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Council Tax demand noticeValuation Tribunal decision 1625M236154283C is a case for which LGFA92 drafted the successful statement of case for the appellant. In this particular case the appellant was made aware only in 2018 that he may have been entitled to a Severely Mentally Impaired (SMI) disregard in respect of his late wife. It was his contention that a backdated 25% discount should be applied to his council tax charge. The local authority allowed the application for 6 years and rejected anything in excess of that. On this basis LGFA92 were asked to draft the appellant’s valuation tribunal appeal.

The primary defence made by the local authority had rested on an argument that they had won a previous tribunal decision on similar grounds (LGFA92 were not involved in this but believe the decision was flawed). It was argued in return that this decision was not binding, and only suggestive on later tribunals. The local authority’s argument was rejected and the hearing went ahead based primarily on the interpretation of s9 of the Limitation Act 1980, with a secondary argument that the appellant had been aware of his right to claim and therefore, in any case, his eventual claim should be restricted on this basis.

The appellant’s primary argument at the tribunal was that s9 of the Limitation Act 1980 gave rise to the backdated claim being permissible as his claim was made within 6 years of the ’cause of action’ being made – this being the point he became aware he could claim a discount. The local authority accepted it was a settled point that the appellant’s late wife would have met the criteria to be regarded as SMI. The argued that the 25% discount should apply but it should be restricted to no more than 6 years by way of s9 of the Limitation Act 1980.

It was argued for the appellant that the initial interpretation of s9 of the Limitation Act 1980, as used in the well-known decision of Arca v Carlisle and quoted by the local authority, no longer applied. This argument rested on the fact that the then tribunal president, Prof. Zellick QC, had made a decision in Arca which supported the current local authority’s case but since Arca he had determined that his original interpretation of s9 of the Limitation Act 1980 had been wrong and, stating this in later decisions, he had corrected his earlier interpretation.

The tribunal, having considered the arguments put before them, accepted that the President’s decisions were leading cases and should guide their own decision. Following his re-interpretation of the Arca v Carlisle decision the tribunal determined that they should therefore follow his later interpretation regarding the application of s9 of the Limitation Act 1980. This meant that the tribunal found that the 6 year limit rested solely on when the appellant became aware of his point of claim and, if he made the claim within 6 years of the point, there was no limit on backdating.

Once the tribunal had determined that there was a case for backdating then the secondary argument made by the local authority was considered. This secondary argument was that the appellant was aware he could claim prior to 2018 as they had, each year, sent statutory information with the demand notice. This information was, in their view, sufficient to meet the requirement of advertising to the appellant of his right to claim.  The tribunal however, again resting on a point made by Prof. Zellick, found that the appellant had not been made fully aware of his eligibility and therefore he was not aware of his claim prior to 2018.

In conclusion, the tribunal held that the appellant had claimed at the earliest point of awareness and therefore there was no limit on the length of time for which the discount could be retrospectively claimed.