Council Tax Premium - Impact of enforcing

Hi all,

I am looking into a proposal that my LA implements a Council Tax Empty Homes Premium in terms of LTE's of 2 years plus. I would like to do a benchmarking exercise to assess what the impact of implementing a premium may be for the Council.

I would really appreciate it if you could provide some feedback on the items below from your respective Councils, if you have implemented a premium to some degree.

  1. Number of Long Term (6 month+)Empty Properties brought back into use that can be directly attributable to the CT Premium (Including change of CT status from LTE to something else)in the first 12 months.
  2. Impact of the premium on the Council Tax team in terms of increased/decreased workload
  3. Any occurrences of CT fraud identified (e.g. Owners claiming property lived in but still actually empty) in an attempt to avoid the premium
  4. What percentage of premium do you charge and how was this decided?
  5. Do you allow any flexibility to how you apply the premium? e.g. If owners can show they are actively carrying out works to bring the property back into use.

Many Thanks in advance for your help

Adrian

Adrian Anderson

adrian.anderson@ne-derbyshire.gov.uk

Joint Empty Property Officer

North East Derbyshire and Bolsover District Councils

Forums: 
Council tax - discounts, access to info etc

Hi, I have nothing to add but am interested in the information gathered.  We have yet to make a decision on this matter, for implementation in April 2017, so would be keen to hear the impact others have experienced.

Sarah Williams

Public Protection/ Empty Property Officer

Ceredigion County Council

Sarah Williams

Public Protection Officer, Ceredigion County Council

Premium - One Hit Wonder or Enduring Classic?

Hi Adrian,

I am relatively new to the EPO role (Dec 2013) so little previous data to work on. I have began to gather data on it. I will let you know.

Background

In April 2014 Carlisle City Council introduced CT premium 50% >2yrs empty. We inserted a flyer promoting Empty Property Schemes with the letter from C Tax notifying c. 200 owners of the introduction of premium.

Answers to your Q’s

  1. Responses were immediate to the introduction of the Premium – varying from verbal abuse to “Great, how can I take up the grants / loans, please?”
  2. Workload? EPOs – guess no increase, in fact it has been a great help – but for C Tax, I do not know.
  3. I recently did a mailshot to those moving from Discount Class C (6mths -2yrs empty) to Premium. From 21 letters I got 9 immediate responses. Everything from “we are just moving in” to some useful engagements with owners on; VAT savings, assistance with getting contractors, changes of ownership, de-listing due to condition etc. I suspect most of the “just moving in” are not as they say. I have anecdotal evidence that once the two years are up some owners are declaring the property occupied by a single person to continue receiving discounts. Those who I suspect of playing the discount game will shortly receive an inspection from our visiting officer to confirm occupancy status.
  4. Since Apr 2014 - Two years empty = 50% premium.
  5. No flexibility – even when genuinely on the market. If I judge the owner is struggling with finances / renovations and there is a genuine commitment to the works, I do advise them to contact the C Tax & Valuation Office to have the property de-listed. But if there is evidence the owner will allow the property to further languish with an indefinite exemption I do not mention de-listing (my discretion?).

The premium brings in annually an additional £100k (200 homes) in C Tax. I am always quick to point out to the more verbally aggressive LTE owners that it is not a cynical ploy to raise revenue – but a means to stimulate the owner into getting the property back into use.

I am also interested in the impact of the introduction of the premium for other L.A.s. Interested too in the impact in Scotland where they have had the option of charging 200% C Tax on 12 months empty.

regards

On balance, I am not a fan. However, the Premium has some plus points that lead to the decsion to adopt a 150% charge here.

It was eye-catching meddling around the periphery of an outdated Local Taxation system. The Discounts and Exemptions were hastily thrown in to deter rebellion during the enactment of CT legislation decades ago. The 2012 'Technical Reforms of Council Tax' did not really do much reforming.

  1. None of those brought back into use can be directly and solely attributed to the levying of the Premium.
  2. And 3. When C/Ps find out they are about to be charged Premium, they will complain. This uses up call centre time. Complaints can escalate. Some CPs inform us that the home was occupied some time before. The CP needs to provide info that we have to ask for. There are those that claim it was occupied earlier, but are not being truthful – our CT inspection officer then needs to visit, etc. There are CPs that are disgusted that the Council is even charging Full charge on an empty – when we hit them with the Premium, they simply stop paying. This means more work for Debt Recovery – and we know that arrears with empty home owners are more difficult to recover than arrears on an occupied home. All in all, the Premium has most likely increased workloads, but we can’t say for sure how much. There isn’t time to monitor the impact. And as we can’t hand on heart say that it is, say, a nuisance to us in 20% of cases and a blessing in another 20%, the Government will continue to say it is the best thing in the world.
  3. Above
  4. We charge at 150% of full charge
  5. Possibly, subject to provision of proof and a visit by the CT inspector.

Has it raised extra revenue? Maybe, but that revenue is not ‘free’. We still have to fight to collect it.

Was it a good thing? It was just tinkering around the margins of a messed up local taxation system that was hastily constructed back in the 90’s It is what it is. It persuades a few CPs to get on with whatever they have not been getting on with.

Nick P-G
Reading BC
01189373091

Thanks to David and Kristen for sharing this. I have put a link to the relevant web-page on the Scottish Parliament site in our Library, though I think the majority of what people will be interested in can be found in the document cited by David/Kristen.