Council Tax Reduction FAQs

Disputes and appeals

What are my options if I do not agree with the council’s decision?

If you have received a decision about Council Tax Reduction, there are three things you can do if you think the decision is wrong.

If you don’t understand the decision, you can ask us to explain it to you and then if you are still not happy you can ask us to look at the decision again.

If you still think we are wrong you can then appeal to the Valuation Tribunal Service, an independent body, who will look into the case and change the decision if they think the council is wrong.

There are time limits for asking for decisions to be looked at again and for appealing.

You must contact us within one calendar month from the date of our decision notification giving reasons why you think our decision is wrong, however under certain circumstances the council may extend this time. You can:

  • Complete our online appeals form
  • Write to us at Wigan Council, Customer Services, PO Box 100, Wigan, WN1 3DS.

We do not accept telephone calls.

If we have looked at the decision again and you still disagree, you then have two months to appeal directly to the Valuation Tribunal Service yourself. You can only appeal your Council Tax Reduction decision to the Valuation Tribunal Service if you have first asked the council to look at your decision again.

Do I need to continue to pay my council tax during a dispute or appeal?

Yes, you must still make the payments shown on your council tax bill. If you stop paying we may take recovery action against you to recover the amounts due on your bill. You may also incur costs.

How do I ask for an explanation of the decision before I decide to take it further?

If you have received a letter telling you about your Council Tax Reduction and want more information about how the decision was reached, you can request a ‘written statement of reasons’ using the online form.

Many problems are sorted out at this stage when simple mistakes and misunderstandings can be corrected.

When to contact us?

If you would like an explanation for the council's decision, you must contact us straight away. If you then want us to look at the decision again, you must do so within one month of the date on the decision letter, however under certain circumstances the council may extend this time.

What happens next?

Once you have received your statement of reasons, if you still disagree with the decision, you can ask us to look at the decision again.

You cannot appeal to the Valuation Tribunal Service unless you have asked the council to look at the decision again and are not happy with the result.

What happens if I want you to look at the decision again?

When you ask us to look at a decision again, we will check the original decision. This is called a “reconsideration”.

You must ask us to look at the decision again within one month of the date of the letter notifying you of the original decision, however under certain circumstances the council may extend this time.

We will send you a letter to tell you the outcome of the reconsideration.

If the council’s decision was wrong and you contacted us within the time limits, the change will be backdated to the date the original decision became effective.

If your request was outside the time limits and you did not have special circumstances, the decision will usually be changed from the date we received your request to look at the decision again.

If we consider the council’s original decision was correct, we will send you a letter telling you that we cannot change it.

The letter will tell you whether or not you can appeal against the original decision. If you decide to appeal, you have two months from the date of this letter to do so.

Who can query a decision?

Normally, it is the claimant who is the “person affected” by the decision, however there are special rules if you are not claiming the benefit yourself.

See page 96 of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme to see who can act on your behalf or be an appointee.

If you are an appointee for another person you can ask us to look again at a decision about their Council Tax Reduction and you may be able to appeal on their behalf. The letter telling you about the decision will tell you about the appeal process.

What if I am outside the time limits?

Decision time limits

Unless you have special circumstances, the council may not be able to accept your request for an explanation of a decision (with the intention to take further action), or for a reconsideration of a decision (with the intention to appeal) if it is received more than a calendar month after the date of the decision letter.

You should tell us what the special circumstances are when you contact us.

Appeal time limits

Your appeal may not be accepted by the Valuation Tribunal Service and/or the council if it is received more than two months after the date on the reconsideration decision letter.

A late appeal will be accepted if you have special circumstances that caused the delay. These could be a death, a serious illness, absence abroad, a postal strike or some other special circumstance.

You should include an explanation of why you could not appeal within two months in your letter. If the Valuation Tribunal decides you do not have a good reason for appealing late they will refuse to accept your appeal.

The Tribunal will look at the reasons you have given for not appealing in time and will decide if your appeal can be accepted. They will look at:

  • When the notice was actually received
  • If you were informed of the right of appeal
  • If you acted with all reasonable speed in the circumstances
  • If you have provided, with sufficient proof, any reasons to justify delay, such as illness, absence from home or bereavement
  • Is the delay such that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to permit the appeal to be heard or heard fairly.

There is no right of appeal against a Valuation Tribunal decision to reject an application. A further application may be made only on the basis of completely new information that was not available or known at the time of the earlier application.

How do I make a Council Tax Reduction Support appeal?

You must first write to the council giving the reasons why you think the decision is wrong. You must do this within one calendar month from the date of the decision letter you wish to appeal.

We will then write to you to let you know if the decision has been changed or not. This is called a reconsideration.

If you still think the council’s decision is wrong, you then have two months to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal Service.

You may also appeal if the council do not get back to you within 2 months of you writing to them for a reconsideration.

You will need to fill in the Valuation Tribunals appeal form on line and send this to the Valuation Tribunal yourself.

The Valuation Tribunal Service prefer you to appeal online using this form, however, if you do not have access to the internet, you can write to them at: 3rd Floor, Crossgate House, Wood Street, Doncaster DN1 3LL.

What Council Tax Reduction disputes can I appeal against?

You can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal Service against your council’s decision about:

  • Whether you are entitled to a council tax reduction
  • How much of a reduction the council has awarded you under the local scheme
  • If the council have not got back to you with the outcome of its decision (reconsideration) within 2 months of you writing to them for a reconsideration.

The Tribunal cannot hear appeals about what is in the council’s scheme, only about the way the scheme has been applied in your case.

What does the tribunal look at?

The tribunal can only look at the evidence, the law and the circumstances at the time we made the decision you are appealing against. The tribunal cannot look at changes of circumstances that happened after the council has made the decision.

If a change of circumstances could affect your Council Tax Reduction or mean you could claim again, you should report it straight away.

Do not wait for the appeal hearing. The Council contact details can be found on your decision letter.

The Valuation Tribunal Service cannot:

  • Change the law
  • Award costs
  • Advise you whether you have a case
  • Advise whether you are likely to win or lose your appeal
  • Advise you if you should appeal or not
  • Help you prepare their case.

Who will decide?

The Valuation Tribunal Service will decide your appeal at a tribunal hearing. The tribunal is made up of one or two members who do not work for us. They will be experts on the issues involved in your appeal and at least one will be legally qualified.

What types of hearings are there?

Hearings can be either:

Oral, in which one or all parties are present

OR

Written (a decision without a hearing).

Oral hearing

Most hearings are Oral hearings where all parties attend, give evidence and are questioned.

However, there can also be an oral hearing where only 1 party is present. This is called an Appeal heard in absence.

This is when either you or the council representative are not present at a hearing but have submitted a written case to the Valuation Tribunal to be considered at a hearing where:

You or the council representative will be present

OR

Both you and the authority have sent in written evidence - this will then become a decision without a hearing.

If you choose not to attend the hearing you must notify the Valuation Tribunal and you will need to provide them with written evidence 14 days in advance of the hearing date.

If the notification is sent less than 14 days before the hearing the Tribunal will check with the other party to see if they are happy for a written submission to be accepted.

If you choose an Appeal heard in absence or a decision without a hearing but change your mind, you can then choose to have an oral hearing  - you must let the Valuation Tribunal Service know straight away.

If the Valuation Tribunal Service think they need you to go to an oral hearing they can refuse your request for a paper hearing.

The address to send written evidence to is: VT Office, Hepworth House, 2 Trafford Court, Doncaster, DN1 1PN.

What do I need to do if I want a written hearing?

A written hearing is known as a Decision without hearing. This is an appeal hearing that neither party go to.

If you choose not to attend the hearing you must notify the Valuation Tribunal and you will need to provide them with written evidence 14 days in advance of the hearing date.

If the notification is sent less than 14 days before the hearing the Tribunal will check with the other party to see if they are happy for a written submission to be accepted.

If the tribunal think they need you to go to an oral hearing they can refuse your request for a paper hearing.

If you choose a paper hearing but change your mind, you can then choose to have an oral hearing - you must let the Valuation Tribunal Service know straight away.

The address to send written evidence to is: VT Office, Hepworth House, 2 Trafford Court, Doncaster, DN1 1PN.

Once the appeal has been heard the Tribunal Service will send you the decision. You should use the form the Tribunal Service will send you to add any more information that you think will help your case.

What happens at an oral hearing?

This is an appeal hearing that just you or the council or both attend.

  • The tribunal may ask you questions
  • You can ask questions
  • You can take someone with you to represent you
  • You can call witnesses to give evidence to the tribunal
  • If a council representative attends the hearing, they may ask you questions and call witnesses
  • If you choose an oral hearing but find you cannot go, you must let the Tribunal Service know straight away. You must have a good reason for not attending, such as illness. You may be able to arrange another date. If you do not let the Tribunal Service know you cannot go to the hearing, the tribunal may strike out your appeal.
  • Oral hearings are usually open to the public, but anyone who goes to the hearing will usually be involved in the appeal. You can ask to have your appeal heard in private.

Can I claim expenses?

The Valuation Tribunal Service does not pay expenses.

You will have to meet your own costs in going to the tribunal hearing, including any loss of earnings, and the costs of anyone you choose to represent you.

What happens if I want to attend the hearing but am unable to?

If you are unable to attend then a postponement can be given. Contact the Valuation Tribunal Service and let them know as soon as possible.

Can I cancel/withdraw my appeal?

Yes. You can withdraw your appeal at any time before the hearing date if you decide not to pursue your appeal. Contact the Valuation Tribunal Service as soon as possible.

Can I change my mind if I withdraw my appeal?

Yes. You have one month to apply to the Valuation Tribunal Service for your case to be reinstated, starting from when the Valuation Tribunal received notice of your withdrawal or from the date of the hearing, if you made your withdrawal there. You will need to provide reasons why your appeal should be reinstated.

When will I know the result of my appeal?

You will be given a decision notice explaining the tribunal's decision, whether you have an oral or written hearing, as soon as possible after the appeal hearing. A copy will be sent to the council office that made the original decision.

You can also ask the Valuation Tribunal for a statement of reasons. This gives an explanation of the tribunal's decision including the facts and the law used. You must ask for a statement of reasons within two weeks of the date you are given or sent the decision notice.

If your appeal is successful, we will usually put the decision right as soon as we receive our copy of the tribunal's decision. We may not put it right straight away if we wish to appeal against the Valuation Tribunal Service decision.

Remember – if the Valuation Tribunal Service finds you have been getting too much money, your benefit will be reduced.

Where do I go to get more help or information?

The Welfare Rights Unit, Citizens Advice Bureau and law centres can represent you and help you understand the reasons for decisions about Council Tax Reduction. They can also help you to fill in forms or to write a letter.

They will sometimes go with you to the tribunal that hears your appeal.

It will help if you show them any letters you have about the decision that you think is wrong. Trade Unions may also offer free advice to their members. They may also be able to speak for you at the tribunal that hears your appeal.

You may be able to get advice from a solicitor under the Legal Advice and Assistance Scheme. You can find out about this from a solicitor.

If you decide to use a solicitor, the scheme does not cover the cost of a solicitor to help you at a hearing. You cannot get any money for things like solicitor's fees from us or from the Valuation Tribunal Service.

For details of solicitors and advice centres, contact:

  • The Legal Aid Board, Franchise Development Group, 85 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8AA
  • UK Freephone 0500 282 3000

If you have an enquiry about any aspect of your Council Tax Reduction: 

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