Privacy notice - Council Tax


Why do we collect information about you?

The council may collect and hold information about you, and those in your household to administer and collect Council Tax, including the assessment of your entitlement to discounts and exemptions; the collection and enforcement of outstanding debts such as unpaid Council Tax, Housing Benefit overpayments, rent arrears and other sundry debts.

In order to carry out the council’s statutory duties and obligations it is necessary for us to collect personal information from you, such as your name, address, contact details and other supporting personal information.

The council may also collect personal information in some cases to administer and process the collection of Non Domestic Rates.

How will we use the information we hold about you?

The council will collect information about you for

  • The administration and collection of Council Tax/Non Domestic Rates
  • The assessment of your entitlement to benefits
  • Administration and collection of outstanding funds owed to the Council
  • Where the processing is necessary to comply with legal obligations, for example the prevention or detection of crime including fraud
  • The protection of public funds

What is the basis for us to process your data?

The council’s legal obligation under the following legislation

  • Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 as amended
  • Local Government Finance Act 1992
  • Welfare Reform Act 2012
  • Localism Act 2011
  • Social Security Contribution & Benefits Act 1992
  • Housing Benefit Regulations 2006
  • Housing Benefit (Persons who have attained the qualifying age for state pension credit) Regulations 2006
  • Council Tax Support Reduction Scheme
  • The prevention / detection of crime, including false representation in accordance with the Fraud Act

Who we will share your information with?

We will only share information with other organisations where it is necessary, either to comply with a legal obligation, or where permitted under Data Protection legislation; for example where sharing is necessary for us to carry out the Council Tax function or if there is a public interest to do so such as the prevention and, or detection of crime. In certain situations this could include the need to disclose sensitive or confidential information such as medical details to other organisations.

The council may be required to share information with other organisations that inspect or handle public funds to prevent and detect fraud including, for example

  • Department for Works and Pensions
  • HM Revenues and Customs
  • National Audit Office
  • Cabinet Office
  • The Police
  • Other Local Authorities

Data Matching

Central Government is responsible for the National Fraud Initiative (NFI), which carries out data matching exercises. Data matching is comparing computer records held by one organisation with other computer records held by the same organisation or a different one.

Computerised data matching assists the council to identify claims for a reduction and payments that may be fraudulent. A match does not necessarily mean that fraud exists, it means that there is an inconsistency between the sets of records that need investigating.

Other ways we may use your details

We may also use our customer details within the council for

  • Keeping the Electoral Register up to date
  • Licensing private rented properties
  • Collecting debts owed to the council
  • Other services areas within the council where the law allows or requires it, or to improve the service you receive

In order to do this it means we may share your information with enforcement agents and, or debt management organisations engaged by us and the Courts in relation to outstanding money owed. It may also be necessary to share your information with the Police and credit reference agencies to help prevent and detect a crime or fraud and to confirm who is resident at an address.

The Council may utilise the services of third parties to help determine liability and the best course of recovery action.

How long do we keep your records?

We will only keep your information for the minimum period necessary. The information outlined in this privacy statement will be kept after all action on your account has finished and the period required by the Council for legal or audit purposes has passed. All information will be held securely and will be securely destroyed when it is no longer required.

For further information

For details regarding your rights under Data Protection law or how to make a complaint if you think we have mishandled your personal information, please visit our data protection and privacy page.

Council Tax - If You Receive A Court Summons

If you receive summons to appear before the Magistrate's Court for non-payment of Council Tax it will include an additional charge of £65 in costs added to the total amount outstanding on your Council Tax account.

If the total Council Tax outstanding, including the £65 additional charge shown on the Court Summons, is paid before the court hearing date, also shown on the Court Summons, then there will be no further action.

If you cannot pay the full amount outstanding before the court hearing date

If you cannot pay the full amount due before the court hearing date you do not need to attend court yourself. At the hearing Epping Forest District Council will ask the court to grant a Liability Order for the debt owing on your Council Tax account. The granting of a Liability Order will result in a further £30 in costs being added to the total amount outstanding on your Council Tax account.

Once a Liability Order has been granted Epping Forest District Council is empowered to recover the full amount outstanding after 14 days through recovery procedures which can include extra costs and the use of enforcement agents.  If you are still unable to pay off the entire amount owing the Council will always consider a Special Payment Arrangement, agreed to by both parties, for the outstanding balance to be paid in instalments.

Setting up a Special Payment Arrangement

If you are still unable to pay your Council Tax in full after you have received a Court Summons for non-payment we recommend that you set-up a Special Payment Arrangement right away. A Special Payment Arrangement will be inclusive of all costs and will enable you to come to an agreement with Epping Forest District Council for your outstanding Council Tax account to be paid in manageable instalments.  If you keep up with the agreed instalments then no further action will be required.

If a special payment arrangement is agreed the Council will still apply to the Court for a Liability Order as the balance would not have been paid in full before the Hearing date however if the special payment arrangement is maintained then no further action will be required.

You can set up a Council Tax Special Payment Arrangement by downloading the form below:

Please complete the Special Payment Arrangement form with as much detail as possible, then attach and email to: recovery@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

IMPORTANT: If you are in dispute over the amount of Council Tax you are liable to pay

If you consider for any reason that you are not liable for the Council Tax charge you should contact the Council Tax team immediately via email: counciltax@eppingforestdc.gov.uk .This will save you and the Court time.

Please be aware that your Council Tax will remain due and payable whilst your liability to pay is being looked into, we therefore recommend that if you are unable to pay the balance in full you should still set up a special payment arrangement whilst your liability is being looked into. If your liability is amended your special payment arrangement will then be adjusted accordingly.

Single person's discount review


What should you do now?

Please confirm your current details by clicking on the single person's discount review link above.

To access your form you will need to enter your unique PIN number. You can find this PIN number on the letter we have sent to you. If you have any questions regarding the form or require further information click on the link below to access the frequently asked questions page.

More about the single person's discount review

Epping Forest District Council is continuing to review discounts which will help identify fraudulent claims among Council Tax payers who are attempting to cheat the system. Each year local authorities nationwide receive a high volume of applications for single person's discount.

Sadly some of these applications are not genuine and just like benefit cheats; these people are claiming reductions in their bills falsely. Legislation exists which allows Council Tax cheats to be prosecuted in the same way that benefit cheats are; through the court system and made to pay back the money they owe.

Checks will be made to ensure everyone who claims the discount is genuine. However, occasionally circumstances may not be so easy to explain. To help in these situations we have included the most frequently asked questions that can arise throughout this review period.

 

Empty homes review


What should you do now?

Please confirm your current details by clicking on the empty homes review link above.

To access your form you will need to enter your unique PIN number. You can find this PIN number on the letter we have sent to you. If you have any questions regarding the form or require further information click on the link below to access the frequently asked questions page.

More about the empty homes review

Epping Forest District Council is conducting a review of all empty homes within the district to ensure records are up to date and any discounts are given to those entitled.

Occasionally circumstances may not be so easy to explain. To help in these situations we have included the most frequently asked questions that can arise throughout this review period.

Changes to Council Tax and Benefits


Changes to Council Tax discounts and exemptions

In December 2012, the Government passed new legislation which set out changes to Council Tax discounts and exemptions in respect of second homes and certain categories of empty properties.  In addition, the Government granted the billing authorities new powers to charge an additional amount of Council Tax on properties that have been continuously empty for more than two years.  Details of the changes, that will all take effect from 1 April 2013, are set out below:
 
• The Government abolished the current exemption class C (unoccupied and unfurnished) and replaced this with a discount to be determined locally by Councils.
• The Government abolished the current exemption class A (uninhabitable) and replaced this with a discount to be determined locally by Councils.
• The Government has granted permission to the billing authority to levy an ‘empty homes premium’ on properties that have been empty over 2 years.
• The Government has allowed the billing authority to charge the full council tax on second homes.

What we have decided

As a result of the above, we agreed the following changes at Full Council on 18 December 2012:

• Unoccupied and unfurnished property – the current 100% exemption for up to 6 months has been abolished. Instead we will give a discount of 100% for up to 3 months.  This has  been further amended by the Council at the meeting which took place on 3rd November 2016 – see below *
• Uninhabitable property – the current 100% exemption for up to 12 months has been abolished.  Instead we will give a discount of 50% for up to 12 months.
• Long term empty property – currently we charge 100% after 12 months.  Instead the 100% will now be charged after 3 months & we will also add a 50% premium to those that have been continuously empty for 2 years.
• Second homes – currently a 10% discount can be given, which will be reduced to 5%.

All of these changes will come into effect from 1 April 2013.

* That with effect from 1st April 2017 properties which are or have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for a period of 1 month will be subject to the full Council Tax, charged in accordance with the valuation band of the dwelling.

What we cannot change

We are often asked questions, such as why we do not charge Council Tax to certain people, or why don’t we give exemptions to other people?  The answer, for the most part, is that the majority of Council Tax rules and regulations are set by Central Government in legislation and we do not have the power to change them.  Here are a few examples of things that we have no discretion to change:

• Decisions about whether a property is eligible or not for Council Tax.
• The banding (the Government's valuation office agency determine these) .
• The rules around who is liable to pay Council Tax.
• The amount of the discount (25%) given to sole occupiers, or the criteria for claiming it.
• The rules around other properties being exempt from Council Tax e.g., where the owner has died or resides in a nursing home.
• The rules around other properties being allowed a discount from Council Tax e.g. where the occupants fall into certain categories, such as students, carers or those who are severely mentally impaired.

Changes to Council Tax Benefit

The Government has abolished the current national Council Tax Benefit Scheme and has instructed local authorities to run their own schemes from 1 April 2013.  Epping Forest’s scheme is called the Local Council Tax Support LCTS).  However, the Government has said that it will not fully fund the new local schemes, which means in Epping Forest an overall reduction in funding of 10% or around £1.2 million.  In addition, the Government has stated there will be no reduction in the amount of help pensioners currently receive, which will result in the majority of those below pensionable age being responsible for paying at least 25% of the full Council Tax for their home.

For more information about this Council’s Local Council Tax Support Scheme please visit the benefits section.
Their contact details are: email benefits@eppingforestdc.gov.uk or telephone 01992 564155.

For more information about Council Tax, including advice and guidance about making payments or spreading your payments over 12 months, rather than the usual 10, please visit council tax section. Their contact details are: email counciltax@eppingforestdc.gov.uk or telephone 01992 564188/564189.