Kirklees Council tracking tax cheats

Kirklees Council tracking tax cheats
By Tony Earnshaw
Local Democracy Reporter

MILLIONS in unpaid Council Tax could be recovered in Kirklees via legislation that allows local authorities to share information on debt.

It means anyone working or who has an income, but who fails to pay their Council Tax, could have it deducted from their wages. And it could mean people having to repay money from as far back as 1993 when the tax was introduced by John Major’s government.

Senior Kirklees councillor Graham Turner said: “It’s time for those who are avoiding Council Tax to play their part.”

Kirklees Council collected more than £202m during 2018/19. But it is still owed around £9.8million, which remained unpaid at the end of the financial year on March 31.

Now 29 councils, including Kirklees, have partnered with HM Revenue and Customs to pilot a scheme to recover the cash. If successful it could be rolled out wider.

The act allows councils to obtain employer and income information from HMRC for people who have failed to pay their Council Tax and have an order made to pay by the local magistrates court.

Through the one-year trial, non-paying customers who are employed or have an income will be contacted to engage and start paying their debts. If they cannot pay they will be encouraged to contact their local authority to discuss their situation.

Any who does not will have their debt deducted directly from their earnings through their employer. Letters will be issued over the next few weeks.

The council says it will support anyone who makes contact about struggling to pay their debts by putting them in touch with debt advice providers.

Coun Turner said: “If someone has an outstanding court order that goes back many years and the information from the HMRC helps us track them down then we will pursue them.”

He added: “It is wholly unfair that there is a minority of people in Kirklees who benefit from, but refuse to contribute to, the collective pot at a time when local authorities are relying more and more heavily on Council Tax to deliver vital services.

“We will continue to support those people who are struggling to make ends meet with help from our colleagues in debt advice, but it’s time for those who are avoiding Council Tax to play their part.”

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