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Council aims to recoup £1m from tax cheats

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: June 06, 2014

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A COUNCIL has gone to court in a bid to claw back more than £1 million of unpaid council tax.

More than 1,000 cheats are being pursued by East Staffordshire Borough Council - which is currently owed more than £2 million in tax.

The authority is seeking to have liability orders granted against another 1,176 people for non-payment of council tax.

The action is the latest part of the council’s war on tax cheats in the borough, with orders having already been served against 1,000 people this year.

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Last week, the Mail revealed that a total of £2.2 million in council tax remains unpaid in East Staffordshire.

The latest liability orders are aiming to recoup around half of that amount.

Chiefs have denied the huge shortfall will have a knock-on effect financially for the authority and insisted its record for collecting council tax was among the best in the country.

A council spokesman said: “Over the last three years, East Staffordshire Borough Council has collected more than 98 per cent of the council tax billed, which is more than the national average council tax collection.

“The council follows a number of recovery actions and the majority of arrears outstanding as at March 31, 2014 are being recovered through arrangements with individual tax payers.

“If any claimant is struggling to pay their council tax, we would urge them to call us as soon as possible or visit our Customer Service Centre in the Market Place, Burton.”

But Robert Oxley, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said councils needed to be tougher on tax cheats and offer support to those struggling to make payments.

He said: “With budgets tight, local authorities can’t afford to leave millions of pounds in tax uncollected.

“The borough council needs to be clear about why there is such difference between what’s owed and what’s expected. Tough action should be taken on those who refuse, while others who are simply struggling with rising bills should be helped with easier ways to pay.”

Freedom of Information figures also showed that around £200,000 in council tax was written off in the past year, following issues including bankruptcy, liquidation, and an inability to trace the debtor.

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