Receipt of a Council Tax summons can be a difficult time for some, especially when you have claimed State Benefits or you’re waiting for a claim to be processed. It is a common belief that a Court Summons cannot be issued in these cases but unfortunately that is not that case.
Can the council take action against me when I’ve claimed state benefits ?
Nothing in the way of claiming any state benefits prevents a Local Authority from issuing any Council Tax Demand Notices, Reminders or Summons. If the Court Summons reaches the Liability Order hearing date then the Magistrates’ Court are not able to consider your ability to pay or the fact that you have an outstanding claim for state benefits.
Although it was heard under Community Charge a key case on this matter is R v Bristol City Magistrates’ Court and Bristol City Council ex parte Willsman and Young (1991). A later case under Council Tax legislation, R (on the application of Williams) v Pontefract Magistrates’ Court (2002) was also heard along the same lines.
Both of these case found that a Local Authority was correct in continuing to collect Council Tax whilst an application for State Benefits / Council Tax Benefit was ongoing and that the Local Authority are not required to stop action on the basis that something may or may not be paid to assist with income or payment.
What if I’ve claimed Council Tax Reduction ?
Council Tax Benefit has been replaced by Council Tax Reduction and is now covered within Council Tax legislation by Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (LGFA92). This also however does not prevent the Local Authority from continuing action as stated above whilst you are waiting for any discount to be calculated.
What if I have no income ?
Council Tax does not take income in to account when calculating how much you pay (with a few exceptions) so the lack of income doesn’t have to be taken in to account (although you may be entitled to claim Council Tax Reduction). Any action to collect and recover the monies can be continued as usual.
Can I claim any other help if I can’t pay ?
Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, in addition to allowing people to claim Council Tax Support, also allows people to claim for a discretionary reduction.
What can they do if they do obtain a Liability Order ?
If the Local Authority obtain a Liability Order then they can take enforcement action against you.
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.