It is not uncommon for people to share a property with those who claim Council Tax Support (formerly Council Tax Benefit) – in these sorts of cases who is responsible for paying the Council Tax charge ?
Council Tax Support and joint liability
For Council Tax purposes the people who are responsible for payment of a Council Tax charge, the liable parties, are those named on the Council Tax demand notice. The liability is determined with reference (primarily) to Section 6 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 – this takes in to account only the legal responsibility. For example,3 joint tenants would all be ‘jointly and severally’ liable for the Council Tax charge.
Council Tax Support (also known as Council Tax Reduction – formerly known as Council Tax Benefit) is a financial scheme put in place to help those on a low income pay Council Tax . It will help a person by making a payment towards an apportioned share of the total Council Tax charge due on the property. For example, ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ are joint tenants and therefore jointly liable for the Council Tax charge. ‘A’ claims Council Tax Support whilst ‘B’ & ‘C’ work. ‘A’ will receive help against no more than 1/3rd of the total Council Tax charge,
There apportioning of the charge has given rise to a common misconception that if a person is in receipt of Council Tax Support then they are no longer jointly liable for the Council Tax charge with any other jointly liable individuals. This is incorrect. For example, ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ are joint tenants and therefore jointly liable for the Council Tax charge. ‘A’ claims Council Tax Support whilst ‘B’ & ‘C’ work. The only consideration for Council Tax liability purposes is that ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ are joint tenants therefore they all remain jointly liable for the Council Tax charge.
Payment and Recovery of Council Tax
Although a person may have received Council Tax Support towards paying the Council Tax charge they remain equally responsible for any payments due on the property along with any other liable parties. For example, ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ are joint tenants and therefore jointly liable for the Council Tax charge. ‘A’ claims Council Tax Support whilst ‘B’ & ‘C’ work. As far as payment of Council Tax is concerned ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ are all equally responsible for payment.
If payment is not made then the Local Authority can pursue legal action against any of the joint liable parties, regardless of whether they’ve been in receipt of Council Tax Support or not. Due to the fact that a person on Council Tax Support may have a lower income it is not uncommon for the Local Authority to pursue payment from those who are not claiming Council Tax Support. The Local Authority can choose which of the liable parties they which to enforce against at any one time even though all liable parties remain jointly liable for the entire balance.
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.