Civil Penalties for Council Tax / Council Tax Reduction and Housing Benefit

As a local authority, Surrey Heath Borough Council has a duty of care to all its taxpayers. We are committed to a proactive approach in preventing and reducing the level of council tax, housing benefit and council tax support fraud and has a duty to protect the public funds that we administer.
 

Implementation of Civil Penalties for Council Tax and Council Tax Reduction Scheme

Schedule 3 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 allows Councils to impose a £70 penalty to any person who
  • a) fails to notify the council that an exemption on a dwelling should have ended within 21 days of the change
  • b) fails to notify the council that a discount (including a single person discount) should have ended within 21 days of the change
  • c) fails to notify the council of any change in circumstances that would affect the amount of council tax reduction within one calendar month
  • d) fails to notify the council of a change of address or fails to notify the council of a change in the liable party within 21 days of the change
  • e) fails to provide information requested to identify liability within 21 days of the request
  • f) deliberately provides false information. In addition to the power to impose a penalty, the provisions of the Theft Act apply to council tax as they do in other situations.
Where a penalty has been imposed on the council tax payer and Surrey Heath requests the same information again, we can impose a further penalty of £280.00 if the information requested is still not provided.
 
Both of these penalties (£70.00 and £280.00) will be added to the council tax payer’s account and will form part of their outstanding debt.
 

Are there any Cases That Might be Exempt from a Penalty?

Exclusion from a penalty may be considered in cases where:
 
The customer or their partner:-
 
  • a) has a significant degree of physical or mental infirmity, such as a terminal illness, severe clinical depression, hearing/sight/speech problems, learning difficulties or frailty due to old age.
  • b) has made a voluntary disclosure of the alleged offence before the Council had any suspicions regarding the validity of their entitlement to a council tax discount or exemption, Local Council Support Reduction Scheme or their housing benefit entitlement
  • c) was driven to commit the offence by a difficult domestic situation (for example domestic violence or fire)

 

How Will I Know if I Have Received a Penalty?

Surrey Heath will write to you to let you know that we have imposed a penalty and why. We will also provide you with the information about how to appeal against our decision and the date by which any appeal should be made
 

Can I Appeal Against a Penalty?

If you wish to appeal against a council tax penalty notice you can challenge it by using the Council’s complaint procedure.
 
You also have the right to appeal directly to the Valuation Tribunal. You must appeal within 2 months of the penalty being imposed.
 
If an appeal is made then recovery of the penalty will be suspended pending the decision of the Valuation Tribunal.
 

Implementation of Civil Penalties for Housing Benefits

As a local authority, Surrey Heath Borough Council has a duty of care to all its taxpayers. We are committed to a proactive approach in preventing and reducing the level of council tax, housing benefit and council tax support fraud and has a duty to protect the public funds that we administer.
 
The Social Security Administration Act 1992 and sections of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 allow a civil penalty of £50 to be added to the amount of an overpayment of benefit if the overpayment is more than £100 and where the claimant is viewed to be at fault.
 

When is a Customer Deemed to be at Fault?

  • a) Where a person has been overpaid as a result of negligently making an incorrect statement or representation or negligently giving incorrect information or evidence
  • b) Where a person has been overpaid as a result of failing, without reasonable excuse, to provide information or evidence required in connection with a claim for benefit within one calendar month of it being requested
  • c) Where a person has  been overpaid as a result of failing, without reasonable excuse, to notify the council of a relevant change of circumstances within one calendar month of it occurring
The Benefit decision letter that we issue also clearly states that failure to advise the Authority of changes in circumstances that may affect their entitlement to housing benefit may result in an overpayment and the imposition of a penalty.
 

How Will I Know if I Have Received a Penalty?

Surrey Heath will write to you to let you know that we have imposed a penalty and why. We will also provide you with the information about how to appeal against our decision and the date by which any appeal should be made.
 

Can I Appeal Against a Penalty?

You can appeal against a housing benefit penalty as part of an appeal against the overpayment decision. You can ask the council to reconsider their decision, and if unsuccessful, the appeal can then be considered by The Tribunals Service.
 

How Will the Penalty be Recovered?

The housing benefit penalty will be recovered either from ongoing housing benefit entitlement or by sundry debtor.
 
Where a penalty relates to an overpayment of housing benefit no penalty will be applied until one month after the notification of the overpayment has been issued. This allows for a period where further information can be provided.