A recent discussion brought up the situation of Council Tax fraud and what happens where a person has been found not guilty by the courts in respect of an alleged Council Tax Single Person Discount fraud.
The situation is not as straight forward as simply taking the not guilty verdict and finding all your problems are over.
Court case for fraud
The case involved, as many do, the allegation from the Local Authority that a Single Person Discount has been claimed fraudulently and that this should be removed and a prosecution carried out. On this particular occasion the case proceeded to prosecution however the court found that the case for fraud was not satisfied and held the person not guilty of fraud. The discussion raised points around what happens with the Council Tax Discount at that point.
Should the Council Tax discount be re-instated ?
If a person has been found guilty of fraud, in most cases, it will be quite clear that the Single Person Discount did not apply and it is likely that the Local Authority have already removed it anyway. The main complications arise if a person has been found not guilty.
The person discussed was found by the court not to have claimed the discount fraudulently however this, in itself, does not mean that a person is automatically entitled to have the discount re-instated. A certain threshold has to be met before a guilty verdict can be given by the court, a person may have not reached this threshold yet still have had another adult living with them (for example in cases where an honest error was made in not reporting the change in circumstances). A not guilty verdict therefore doesn’t specifically entitle a person to a Single Person Discount.
It is unlikely that a criminal court could (or would have the powers to) direct any Single Person Discount to be re-instated however where the court case quite clearly refutes any evidence that another adult was resident then this should be sufficient evidence to have any discount re-instated. If the Local Authority fail to re-instate a discount (for any reason) then any appeal on the matter must be made by way of a Valuation Tribunal for a decision on entitlement.
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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.