Several million Council Tax Liability Orders are issued each year across England and Wales and their use is becoming more common as each Local Authority pushes to collect the more the £2.5 billion which is currently outstanding. Receiving a Liability Order is far from uncommon but what is one and what do they allow the Local Authority to do ?
What is a Council Tax Liability Order ?
A Council Tax Liability Order is an order issued by the Magistrates’ Court to confirm that an amount of Council Tax remains unpaid. The Liability Order gives the Local Authority permission to use their delegated powers of enforcement to recover the monies which remain outstanding. Unlike a County Court Judgment (CCJ) a Council Tax Liability Order is not currently recorded on your credit record or available for public access with the Registry Trust.
How is a Council Tax Liability Order applied for ?
Where Council Tax arrears have remained unpaid 14 days after the issuing of after a Reminder Notice or 7 days after a Final Notice has been issued then a Local Authority can use issue a Court Summons for non-payment under Regulation 34 of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992. The Court Summons will give 14 days notice of the time and date that a hearing will be held by a Magistrates’ Court to consider the granting of a Liability Order.
The Granting of a Council Tax Liability Order
The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 allow the Magistrates’ Court to grant a Liability Order only where a Court Summons has been issued and the total balance (inclusive of any costs due) has not been settled in full. The Liability Order application can (and usually does) include additional costs incurred by the Local Authority.
The Local Authority will provide the court with a list of each of the debtors for whom a Court Summons was issued and for which a balance is still outstanding. As part of this application the Local Authority must state to the court that the process has been followed correctly and that they are not aware of any issues with this. Providing the required proof is provided then the Magistrates have little power to refuse to grant the Liability Order – no consideration as to means to pay or of any disputes over liability,discounts or exemptions etc. can be given by the Magistrates.
Wiltshire Council v Piggin was a Council Tax appeal which made it to the High Court. The Magistrates Court had declined to grant a liability order following representation from Mr Piggin on a point of Council Tax liability and Wiltshire Council appealed the matter. Whilst the Magistrates had declined to find Mr Piggin liable, a Valuation Tribunal on the same matter found the opposite. On the basis of S16 of the LGFA92 the court found that the Magistrates Court had no powers to refuse the liability order as the dispute over liability was outside of their remit to consider and, instead, a matter for a Valuation Tribunal appeal.
There are very few valid defences which can be used against the issuing of the Liability Order. One common defence is to argue that Court Summons was not issued within 6 years of the monies becoming due – 6 years being the limit set in Council Tax legislation.This defence usually fails to consider that the 6 year limit applies from when the original demand notice was issued, not from when the monies were originally due (a subtle difference but monies cannot be due until a demand notice has been issued, even if this is several years later).
Once a liability order has been granted the local authority are authorised to pursue collection of the outstanding balance using either a payment arrangement or one of the enforcement methods provided for in the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992.
Council Tax recovery methods
Following the granting of a Liability Order the Local Authority gain legal powers to recover the balance which is shown on the order. Recovery options are laid out under Regulations 36 to 51 of the Council Tax (Administration & Enforcement Regulations) 1992 (as amended).
It should be noted that the Local Authority can issue a debtor with a request for information form – in most cases you must provide this information as failure to comply can be subject to a court fine.
Advice & Assistance from LGFA92
Good quality help with your Council Tax dispute can be hard to come across – there’s a lack of independent, expert, places where you can get the help you need however LGFA92’s specialist Council Tax paralegal advisor is here to change that.
This website is solely the view of LGFA92, the Council Tax specialists , 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.