WEST NORFOLK: Council calls for back up in the battle against tax cheats
A CREDIT reference agency is set to smoke out council tax cheats in parts of Fenland and West Norfolk.About 30 per cent of households in the borough claim a single resident discount of 25 per cent off their annual bill - a reduction offered to people liv
A CREDIT reference agency is set to smoke out council tax cheats in parts of Fenland and West Norfolk.
About 30 per cent of households in the borough claim a single resident discount of 25 per cent off their annual bill - a reduction offered to people living on their own.
But councillors have agreed to the use of a third-party agency to check credit applications and mobile phone accounts at the addresses to discover if the discounts could be being claimed dishonestly.
A report to West Norfolk council's cabinet estimates that if 7 per cent of the claims prove to be invalid, it could generate an extra council tax income of over £500,000.
Council leader Nick Daubney said: "This has worked very well with other local authorities. Taxes are not popular but if we have to pay them we must pay them legally and fairly."
Under the scheme, a list of addresses which have been awarded single resident discount would be given to the agency, which will cross-reference it against credit reference records to show if more than one person could be living there.
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Further investigations would then be made to assess if the discount should still apply - for example, where the second household member is a student or resident in a care home.
But those found to be wrongly claiming the discount could be fined or face prosecution for theft.
Councillors were also advised the process would not involve the release of any sensitive personal information.
The report says: "Data matching services by credit reference agencies operate on an 'address only' basis.
"No personal details are disclosed by either the council or by the agency therefore there is no breach, or potential breach, of the Data Protection Act 1998."
The measures approved by the cabinet on Tuesday include a publicity campaign to warn about the crackdown and offer an amnesty to allow anyone incorrectly claiming the discount to have their account recalculated without further penalties before the review begins.
It will also encourage those who are legally entitled to the discount to come forward and claim it, including elderly and vulnerable people who may not be aware of their entitlements.