Unpaid Kirklees Council Tax Could Be Deducted From Wages

The local authority is still owed around £9.8million.

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 council 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.

Since the introduction of council tax 26 years ago local authorities across England and Wales have lost out on around £3bn in unpaid monies.

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

Alongside Kirklees other councils in Wakefield, Bradford, Barnsley and Rotherham are participating in the trial, making them the first to use the debt information sharing powers introduced by the Digital Economy Act (2017).

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 to pay by the local magistrates court.

The one-year pilot allows councils like Kirklees to work with HMRC to share employment information that will allow it (the council) to help manage and recover unpaid council tax, which could be used to improve services to residents.

Through the 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 immediately to discuss their situation.

Any who do 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.

Clr Turner (Lab, Denby Dale), who heads up the council’s corporate portfolio, said the vast majority of the borough’s charge-payers pay on time, with the money raised going towards vital services and some of the area’s most vulnerable people.

But he warned that the council would take a robust approach to those that owed money and who had been previously dealt with by the courts.

He 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.

“We hope this pilot will help give us the power to hold these people to account and recover unpaid council tax.”

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