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12 November 2011, 06:00
23,000 local households across Watford and Three Rivers, which claim to be occupied by a single person, will be checked using the latest data matching technology, in a campaign aimed at clamping down on households that are fraudulently claiming a 25 per cent discount they are receiving off their Council Tax.
The crackdown is the biggest Council Tax anti-fraud initiative seen in the county since the introduction of the tax in 1993 and is set to roll-out across Hertfordshire. The additional income expected to be raised by the twelve week campaign is around £1.7million, of which 14% will be retained by local councils, with the remainder distributed between Herts County Council and the Police.
Both Three Rivers District Council and Watford Borough Council will also be working with the Audit Commission’s National Fraud Initiative (NFI), to match residency data to detect anyone who is fraudulently claiming the discount.
Currently under national rules, the amount of Council Tax payable on a property is reduced by 25% if a resident is living on their own.
Anyone claiming the Single Person Discount correctly does not need to take any action. However, anyone claiming the discount who is not entitled to it, is being encouraged to contact their local council so that a correct bill can be sent.
If the councils believe that there has been a deliberate attempt to wrongly claim the discount, they have the powers to charge a £70 financial penalty, in addition to claiming the unpaid Council Tax.
Elected Mayor of Watford, Dorothy Thornhill, said:
"This initiative is designed to cut down the number of fraudulent claims which result in a loss to public funds. We encourage residents to claim discounts that they are entitled to. However the cost of fraud falls on other taxpayers who end up paying more for vital services like waste collection, street cleaning, education, adult care services and the police."
Councillor Matthew Bedford, Executive Member responsible for Resources at Three Rivers District Council said:
"Anyone who thinks they may be incorrectly claiming a discount should come forward now. We will calculate their correct payment amount and agree a repayment plan with them. By doing this, they will avoid being prosecuted or fined."
There may be circumstances where households are legitimately claiming Single Person Discount but, for whatever reason, the household is flagged as having more than one occupant. If this is the case, residents need to inform their council and confirm their circumstances.
As well as encouraging those who receive the discount to contact us if they think they shouldn’t receive one any longer, both councils are also encouraging those who are the only adult resident in their home, to contact us, so that we can give them the discount they are entitled to.
If you suspect that someone you know is fraudulently claiming council tax discount you can report it at the freephone fraud hotline on tel: 0800 458 9200, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to www.watford.gov.uk or write to Three Rivers District Council at Three Rivers House, Northway, Rickmansworth, WD3 1RL or to Watford Council’s fraud section at the Town Hall, Watford, WD17 3EX.