A very common question which is raised in respect of Council Tax is as to whether a person can withhold payments if they are not happy with the service and/or they are disputing liability with the Local Authority. We will consider this below.
Can I withhold Council Tax payments ?
Anyone who is liable to pay Council Tax can certainly withhold payments, no-one can physically make you pay, however on a legal basis you cannot withhold payment in respect of the Council Tax charge for which you are liable. The withholding of payment has been heard as far as Court of Appeal where the arguments made by the debtor were rejected.
Mr Turton was in dispute with his Local Authority and had declined to make Council Tax payments to them. The Local Authority pursued action against him as per the standard Council Tax procedures for non-payment. Mr Turton disputed this action and followed the legal process as far as the Court of Appeal.
In the cases of R (On the application of Turton) v Sheffield Magistrates Court and Sheffield City Council the Court of Appeal (on more than one occasion) found against Mr Turton . The court stating that;
As a matter of law there is simply no basis upon which, whatever grievances he may have against the council, he is entitled to cease making payment of his annual council tax.
What if I’m disputing the level of service or liability/discount/exemption entitlement ?
Disputing the level of service from the Local Authority, Council Tax liability or a discount/exemption does not prevent the Local Authority from continuing to pursue Council Tax payments, even whilst any dispute is ongoing. If the Local Authority apply for a Court Summons to be issued and a Liability Order hearing is held then the Magistrate hearing the case cannot take these issues in to consideration.
In the case of Turton (as above) the Court of Appeal also added that;
The Sheffield Magistrates had to adjudicate upon that question, his liability for council tax, and no other. They could not properly have regard to whatever outstanding grievances Mr Turton may or may not have against the City Council
Assistance from LGFA92
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This article is solely the view of LGFA92, the Council Tax experts, based on our interpretation of legislation. Your local authority is free to dispute this view. A binding decision may require the intervention of a valuation tribunal.