West Norfolk Council to consider scrapping tax discount on empty and uninhabitable homes

West Norfolk Council's offices
West Norfolk Council's offices

Tax discounts on empty and uninhabitable homes in West Norfolk could be scrapped under proposals to be examined by council chiefs today.

The move is one of three options put forward by officials in a review of the rebates the borough council currently offers on those properties.

They say reducing or removing the exemptions altogether could help to encourage site owners to accelerate development.

At present, the owner of an empty or unfurnished property in West Norfolk pays no council tax at all on it for up to three months.

An uninhabitable home is subject to a 50 per cent tax rebate for up to 12 months.

But a report to be debated by the authority’s ruling cabinet tonight contains three options to lower or abolish the discounts altogether.

The most radical alternative is to scrap the reduced rates altogether, which the document says would raise almost £610,000 in additional tax receipts.

However, only around £65,000 of that would be kept by the borough council. The largest portion, around £460,000, would go to Norfolk County Council, with the remaining £82,000 going to the police and crime commissioner.

An alternative proposal would see the current discounts reduced from three months to one month and 50 per cent to 25 per cent respectively, raising around £400,000 of extra tax.

The third option would also cut the period of the empty homes discount to one month, but leave the rebate on uninhabitable properties as it is, generating around £370,000 in extra payments.

A similar discount on second homes was scrapped earlier this year, having previously been cut from 50 per cent to 10 per cent in 2004 and to five per cent three years ago.

And officials said: “The changes could encourage taxpayers to bring their properties back into use or complete structural works sooner than would be the case if there was a discount available.”

The report follows calls by union officials for reform of the tax rules relating to empty properties, after figures showed West Norfolk had more empty properties than any other council in the East of England.

But the council said it had reduced the discounts available since it was given the power to change local rules in 2013.

It also pointed out that the number of long-term empty homes has fallen by more than 200 to 822 over that period.