No ? , Neither have most people yet it is one avenue which you can consider if Council Tax arrears are part of your financial problems or there are issues, such as fire or flood, which have caused or contributed to your problems. It should also be pointed out from the beginning that, if the Local Authority refuse your application, you can appeal to the independent Valuation Tribunal for a decision.
Section 13A reductions
A reduction under Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, or Section 13A as it is more often known, was initially introduced in England & Wales by way of Section 76 of the Local Government Act 2003. The relevant section of the regulations was later amended in 2012.
The key section which authorises the discretionary reduction is Section 13A(1)(c);
(1)The amount of council tax which a person is liable to pay in respect of any chargeable dwelling and any day (as determined in accordance with sections 10 to 13)—
(c)in any case, may be reduced to such extent (or, if the amount has been reduced under paragraph (a) or (b), such further extent) as the billing authority for the area in which the dwelling is situated thinks fit.
All Local Authorities must implement a Section 13A scheme through which any person can make a request for an amount of Council Tax to be reduced or written off. It should be noted that the local authority don’t have to grant any requests but they must have a system in place to allow a person to make the request.
The Local Authority has to make a judgement call as to whether the outstanding balance should be reduced or written off. This must be balanced against their overall duty to the Council Tax payer. What they shouldn’t do though is consider the application only on the basis of the financial cost to the Council Tax payer.
Not to be confused with the Council Tax Support / Reduction scheme
Each Local Authority must also implement a Council Tax Support / Reduction (CTR) scheme in addition to the Section 13A discretionary relief. The CTR schemes are dealt with under an amendment which was made to Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 in 2012 and was introduced, with effect from April 2013, to replace the existing Council Tax Benefit scheme. It is however an entirely separate scheme to the Section 13A discretionary reduction and requires much more of a formalised application process.
It is possible to have part of your Council Tax paid under the CTR scheme and then request a Section 13A reduction be made to the remaining balance.
Valuation Tribunal appeals
If you feel that a request for Section 13A reduction has not been correctly considered by the local authority then you are in luck. A Valuation Tribunal case, headed by the President of the Tribunal, has previously determined that the Tribunal can hear appeals against a Section 13A reduction. The Valuation Tribunal can make a binding decision on the matter where they feel the Local Authority was wrong in their refusal to award a reduction or the amount they awarded is determined to be wrong. LGFA92 may be able to assist in this appeal.
Failure to provide information to the Local Authority
A request for a Section 13A reduction may require further information to be provided to a Local Authority. In case 4235M142393/254C the Valuation Tribunal found it entirely reasonable for the Local Authority to request details of income and expenditure before making a decision on eligibility for the reduction.
Limits on assistance for financial hardship
The joint case of SC & CW v East Riding of Yorkshire Council found that a local authority should be fair in their assessment. The Valuation Tribunal can override a local authority decision on entitlement to relief but also held that a local authority can reject an application if there is even a small amount of spare income. A similar case, reference 840M171013/084C, found that possession of sufficient assets to clear a debt may also be a valid reason for refusal.
Powers to reduce Council Tax for flooding etc
In addition to allowing discretionary reduction requests for financial hardship Section 13A allows a Local Authority to make a decision to reduce the Council Tax charge for a specific set of circumstances – this is most commonly used in situations where there has been flooding or severe damage/disruption caused by another significant event however some local authorities are using the scheme to cover groups such as ‘care leavers’.
Applying for a Section 13A reduction
Each Local Authority will have their own individual system through which they process a claim under Section 13A. The best way to check is to look at your Local Authority’s website or give them a call.
Advice & 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.