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F15/043

Council Tax Payments

Request Description

See document in downloads section below

Request Date26 January 2015
Requested byIndividual
Released Date  

2 March 2015   

Response

1) What happens at your Local Authority should a Council Tax account that has been passed to an Enforcement Agent receive a payment, either a full or part payment, direct from the debtor?

We advise our Enforcement Agents (E.A.'s) of any direct payments that the Council has received. To do this we send them a list of payments to their websites, to ensure so that they promptly have the correct outstanding balance owed to  East Herts D.C. (EHDC)

2) If you pass no money on to the Enforcement Agent, do you inform the agent of any payments made? Do you advise that they need to make their own arrangements to collect their fees?

We do not physically pass money over to them we inform them of the Council Tax account's reduced balance. The fees that the E.A.'s can charge were set out in "The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014". The power to recover these fees was also detailed in these regulations. 

3) If you pass all or any money onto the Enforcement Agent, please can you show the exact legislation that compels you to do so, directing me to the specific part?

As Already advised in answer 2 above, we do not actually send money to E.A.'s we advise them of the amount received electronically. We also advise the E.A's in this way if we have granted any Reliefs, Exemptions or an apportionment which reduces an accounts collectable debt

4) If there is no such legislation, can you direct me to any policy, contract or service level agreement you have in place that compels you to pass on direct payments?

Whilst, this is not bound by any legislation it is good customer service to make sure the E.A. knows what the correct balance to collect is. The Council would be failing in its responsibilities once it becomes aware that a debtor's balance had been reduced and we did not promptly tell the E.A. of the changes

5) If a policy, contract or service level agreement is in place, what legislation or regulation makes that document legally binding on a defaulter when they have not agreed to its terms?

There is a Service Level Agreements (SLA) in place, there is not a specific clause that specifies how to deal with a direct payment; it only covers notification of amendments and about hold enforcement requests, each  instructions is dealt with on its individual merits. The SLA is between the Council and the Enforcement Agents and therefore the debtor is not subject to any of its terms.

6) Should a defaulter make a direct payment to clear the arrears stated on the account and receive a receipt, does your Local Authority consider this proof that the original account has been paid?

When a debt is with the E.A.  and we receive a direct payment (That settles an account in full) we would notify the E.A. (By sending details of the account holder's payments into E.A's website address) of the payment. This would leave the balance at EHDC at ┬úNil, the E. A. however is entitled to collect their fees separately

7) From where does (or did) your Council Tax collection staff take their training or advice on the practice of taking direct payments in the circumstances outlined in this correspondence?

The method of how to notify E.A's is not specifically detailed within Council procedures.

We do follow what would be considered as good practice, so as to make sure that enforcement action is only taken based on the correct outstanding balance. There is no specific legislation or guidelines stipulating that we have to do this. However, we would not be fulfilling our duty to ensure that the correct amount of Council Tax is being collected if we did not inform our external Agents of any changes that affects an account's balance.

This however is - a well established Council procedure that has been in place for a long time.

Refused

                                                

Refusal