4. Section 13a 1c Discretionary Council Tax reduction
3.6.1 Every council taxpayer is entitled to make an application for a discretionary Council Tax reduction. It is anticipated that a discretionary reduction will only be granted to council taxpayers in exceptional circumstances and will normally be for a short-term period. An application for a further award can be made and there will be a review of the application and what actions have been taken since the last award.
3.6.2 When considering an application the following factors will be taken into account:
- There must be evidence of financial hardship or unforeseen, exceptional circumstances to justify any reduction
- Whether changing payment methods, reprofiling Council Tax instalments or setting alternative payment arrangements in order to make them more affordable
- An award may not be made until the council taxpayer has accepted assistance either through us or a third party, such as; Citizens Advice Bureau or similar organisations, to enable them to manage their finances more effectively, including termination of non-essential expenditure
- The council taxpayer has experienced a crisis or event that has made their property uninhabitable e.g. due to fire or flooding, where they remain liable to pay Council Tax and for which they have no recourse for compensation
- The council taxpayer must satisfy us that all reasonable steps have been taken to resolve their situation prior to an application
- If the council taxpayer is on a low income, whether they have applied for a Council Tax Reduction (our scheme is called Council Tax Support). The Council Tax Support scheme exists to ensure that those on low incomes receive financial assistance with their Council Tax
- All other eligible discounts/reliefs have been explored prior to an application being made
- The council taxpayer does not have access to other funds/assets that could be used to pay Council Tax
- All other legitimate means of resolving the situation have been investigated and exhausted by the applicant. If they have not been, it is unlikely that an award will be made.
- The payment record history of the council taxpayer
- The amount outstanding must not be the result of wilful refusal to pay or culpable neglect
- Relief will only apply to a council taxpayer’s primary home
3.6.3 Discretionary reductions will be withdrawn if:
- The conditions or circumstances on which the reduction was granted change or fail to materialise,
- the information submitted as part of the application proves to be misleading
- The applicant ceases to be the council taxpayer
3.6.4 Where the reduction is cancelled this will normally take effect from the actual date of change. However, in certain circumstances this may be withdrawn in full. A revised Council Tax bill will be issued for payment.
3.6.5 Administering the scheme
3.6.6 Discretionary Council Tax reductions must be applied for in writing from the Council Taxpayer, their advocate/appointee or a recognised third party acting on their behalf. Where the application is on the grounds of financial hardship a standard form is available which can be obtained via the telephone, in person at one of our offices or on our website.
3.6.7 The application should normally relate to the current Council Tax year, unless the Council Taxpayer has only recently received a bill following a retrospective change to a previous year.
3.6.8 It is expected that the Council Taxpayer will need to provide:
- The period and amount of reduction being sought
- Reasons why a discretionary reduction should be given, and how this meets our policy
- What action(s) the applicant has taken to alleviate the situation
3.6.9 We may request any reasonable evidence in support of an application.
3.6.10 The Revenues and Benefits Service Lead will normally determine Discretionary Discount applications and in their absence this will be passed to the Finance Strategic Lead.
3.6.11 Successful applicants will be notified in writing of the amount and period a Discretionary Council Tax reduction has been awarded for. Any entitlement is applied to the Council Tax account and a revised bill is sent. Awards are limited to the end of the financial year in which the application is made.
3.6.12 If a reduction has been made as a result of a false or fraudulent claim we reserve the right to withdraw the award. We will consider prosecuting any applicant who makes a false statement or provides fraudulent evidence in support of an application.
3.6.13 Unsuccessful applicants will be notified in writing together with the reason for the decision.
3.6.14 We will aim to make a decision within 14 days of receiving all the information required.
3.6.15 Applicants who are receiving a Council Tax discretionary reduction must report changes in their circumstances within 21 days of the change occurring