Council Tax: Locally Defined Discounts (Section 13A) Framework

This framework identifies the legislation, group classification, individual criteria and procedures to have regard to in considering applications for Section 13a Council Tax locally defined discounts. 

 

Background

Under Section 13a 1c 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 class(es) of properties that it may determine and where national discounts and exemptions cannot be applied.

A class of property is where several people who pay Council Tax would fall into a Group because their circumstances are similar - for example: Council Tax payers that have had to leave their homes due to flooding.

 

The Act states:

  • Where a person is liable to pay council tax in respect of any chargeable dwelling and day, the billing authority for the area in which the dwelling is situated may reduce the amount which he is liable to pay as respects the dwelling and the day to such extent as it thinks fit.
  • The power under subsection 1) above includes the power to reduce an amount to nil.
  • The power under subsection 1) may be exercised in relation to particular cases or by determining a class of case in which liability is to be reduced to an extent provided by the determination.

 

How is the discount funded

There are financial implications in awarding any discounts other than those currently available under the statutory legislation and the financial burden of Section 13A discounts has to be met 100% by the Council so is funded through an increase in  the general level of Council Tax for other taxpayers.

Classes of properties for Section 13A Discount

The Council's classes of properties where Section 13A may be granted. This would only be exercised where other council tax reductions, discounts, or exemptions available have been explored and exhausted.

Current classes of properties which may be granted Section 13a and the proposed amount of relief are:

  • Class of Property: Damaged by Fire
  • Criteria: Property incapable of occupation, or only partial occupation, due to extensive damage
  • % Of discount: Up to 100%
  • Maximum Award: 12 Months

 

  • Class of Property: Property Flooded
  • Criteria: Property incapable of occupation, or only partial occupation, due to extensive damage 
  • % Of discount: Up to 100%
  • Maximum Award: 12 Months

 

  • Class of Property: Unsafe property such as gas or oil leak, storm damage, subsidence.
  • Criteria: Property incapable of occupation, or only partial occupation, due to extensive damage or a risk to occupant's health and wellbeing
  • % Of discount: Up to 100%
  • Maximum Award: 12 Months

 

Where full or partial occupation occurs during the period of the award the ratepayer must inform the Council of the change in circumstances, in writing within 21 days, and the discount will be reduced or ended accordingly.


Please note: Where the conditions for granting a reduction under Section 13a remain after the period of the award ends, the tax-payer is encouraged to submit a further application for section 13a. 

 

Individual Applications for Section 13A Discount

The council will treat all applications on their individual merits. There must be evidence of financial hardship or unforeseen, exceptional circumstances that threaten taxpayers' ability to pay the council tax or to remain in their homes to justify any discount being awarded. 

When applying for the discount the request will need to be submitted from the Council Taxpayer, their advocate/appointee or a duly authorised third party acting on his/her behalf, and the application must:

  • Demonstrate that an application for a Section 13a discount is one of last resort and any entitlement to council tax reduction, discount or exemption or Valuation Office/Valuation Tribunal action and appeal have been explored prior to the application being made.
  • Detail the financial hardship or unforeseen exceptional circumstances upon which the application is based and provide appropriate supporting information and evidence.
  • Satisfy the Council that all reasonable steps have been taken by him/her to resolve their own situation prior to application.
  • Demonstrate that the council tax outstanding or the net liability due is not the result of deliberate non-payment or failure to make payments as required through neglect.

To fully understand the taxpayers circumstances the applicant may be asked to provide evidence in support of their application. This may include:

  • An Income and Expenditure statement
  • Documentary evidence to verify information provided on Income and Expenditure statements
  • Evidence that all other benefit eligibility has been explored thoroughly and maximised
  • Evidence to support the unforeseen, exceptional circumstances faced by the taxpayer
  • Any other relevant documentation

 

How to apply for a Section 13a discount

Applications may be submitted by: 

The application must clearly state:  

  • It is an application for section 13a discount,
  • Whether discount is being sought under a class of property or due to individual circumstances.
  • Contain appropriate supporting information/evidence.

 

Acknowledging the application

The Council will acknowledge all applications for Section 13a discount. The acknowledgement will advise taxpayers of the likely time for any decision to be made, and of the possibility that the Council may need to ask questions or make further enquiries.

 

Determining the application

The port-folio holder for Finance will consider all applications for a Section 13a discount on their individual merits, and consideration will be given to:

  • the taxpayer's personal circumstances
  • the taxpayer's evidence of hardship 
  • the taxpayer's income and access to assets or savings that could be realised to pay the Council Tax
  • any other eligible discounts, reliefs or exemptions that could be awarded
  • the Council Tax account and if it is in arrears must be satisfied that non-payment is not due to wilful refusal or culpable neglect.

The amount and period of any award will be based on all the taxpayer's circumstances and will be made at the Council's discretion The period of award will be a maximum  of 12 months, however if at end of any award the taxpayers circumstances remain the same, then they can, and are encouraged, to submit a further application for a section 13a discount.

 

Notice of Decisions

The Council will notify all applicants for Section 13a discount of their decision in writing.  
 
Where a discount is granted, the letter will advise: 

  • The amount of discount granted and the date from which it has been granted.
  • If a discount has been granted for a specified period, the date on which it will end.
  • The new chargeable amount.
  • The details of any planned review dates and the notice that will be given in advance of a change to the level of relief granted.
  • A requirement that the applicant should notify the Council of any change in circumstances that may affect entitlement to the discount. 

 
Where a Section 13a discount is not granted: 

  • An explanation of the decision not to grant a discount.
  • The right of appeal against the decision, and the time-limit within which an appeal is required to be made 

 

Protection of public funds

The council is committed to the fight against fraud in all its forms. Any applicant who tries to fraudulently claim a Section 13A discount might have committed an offence under the Fraud Act 2006. 

If the Council suspects that fraud may have occurred, the matter will be investigated and this could lead to criminal proceedings.

 

The right of appeal

The grounds for appeal arise under section16 Local Government Finance Act 1992.  An appeal against a decision by the Council to reject or restrict the award of a Section 13a discount must be made in writing within 21 days from the date of notification of the decision. The Appeal must clearly set out the grounds of appeal, and supply all relevant supporting documentation. Where the original decision was made in ignorance of all the facts the decision will be reviewed.  It will be reviewed by the Portfolio Holder for Finance, otherwise the appeal application will be considered by members of the Cabinet. 

If the taxpayer is still dissatisfied, they may appeal to the Valuation Tribunal for Wales. If the taxpayer receives no notification from the billing authority within 4 months, they may appeal to the Valuation Tribunal for Wales. 

 

Status: Final V5
Date of issue: September 2020
Agreed by: Portfolio Holder - Finance
Review Date: September 2022

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