Section 13A Council Tax Relief
Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 enables local authorities to reduce the amount of Council Tax payable where national discounts and exemptions cannot be applied. The local authority has the right to choose whether to use powers on a case by case basis ie: on the grounds of exceptional financial hardship or to specify certain classes of use where several taxpayers may fit into a group due to similar circumstances.
Local Authority schemes
All Local Authorities must have a Section 13A scheme in place. This is to enable any person to make a request for an amount of Council Tax to be reduced or written off. The award given by your local authority is discretionary, but they must have a system in place to allow a person to make the request.
There is a financial implication to the local authority as funding for any section 13A discounts must be provided by them from their funds. All applications made by an individual are considered on a case by case basis and decisions made on the merits of each case.
All taxpayers are entitled to make an application for a discretionary Council Tax relief reduction. Although, the discretionary reduction will only be granted to taxpayers in exceptional circumstances and will only normally be for a short period of time.
The local authority may consider the following factors when looking at an individual's application:
- Evidence must be provided of financial hardship or unforeseen, exceptional circumstances in order to justify any reduction
- The applicant should have fully explored all other eligible discounts/reliefs prior to an application being made
- There are no other funds or assets that could be used or accessed by the taxpayer to pay the council tax
- Exploration of other legitimate means of resolving the situation have been investigated and exhausted by the liable council tax payer
- The Council Taxpayers payment history
- The local authority must be satisfied that the amount outstanding is not the result of wilful refusal to pay or culpable neglect
- Relief will only be applicable to the council tax payer’s primary home
Making an application
‘The claimant for council tax support, including for a discretionary reduction (under section 13A(1)(c) Local Government Finance Act 1992), should apply to her/his local authority under the rules of the scheme adopted by the authority. Minimum procedural requirements have been set to apply nationally’.
The local authority must notify its decision to the applicant in writing within 14 days, or as soon as it is reasonably practicable to do so. The letter must make it clear to the applicant, that there is a requirement to report any relevant changes in circumstances, and the implications if s/he does not do so, and how an appeal against the decision may be made.
Your rights to appeal
You should consult your local authorities right to appeal a decision/procedure under their own localised scheme.
You also have the right to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal Service on any decision. This includes a decision on the exercise of an authority's discretion, that there is a liability for council tax, or the amount of council tax payable, as long as:
- Your local authority will not allow an appeal
- You are not satisfied with the steps your local authority is taking to resolve your grievance
- No decision to the appeal has been given and it has been more than two months
All appeals to the Valuation Tribunal are required to be in writing. Time limits to appeal to the valuation tribunal will vary depending on the reason you are making the appeal and the response of your local authority.
An appeal against the decision of the Valuation Tribunal can be made to the Upper Tribunal and to the High Court if the appeal is in respect of a point of law only.
The Valuation Tribunal Service has published a booklet guidance on preparing for an appeal against a council tax reduction scheme decision.