You could get THOUSANDS wiped from council tax debts if you’re really struggling12/03/2021
HARD-UP households could have thousands of pounds of council tax debt cancelled if they are really struggling, as councils clear record levels of arrears, The Sun can reveal.
Local authorities can reduce or even completely write off your council tax debt if you don’t have money to pay your bills.
To do this, households must fill out a Section 13A application form, which can also be used to wipe your bill if your home has been damaged in a flood or a fire.
A Sun investigation has found that councils have been wiping clean a record level of council tax debt in recent years over the Covid pandemic.
Of the nine out of 13 councils who responded to The Sun’s freedom of information request, Brits owed a whopping £87.2million worth of council tax over 2020/21.
That’s up 35% from £64.5million recorded for the previous financial year, as hard-up families struggled to get by due to the pandemic.
This soaring bill is in part down to an increasing number of households who have fallen behind on paying their council tax.
Nearly a quarter of a million households were behind on this bill over 2020/21, up 21% from the previous year.
But nearly £2.7million worth of council tax debts was scrapped by local authorities during this same period.
The single highest household debt cleared was made by Sheffield City Council, who tore up one family’s outstanding payments worth £3,210.34.
While Middlesbrough was the council which wiped the highest total value of debt last year compared to any other local authority.
The sympathetic council told hard-up households they didn’t have to pay a combined total of £2.3million last year.
But The Sun has found that families face a postcode lottery when it comes to successfully getting their arrears swept under the carpet.
As it is down to councils alone to decide whether to knock cash off your bill, some councils are better at offering the help than others
Sutton council didn’t let any struggling families off the hook on their council tax debts last year, while Brent only let off two and Birmingham three.
Debt advisor Sara Williams, who runs personal finance blog Debt Camel, said she was “not surprised” that The Sun’s investigation shows that some councils are more willing to help families in debt that others.
“Many councils don't even explain how to apply for one on their website. You can still apply, every council is legally obliged to have a section 13A policy, but they don't want you to know about it.”
Debt Camel has a handy guide to help you fill out a Section 13A application form.
StepChange head of media Sue Anderson said that the charity will be able to help you “figure out the best path forward” if you’re in council tax debt and thinking about applying for help.
“Your local council can be a real source of help when you end up in financial difficulty, but as the issues around varying use of Section 13A shows, it can be a postcode lottery as to how much help you receive,” she added.
How do I make a claim?
You’ll have to put in a claim to get your council tax bill written off.
In order to do this, you’ll need to get a Section 13A application from your local council – you can find who your local authority is by using the gov.uk's online tool.
Make sure you have information about your financial situation to hand such as bank statements, benefit letters, and evidence of how much you earn and what savings you have.
Each council will decide on a case-by-case basis on how much they’ll wipe your debt off by.
According to Money Advice Hub, they may take into account the following factors when making their decision about your application:
- Evidence of financial hardship or unforeseen and exceptional circumstances that means you can't pay up
- Whether you already have a council tax discount in place and still can't pay
- You have no other money or assets you can sell to pay your bill
- You've explored all potential ways of paying your debt
- Your council tax payment history
- Whether you simply don't want to pay the bill
Once you’ve sent your application over to your local authority, you should be told about a decision within 14 days.
Here's other ways to save thousands on your council tax.
It comes as £400 could be added to the average household's bill by 2026.
We list nine benefits you could be missing out on – and how to check if you're owed cash.
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