Under Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (as inserted by Section 76 of the Local Government Act 2003), the Council has the power to reduce liability for council tax in relation to individual cases or classes of cases that it may determine and where national exemptions and discounts cannot be applied. Mole Valley District Council has not specified any class of case in which liability is to be reduced, other than for properties subjected to flooding between December 2013 and March 2014, which was in accordance with Department of Communities and Local Government instructions. However, consideration will be given to claims on individual cases. Discretionary Discount is intended to provide short term help to alleviate financial hardship and the following guidance gives more detail on the factors which will be taken into account.
The financial burden of awarding a Section 13A discount has to be met through an increase in the general level of council tax for other payers, therefore the granting of Section 13A discounts will only be made in exceptional circumstances.
The applicant must be liable for a council tax charge levied by Mole Valley District Council. Where such a person is unable to act for themselves, a suitable third party may act on their behalf with the agreement of the Revenues & Exchequer Manager.
The application must be for a period where the applicant is liable for council tax.
Where the charge is for an unoccupied council tax charge, the applicant must show that they have made all reasonable efforts to sell the property or return the lease.
The Council will administer this discount from within the Revenues Section.
Applicants wishing to claim a Discretionary Discount must:
- Make a claim for discount in writing, preferably on the form provided for this setting out the reasons for this claim
- Sign a declaration that the information is true and complete and agree that the Council may make enquiries to verify the information
- Agree to repay any Discretionary Discount believed to have been overpaid for whatever reason
- Supply requested information in support of the application both at the outset and following any additional request, including a financial statement and evidence of income and outgoings, within one calendar month of the request. Failure to comply with such a request could result in immediate cancellation of any award already made
Criteria for making a claim
Each application will be looked at on its own merits and having regard to the factors outlined below:
- There must be evidence of financial hardship or personal circumstances that justify a reduction in council tax liability
- The applicants income and expenditure including unusual and/or avoidable expenditure
- Whether there are exceptional circumstances that contribute to the financial hardship
- The applicant must satisfy the Council that all reasonable steps have been taken or will be taken to resolve the situation
- Entitlement to all other eligible discounts/reliefs/income/welfare benefits have been explored and are being claimed
- The amount outstanding must not be the result of wilful refusal to pay or culpable neglect
- The taxpayer does not have access to other assets that could be used towards their council tax liability
- Whether the situation can be resolved by some other legitimate means
- Whether an award will assist the applicant towards a position where they can pay their council tax within a reasonable time frame without further recourse to this discount
- Any social or health issues currently being faced by the resident and/or their immediate family
- The effect the situation is having on vulnerable members of the resident's family (e.g. the elderly, the young, the infirm etc.)
- Other evidence in support of an application (such as information from Doctors and/or Social Workers)
- Where applicable, what information/advice has been sought and obtained previously, for example from the C.A.B.
- The size and banding of the current accommodation
- The possibility of moving to a smaller and lower banded property
- The lifestyle choices of the applicant and their household
- Whether there is a threat of court action in relation to council tax arrears
This list is neither prescriptive nor exhaustive.
The discount will be granted for a specific period.
A discount will only be granted within the financial year in which the application is made and will terminate when either the applicant is no longer entitled to the discount or at the end of the financial year, whichever is the sooner.
The discount is intended as short term help. It is not the intention to award or re-award in perpetuity.
Amount of discount
The discount will be calculated against the daily council tax liability after deducting any other reliefs, discounts or council tax support and will not exceed that figure
The discount to be awarded is entirely at the Council's discretion and maybe in the form of a percentage against the outstanding liability or a lump sum.
Notification of a decision
The applicant will be notified in writing of a decision and this notice will include reasons for the decision.
If a discount is granted, the notice will include the amount of the discount and the period for which it is granted. Any discount will be credited to the applicant's council tax account.
Review of decision
The Council will accept a customer's written request for a review of its decision and that review will be made by the Strategic Director (151 Officer), the Deputy 151 Officer or the Executive Head of Service.
Duty to notify changes in circumstances
Where a discount is granted, applicants are required to notify the Council of any relevant changes in their circumstances that could affect the award. Examples of these changes include, but are not limited to:
- If the applicant changes address
- If the applicant or a member of their household leaves their home temporarily or permanently
- If an applicant's (or a member of their household's) income or capital changes
- If the number and/or circumstances of others in the household changes
In addition, the applicant must inform the Revenues Section:
- Of a change to any factor that caused or contributed towards their hardship
- If their hardship ends
- If the severity of their hardship decreases (including a Discretionary Hardship Fund grant or an increase in Council Tax Support)
- Of a change to any of the circumstances that were included in the application for the discount
Recovery of overpaid discount
Council Tax Discretionary Discount will generally be recovered directly from the applicant's council tax account, increasing the amount of council tax payable.
Examples of circumstances where the Council will seek recovery of an overpaid discount include, but are not limited to:
- Misrepresentation or failure to disclose a material fact, whether fraudulently or otherwise
- Failure to notify any relevant change in circumstance whether fraudulently or otherwise
- An error made in the provision of information or evidence or the interpretation of that information or evidence which led to an incorrect award