14:37 Thursday 06 February 2014

Tax dodgers in borough owe nearly £1 million

Written byRICH GUTTRIDGE

A COUNCIL owed nearly £1 million in unpaid tax is pursuing hundreds of more cheats.

East Staffordshire Borough Council is seeking to have liability orders granted against another 730 people for non-payment of council tax and 51 who failed to pay non-domestic – or business - rates, totalling more than £300,000.

The latest war on Burton’s tax cheats comes after the borough council filed for legal action over a £640,000 tax shortfall last month, meaning in total the authority is seeking to recoup is almost £1 million.

The unpaid council tax comes to a total of £189,199, while the authority lost out on £134,521 in business rates.

Most of the unpaid bills relate to the current financial year, the council said.

If the orders are granted, it will allow the authority to pursue the cash owed to it by other means such as deductions from earnings or benefits.

Robert Oxley, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said it was about striking the balance between punishing those deliberately avoiding paying tax and helping those who can’t afford to.

Residents in East Staffordshire currently pay some of the lowest council tax rates in the country.

Tax has not risen in the borough for the past four years, with the rates for 2014 due to be set by bosses later this month.

Mr Oxley said: “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.

“Keeping council tax low is the easiest way to ensure people don’t struggle to pay, while the council should always differentiate those who can’t pay and those who won’t pay.”

East Staffordshire Borough Council said residents in the borough had been offered initiatives to help them pay tax in instalments, while people struggling to meet payments were urged not to bury their heads in the sand.

Bernard Peters, the borough council’s deputy leader for service commissioning, said: “We must follow the procedures set down in law when recovering unpaid council tax and business rates.

“The council must issue reminder notices and summonses before applying for liability orders.

“We have taken the proactive step of providing residents with the option to pay their council tax over 12 monthly instalments, an increase from 10 months, reducing the monthly outgoings for those who may need it.

“If any council taxpayer or non-domestic rates payer is experiencing difficulties in paying their tax at any time after their initial bill is sent, we urge them to contact us as soon as possible by telephoning our revenues team on 01283 508030 or visiting our Customer Service Centre in the Market Place, Burton.”

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