Old council tax "arrears"

My local council recently contacted me re supposed council tax arrears of £1800.  As I’ve diligently paid fully and on time as far as my bank records go (7 years) I was surprised and asked for more details.  They sent a summary (without supporting paperwork) and it turns out the arrears refer to over 20 years ago – the supposed arrears balance has remained almost unchanged since then.

They’ve advised this balance was included on my annual council tax summary – never took any notice of it as I thought there must be a mistake as they had never actively pursued or questioned this supposed balance in 20 years.  I just looked at the monthly payments for the year and dutifully paid.

Now they’re aggressively pursuing these supposed arrears which, as I’ve now retired, am in no position to pay.  Has anyone else encountered a similar situation and could recommend a course of action?


Comments

  • lincroft1710
    lincroft1710 Posts: 17,602 Forumite
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    Does there appear to be any substance in their claim of arrears?
    If you are querying your Council Tax band would you please state whether you are in England, Scotland or Wales
  • As I've explained to them I have no idea.  Any supposed "arrears" refer to 20+ years ago.  The information they sent shows council tax has been paid fully and on time since then.  So I have no way of checking the validity of payments or non payments of 20+ years ago.  And I doubt the Council have fully complete and proveable records either.  I've stressed to them that if there were valid arrears why have they not once pursued or even communicated the recovery of these arrears in over 20 years until now.
  • marcia_
    marcia_ Posts: 1,745 Forumite
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    edited 16 June 2022 at 4:43PM
     Does statute if limitations apply to council tax arrears? 

     Though I'd be asking them for proof you owe it. Statements and bills from the period. If they cant provide the evidence I wouldn't pay 
  • lincroft1710
    lincroft1710 Posts: 17,602 Forumite
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    marcia_ said:
     Does statute if limitations apply to council tax arrears? 

     Though I'd be asking them for proof you owe it. Statements and bills from the period. If they cant provide the evidence I wouldn't pay 
    As the OP says the council claim the balance was included on their annual CT  summary then the statute of limitations would not apply.
    If you are querying your Council Tax band would you please state whether you are in England, Scotland or Wales
  • Re Statue of Limitations  (6 years), the Council appear to be taking the line that the monthly payments were clearing the "arrears" balance whilst the new payments due weren't being paid, even though the amounts due and paid matched exactly for each of the past 20 years.
  • elsien
    elsien Posts: 32,654 Forumite
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    edited 16 June 2022 at 5:49PM
     Can you remember a time when you may have had difficulty in paying for any reason? Prove it letter, then if it does turn out that you owe the money, negotiate an affordable payment plan?
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • lincroft1710
    lincroft1710 Posts: 17,602 Forumite
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    philday said:
    Re Statue of Limitations  (6 years), the Council appear to be taking the line that the monthly payments were clearing the "arrears" balance whilst the new payments due weren't being paid, even though the amounts due and paid matched exactly for each of the past 20 years.
    SOL would only apply if there had been no mention of the debt for 6 years. It appears that you have been paying off the arrears and the debt relates to current CT. In no way have the council failed to inform you of the debt
    If you are querying your Council Tax band would you please state whether you are in England, Scotland or Wales
  • Thanks for your replies.  The council's annual tax statement includes a balance that doesn't mention arrears or debt.  As mentioned I have no way of checking the validity of transactions over 20 years ago and am perplexed as to why the Council has taken no action or specific communication for 20 years until now.  Don't want to take the risk of the matter being taken to court but if it does a magistrate/judge might also be asking why.
  • Be very careful. Your situation is too eerily similar to what happened to me back in 2017. On reading your post, what threw me off at 1st was the "20 years ago" & "annual tax statement" statements.
    My issue only came to light in Feb 2017 when I received correspondence from the city council stating "here is the documentation you requested(I never requested anything)".
    Looking at what was sent out, I spotted 2 errors. The 1st was mine which I made in 2015 so the subsequent error every year to 2017 was compounded. The 2nd was by the council, 33 transactions made from receipt of 2 payments in Nov stood out like a sore thumb.

    It took a further 2 years of back & forth to finally get the issue cleared once & for all.
    Lincroft1710 has hit the nail on the head.
    I believe that you have been hit by  "auto allocation to arrears" which pays off arrears leaving the current bill unpaid.
    The other "sore thumb" that sticks out is why weren't you summoned for non-payment of the current year? One is normally issued by the end of May if the 1st 2 monthly payments are not received.

    Contact the council & request a statement of all payments received. I received one in Feb 2017 that was not requested. I was fortunate in that I only became liable for CT in 2014 making it easier to track down any issues.
    My best advice to you is Stay on top of this.
  • lincroft1710
    lincroft1710 Posts: 17,602 Forumite
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    philday said:
    Thanks for your replies.  The council's annual tax statement includes a balance that doesn't mention arrears or debt.  As mentioned I have no way of checking the validity of transactions over 20 years ago and am perplexed as to why the Council has taken no action or specific communication for 20 years until now.  Don't want to take the risk of the matter being taken to court but if it does a magistrate/judge might also be asking why.
    If your CT statement shows an outstanding amount owed by you then it is a debt. As you appear not to have queried the amount still owed at the end of the financial year, then after 20 years it would be difficult to argue you did not owe this money. Conveniently for them, some councils seem to longer hold CT records that long, so do not be too surprised when you ask the council how this all started, they are unable to tell you. But you must ask. 
    If you are querying your Council Tax band would you please state whether you are in England, Scotland or Wales
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