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Council cracks down on tax discount fraud

Lynn News Web Site Fillers

Lynn News Web Site Fillers

Thousands of West Norfolk residents could have to prove they are entitled to council tax relief under a new clampdown on discounts in the borough.

From today, all cases in which residents receive a single person occupancy discount, which amounts to 25 per cent of a council tax bill, are to be reviewed by the borough council.

The authority fears it could be missing out on hundreds of thousands of pounds in extra payments if new projections of the proportion of incorrect claims are accurate.

Officials said that householders will only be contacted if a mismatch is found.

But Adrian Lawrence, cabinet member for community and housing, warned: “If, following investigation, we find that someone has been fraudulently claiming the discount, we will revoke it and could pursue prosecution.”

Council tax bills are calculated on a presumption that two adults live in an individual property.

However, groups including students, recent school 
leavers, people being looked after in care homes, carers for disabled people who are not their partner or child, members of religious groups and prisoners are not counted towards residency.

The authority said it has 21,619 accounts that receive the single occupancy rebate, which equates to some £380 off the annual bill for an average band D property.

But new figures have suggested four per cent of such claims nationally are false.

And, if that pattern is repeated in West Norfolk, the council estimates it would be losing around £210,000 in extra tax revenues.

Although every case will be reviewed, officers have said they will only write to individual residents if they find discrepancies in the information they have.

Forms for affected residents to supply information supporting their claims 
will be sent out with each 
letter.

And Mr Lawrence said the benefits would be stopped if people were thought to have given incorrect information or did not return the forms.

He added: “Keeping the borough council’s element of the council tax bill to a minimum is a priority, so it is important that we ensure that those that are entitled to discounts receive them, but that we clamp down on fraudulent activity to ease the burden on others.

“The reason for this review is to pick up on any incorrect claims and give people a chance to put them right.

“Many false claims come about purely because people have forgotten to tell us about a change in circumstances and are not the result of a wilful attempt to cheat the 
system.”

 

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