Nearly three thousand people claiming single person discount on their council tax bills in North Dorset are to get a letter checking if they are still entitled to the 25 percent reduction.
District and borough councils in Dorset have hired the company Capita Local Government Services to sift through credit references and other data to check whether anyone is claiming the discount when they are no longer entitled to do so because another adult is now living with them.
In all, some 2,776 residents in North Dorset will get a letter in the coming days, asking recipients to fill in a form indicating whether they are still eligible for the reduction. They will also have the option to fill in a form online.
Based on previous operations the authorities estimate that around 5% of targeted households may be wrongly claiming the discount, and they could gain some £50,000 or so in extra annual revenue from North Dorset alone, with many times that across Dorset as a whole.
The councils say that ‘taxpayers who claim the discount improperly place an unnecessary burden on other residents and it is undertaking this review to stop this’.
However, officials say they are aware that people’s circumstances do change and that this operation gives them a chance to notify the authorities of this. ‘The idea is to get the data up to date,’ says Stuart Dawson who is Head of Revenues and Benefits for the Dorset Councils Partnership, which includes North Dorset District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.
‘Unless we’ve got evidence that there is a fraud we’re not looking to be looking back over time. If someone forgot to tell us and we believe it’s a genuine mistake we’re not going to put them in a position where they may find themselves with a bill for thousands of pounds,’ he said.
For most people whose circumstances have changed that will mean paying arrears back to 1 April 2017, the start of the financial year.