Council tax penalties proposed for Lincoln residents cheating the system

Lincoln residents deliberately misleading the city council or avoiding paying their council tax bill in full will be fined £70 under new proposals.

City of Lincoln Council is set to consider approving proposals to implement council tax penalties for residents who knowingly provide false information or fail to give details to the authority within 21 days.

Currently, a penalty is only applied when a single person discount review is being undertaken, and for council tax support cases where fraud has been identified.

Penalties are not being applied for any other circumstances.

A penalty of £70 would now be imposed by the council in circumstances where a person fails to:

  • Notify the council without reasonable excuse on any matter which affects entitlement to a discount
  • Notify that their dwelling is no longer an exempt dwelling
  • Supply relevant information requested in order to establish liability such as: jointly liable for the tax, change of address within 21 days or as soon as practicable, change in liable party
  • Supply relevant information requested after the issue of a liability order has been obtained. Failure to supply could leave to a criminal prosecution and a fine

The fine would be added to the council tax payer’s bill, instalments would be adjusted and a revised demand notice would be issued.

To support its case, the council has identified several cases where a penalty could have been applied over a “monitoring period” in the past few months, which have seen the authority lose hundreds of pounds.

Examples include a homeowner failing to respond to requests for information to identify who should be a liable party, and a taxpayer not reporting when they stopped being a student.

The money the city council loses through council tax avoidance is the cause of controversy between senior politicians in Lincoln.

In September 2015, Lincoln MP Karl McCartney and city council leader Ric Metcalfe clashed over Freedom of Information data obtained by the Conservative Party, which revealed that the authority failed to gather over £4 million in unpaid council tax and business rates.

McCartney described the findings as “outrageous” while Councillor Metcalfe disputed the figures, claiming that the city council improved council tax collection over the last two years, and brought collection rates into line with the national average.

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney and council leader Ric Metcalfe clashed over unpaid council tax

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney and council leader Ric Metcalfe clashed over unpaid council tax

Claire Moses, Revenues and Benefits Manager at the council, said: “The council is legally entitled to obtain information from residents, owners or managing agents to help identify the person liable for payment of the council tax.

“The council is committed to a proactive approach in preventing and reducing the level of fraud within these areas and has a duty to protect the public funds it administers from abuse.

“It is aware of the risks within the system for fraud, error and other irregularity. In carrying out this duty, the authority may use legally obtained information provided for the purpose of the prevention and detection of fraud.”

City of Lincoln Council’s Executive will decide on the proposals at a meeting on March 29.