil Street, Margate, CT9 1XZ or by
emailing [2][email address].  

 

If you are still dissatisfied after an internal review, you may appeal to
the Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow SK9
5AF.

 

Kind regards

 

 

Information Governance Officer

Thanet District Council

Margate

CT9 1XZ

01843 577620

 

 

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Seb Tarantino left an annotation ()

Reply is hidden in response message (see below)

Q1.

Regulation 34 (5) of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement Regulations) 1992 allows Local Authorities to apply costs for non-payment of Council Tax for ‘a sum of an amount equal to the costs reasonably incurred by the authority in connection with the application’. Thanet District Councils summons costs have been calculated at £60 for 2018/19.

The amount of costs is noted on each summons issued together with the value of unpaid Council Tax. Where the Authority demonstrates to the Court that the Council Tax payer has not paid the full amount shown on the Summons notice a liability order is applied for against the Council Tax payer.

Regulation 34 (7) allows for further ‘reasonable’ costs to be awarded in relation to the application for the liability order. Thanet District Council’s liability order costs are £50.00 for 2018/19.

Q2.

Summons costs are applied to Council Tax payer’s accounts at the point at which the Summons notice is raised and the complaint is agreed. Application is made to the Magistrates court in respect of all summons costs incurred where the debt has been paid in full prior to the hearing. Where the Council Tax payer has not paid the balance on the summons in full, an application for a liability order is made and further costs applied for.

Liability order costs are applied to accounts after the Court has awarded the liability order together with costs applied for where an order is made.

Dear TDC FOI,

Thank you for your response. I have only made this request to Thanet District Council and so you are mistaken in thinking it is a follow up request for clarification.

However, I have some comments regarding the reply which you may or may not want to note.

Regulation 34(5) of the Council Tax (Administration & Enforcement) Regulations 1992 makes provision for an out of court settlement (the application does not proceed if the sum of costs which the Billing Authority are to apply for at the Magistrates' court hearing are paid or tendered beforehand). As a matter of interest, if a court had the opportunity to adjudicate on the matter there would be every reason for it to find that the Statutory Instrument in respect of regulation 34(5) was ultra vires the enabling act (Local Government Finance Act 1992). Schedule 4 of the enabling act almost certainly does not make provision for regulation 34(5) to be enacted in its current form. This would explain why proceedings in Council Tax Liability Order cases can not properly follow due process.

However, even in the way it is enacted, regulation 34(5) does not permit any costs to be added to the customer's account at the summons issuing stage. Any amount of costs stated on the summons merely informs the debtor of the amount of costs that will be applied for at the hearing.

The process of issuing/authorising the summons (i.e. Magistrate etc. signing the complaint) merely authorises the council to serve the summons on the defendant. The application for the liability order is not made until and if the council does so on the designated date of the liability hearing at the Magistrates' court when another judicial decision is made (the summons issue is the initial and separate judicial decision) whether to grant a Liability Order and award costs, both in respect of the summons and potentially any additional costs (Liability Order costs).

The judge in the High Court case linked to in my request made a ruling that it was not unlawful to include the amount of costs that would be requested on the summons should the council proceed to make the application at court for a Liability Order. That is not the same as declaring it lawful to add the sum of costs to the customer's account when the summons is issued (before the court grants an order).

Yours sincerely,

Seb Tarantino

TDC FOI, Thanet District Council

Dear Mr Tarantino,

 

Thank you for your communication dated 13 June 2018 and I can confirm that
I have passed this on to the Council Tax Department for their information.

 

With kind regards,

 

Information Governance Officer

Thanet District Council

Margate

CT9 1XZ

01843 577620

 

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