COUNCIL TAX – ANNUAL SINGLE PERSON DISCOUNT

Set out below is an email I have been sent, plus a background explanation.

Dear Councillor 

Please find a briefing note regarding the forthcoming Council Tax Single Person Discount Review.

If you have any questions relating to this exercise please do not hesitate to contact me.

The text of the Briefing Note is: 

BACKGROUND:When a Council Taxpayer lives alone or is the only person over 18 living at the address, they are entitled to a 25% Single Person Discount. Of the 350,000 registered Council Taxpayers when the 2019/20 annual bills were issued in March 2019, there were more than 125,000 Single Person Discounts in Leeds, including those in receipt of Council Tax Support. The average Single Person Discount is currently £320 per year. 

UPDATE:The Council Tax Service is once again conducting an annual exercise to check entitlements to Single Person Discount through Capita Local Government Services.  Capita were chosen under the Council’s Contract Procurements Rules as they have significant experience in this area and represent value for money.    

It is essential that we proactively review Single Person Discounts to ensure that these are not incorrectly awarded as this would detrimentally affect income from Council Tax Collection. All Council Taxpayers who are in receipt of Single Person Discount and not Council Tax Support are reminded of their duty to declare any change that means that they are no longer entitled to the discount when the annual bills issued. This exercise targets households where Credit Reference and other agencies indicate that there is a possibility that the occupier may not be the only adult living in the property. Recipients of Council Tax Support are excluded from this exercise as the household status is maintained as part of the maintenance of the Council Tax Support award. The review has been instrumental in ensuring that Single person Discounts are not incorrectly awarded.  

Single Person Discount awards as a proportion of Council Taxpayers has reduced from 37.3% when we began the review exercise on 2015-16 to 35.8% now. Whilst the number of charged accounts has increased by 11,442 from 339,067 to 350,509 in this period the number of Single Person Discounts has reduced by 798 from 126,423 to 125,625 in this period. 

This year, we have identified 30,795 accounts for review, and the file has been sent to Capita to data-match against credit reference records and other sources of information.  These checks identify where there is an indication that another adult has links to that address. The data-match checks have identified 13,936 accounts where we are to review entitlement to Single Person Discount and issue review letters. These figures are similar to previous exercises. 

This does not necessarily mean that there is someone else living at the property, so we will write to the Council Taxpayer asking them to confirm that they remain entitled to the Single Person Discount. As with previous reviews, Council Taxpayers will be asked to reply to the review letter and to confirm that they are the only adult resident at the property, or whether someone else also lives there too.  Council Taxpayers are encouraged to complete the review online, or alternatively to return the review form. A reminder letter will be sent if the review letter is not returned.  

If the Council Taxpayer fails to respond, we will write to them to advise that their Single Person Discount has been cancelled back to 1st April 2019.  

The review letters are to be issued over a two week period commencing 26 August 2019. 

Additionally, this year we to are to undertake further investigations into a sample of those where it is determined by the risk scoring  mechanism there is a higher risk that there is an additional occupier in the household who declare that they remain the sole occupier, to gain a better understanding of the value of the exercise and inform future activity in relation to reviewing Single Person Discounts.