Council calls for swift reporting of changes in circumstances to avoid financial penalties

Councillors at South Somerset District Council have approved the introduction of Council Tax Penalties and Civil Penalties in Housing Benefit from 1 April 2017.

Not reporting a change that can affect any type of reduction in Council Tax will now result in a penalty of £70 being issued. A penalty of £50 will be issued if you do not report a change that affects your Housing Benefit entitlement.

To avoid a penalty, you must report your changes in circumstances within one month of the change happening to avoid a penalty. Do not rely on someone else to pass on the information, not even the Job Centre, Pension Service or your landlord.

The Council is giving anyone who has not already reported a past change affecting their entitlement the chance to do so up until the 1 May 2017 without a £70 or £50 penalty being issued.

A relevant change could be another adult moving in to a property, or an increase in household income. These are only examples and more information is available on our website at www.southsomerset.gov.uk/penalties.   

If you are unsure if you are still entitled to a Council Tax discount or Housing Benefit, please call us on 01935 462462 to check.

A spokesman for South Somerset District Council said, "Recipients of a Council Tax discount (e.g. single person discount) or exemption, Council Tax Support and Housing Benefit have a legal duty to tell the Council about a change in their circumstances that reduces the level of discount or benefit.

"Any reduction that a Council Tax payer continues to receive but is not entitled to is lost income to South Somerset District Council, Somerset County Council, Avon and Somerset Police, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authorities and Parish Councils. This either means everyone pays more in Council Tax or there is less money for vital local services."

The Council has a compliance programme which is successful in finding unreported changes but often they happened some time ago. This leads to a large backdated bill or invoice being issued which the individual then struggles to pay.

Council Tax penalties will normally be added to the Council Tax account and a new bill issued. Housing Benefit penalties will normally be collected from on-going benefit or through an invoice.

Introducing penalties is designed to encourage the swift reporting of changes in circumstances which will benefit the individual as well as the wider tax payer. That way we can make sure everyone is getting the right amount of support.

Reporting a change is easy. There are online forms at www.southsomerset.gov.uk/online-services or you can call 01935 462462. You can also visit any of our offices to report your change.