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Part 1: Receipt of Proposals - Wales

1.0 Legislation

Legislation for Wales held in Statutory Instrument 1993 No. 290 The Council Tax (Alteration of Lists & Appeals) Regulations – SI 1993/290

1.1 Who may make a valid proposal?

An interested person who may be

● The taxpayer

● The occupier

● The owner (if neither the taxpayer or occupier) but only if they have a material interest in the dwelling AND at least part of the property is not subject to an inferior interest ie has not been let out and part is retained available for occupation. (See definition of owner in LGFA 1992 S.6(5)).

If a proposal is not received by one of the above or an agent who has authority to act on their behalf, it will be invalid – see Section 3 Part 2 CTM on invalidity.

1.2 Proposal Form

Making proposals: Although no statutory form has been prescribed, a standard proposal form has been produced by the VOA. This also serves as a computer input document. For the definitions of "proposal" and "appeal" see Council Tax Manual (CTM) Section 1 Part 1 paragraph 1.6.

It is preferable that taxpayers (or their agents), Interested Persons (IPs) and Billing Authorities (BAs) use the VOA's form VO7455 (Appendix 3.1) whenever they wish to make a Council Tax proposal. This form includes a detachable sheet, Part D ‘Dwelling Details’, which contains questions relating to the attributes of the dwelling. Completion of these details is not mandatory nor does this sheet form part of the proposal for legal purposes. A set of guidance notes (VO7455GN) has also been produced and must be made to available to taxpayers, their agents and other IPs. The guidance notes are pre-printed and ordered from an external supplier.

Before issue, the address of the Listing Officer should be inserted in the box in the top centre of the form to assist in its correct return.

Some organisations and firms of surveyors have devised their own forms. Although they may differ in certain ways from the VOA version, they should be accepted, provided all the statutorily required information is supplied (See Appendix 3.3)

Electronic proposals: The Council Tax Internet Valuation List (IVL) application, which is accessed through Directgov or via a link on the VOA web page, has an option to complete a proposal form electronically and to send this to the VOA by email (see paragraph 1.11 below). This form is of a slightly different design, but must be accepted as a proposal. At present this does not include an equivalent of Part D of VO7455.

Multiple proposals: Taxpayers may be provided, free of charge, with a quantity of forms corresponding to the number of dwellings occupied or owned by them. On request, the LO should supply an additional form(s) to any intending maker of a proposal(s) for his/her own retention. Where the taxpayer has completed a Dwelling Details Questionnaire (VO7497 – Appendix 1.9) recently, Part D should be detached before the form is issued.

A reasonable quantity of forms may be supplied free of charge to taxpayers' associations, and similar local organisations, for use by their own members. Before supplying the forms, the LO should arrange to discuss, with the chairman or other official of the organisation, the grievance(s) giving rise to the request and explain the basis of Council Tax. Such a discussion may prevent the making of misconceived or frivolous proposals. If the organisation decides that its members still wish to make proposals, the LO should supply the necessary number of forms.

Firms such as surveyors, estate agents and solicitors, may be supplied, on request, with no more than 50 blank forms at any one time free of charge. Where a firm indicates that it is acting for a particular group of taxpayers, or for the taxpayer(s) of a number of dwellings, it may be supplied free of charge with the number of forms corresponding to the number of dwellings involved. A similar number of forms for retention by the firm as their own copies may be supplied if requested.

BAs should be asked to issue single forms only to individual taxpayers and to forward any requests for bulk supplies to the LO.

Welsh Language: LOs and BAs in Wales hold supplies of bilingual forms only, in English on one side and Welsh on the other. The facility exists to enable the completion of the forms either in Welsh or in English.

1.3 Proposals in the form of letters

A letter may be accepted as a proposal if it fulfils all the statutory requirements. Any letter so identified should be processed as a proposal and attached to a blank VO7455. Guidance on what constitutes a proposal is given in Appendix 3.2.

Information to be Included

In deciding whether or not to accept a form or a letter as a proposal, it is important to distinguish between information that is statutorily required, and other information.

For example, VO7455 asks for the reference number shown in the Council Tax List. This is not a statutory requirement but merely helps to identify the dwelling to which the proposal relates. The omission of this does not disqualify a form or letter from being accepted as a valid proposal provided the dwelling to which it relates can be identified from the address. As stated in paragraph 1.1 above, completion of Part D of VO7455 is not a statutory requirement, and failure to complete it does not make a proposal invalid.

If a proposal contains all the information statutorily required and is served within any appropriate statutory time limit, it should be treated as validly made and accepted as valid.

The basic requirements for a valid proposal are set out in Appendix 3.3.

If a letter purports to be a proposal but does not meet all the basic requirements of validity set out in Appendix 3.3, it should be treated as invalid and the invalidity procedures followed.

1.4 Petitions

A document in the form of a petition should be examined carefully to decide whether it contains all the necessary information to constitute a proposal. Although it is considered unlikely that a petition, signed by a number of signatories, will constitute valid proposals, such a document must not be ignored.

If it is the clear intention to seek an alteration to the List, it will almost invariably be necessary to write to each of the signatories individually, enclosing a proposal form, with a request for it to be completed and returned to the LO within any statutory time limit.

If a taxpayer is unable to make a proposal that can be accepted as valid, it may still be possible to raise a CR15 to review the band. Further information on enquiries and band reviews can be found on the CT & HA homepage

1.5 Rights of Billing Authorities and Interested Persons to make Proposals

Regulation 5 of SI 1993/290 (Wales) sets out the circumstances and time limits within which BAs, IPs and new taxpayers can make proposals to alter the valuation list. Appendix 3.4 sets this out in schedule format.

BAs, in common with other IPs and new taxpayers, have the right in certain circumstances to make proposals for dwellings they own or occupy. In addition, BAs have the right in respect of any dwelling in their area to make proposals whenever an IP would have the right, except when that right is limited to a new taxpayer.

New taxpayers can only make a valid proposal within six months of becoming the taxpayer of the dwelling. Where a taxpayer has never paid tax before in relation to the dwelling, the date becoming actually liable for payment will trigger the beginning of the six month period. In rare occasions a relevant distinction may be made between date of ownership and date of tax payment where an exemption has applied and tax does not become due immediately on ownership. The distinction between general liability as set out in LGFA 1992 S.6, and a duty to pay tax on a chargeable dwelling being triggered by a demand from the billing authority was made in a High Court liability decision in Regentford and Thanet DC 2004. It follows that where an exemption has been made under the Council Tax (Chargeable Dwellings) Order 1992, the commencement of paying tax will be the relevant date for becoming a taxpayer. Clearly this would only happen once for a taxpayer on any dwelling.

A valid proposal cannot be made by a new taxpayer if one or more of the following applies:-

i) a proposal in relation to the same dwelling and arising from the same facts has already been considered by a VT or the High Court (HC);

ii) the new taxpayer is a company which is a subsidiary of an immediately preceding company or the immediately preceding taxpayer is a company which is a subsidiary of the new taxpayer company, the new taxpayer and the immediately preceding taxpayer are companies which are subsidiaries of the same parent company;

iii) where the change of occupation occurs solely by reason of the formation of a new partnership in relation to which any of the partners was a partner in the previous partnership.

1.6 Former Contractors

Reference is made in Section 1, part 2, paragraph 2.1 to outside contractors who assisted with the initial banding exercise.

Their contract stated:-

“The Contractor undertakes that neither he nor his servants or employees will represent any taxpayer on any appeal, arbitration or other proceedings whenever, arising from any valuation banding(s) conducted by him in the Contract Area(s) shown in the Acceptance Schedule of The Contract.”

If a proposal is received which is valid in all other respects but appears to breach this undertaking, it should be registered but the matter referred to the Council Tax Policy, Process and Assurance Team for further guidance.

Any instances, which come to the attention of LO staff, of former contractors advising taxpayers within their former Contract Area(s) without formally making proposals, should also be referred to the Council Tax Policy, Process and Assurance Team.

1.7 "Re-incarnated Proposals" (Proposals arising following withdrawals)

An application under Reg 19 (procedures) can reinstate a withdrawn proposal.

The 1993 Regulations provide that IPs and other persons (including BAs) who would have been competent to make the proposal may "opt in" to being a party to the proceedings in respect of that proposal. To "opt in" the person has to serve written notice on the LO within three months of the day on which the proposal was served on the LO.

Once a person has "opted in" they have certain rights, but these rights vary depending on the status of the person.

i) Where that person would have been competent to make the proposal, they have the right to be a party to any agreement, to agree or not to agree to the withdrawal of the proposal, and to appear at a VT hearing.

ii) Where the person is an IP, the LO must serve notice of withdrawal using VO7724 if the proposal is withdrawn prior to transmission to the VT.

iii) There is an additional right for an IP who would also have been competent to make the proposal to take it over if it is withdrawn prior to transmission to the VT

The IP who is aggrieved by the withdrawal of the proposal must indicate this when writing to the LO. This has the effect of the proposal being "re-incarnated" as being made on the same terms as the original, but on the day on which the notice was served. However, the effective date will be that which applied to the original proposal.

VO7724 gives opportunity to IPs who wish to "re-incarnate" a proposal to state that they are aggrieved with the withdrawal of the proposal. If this wording is not used in the letter from the IP but it clear that they wish to keep the matters contained in the withdrawn proposal alive, their correspondence should be treated as a valid notice.

Any notice must be served on the LO within six weeks of the date of the VO7724. If a notice is served on the LO after this time, the IP should be advised that it is out of time. No further action is to be taken on the matter.

Any notice received within the six week period should be attached to a blank proposal form and registered within the Council Tax application as a new proposal made in the same terms as the original one, but made on the day on which the notice was served on the LO.

1.8 Multiple-Dwelling Proposals

A proposal form may deal with more than one dwelling where:-

i) the proposal seeks to delete entries (including where the appellant considers the dwelling should not have been disaggregated);

ii) the proposer does so in the same capacity for each dwelling, provided the dwellings are within the same building or curtilage.

Separate cases must be registered within the Council Tax application where a form deals with more than one dwelling (except where the proposal seeks a reconstitution of existing dwellings).

1.9 Listing Officers not to alter Proposals

Proposal forms Parts A – C, including documents purporting to be proposals, are documents with a legal status. They must not, in any circumstances, be amended or altered by the LO, or any other member of staff, except in the column marked “For official use only”.

1.10 Service of Proposals on Listing Officers by post

A completed proposal must be served on the LO responsible for the BA area in which the subject dwelling is situated. If a dwelling straddles BA boundaries, the proposal must be served on the LO who holds the Council Tax list in which the dwelling is entered.

1.11 Electronic Service of Proposals

All proposals sent by electronic means are automatically submitted directly from the IVL application to the CT Unit for the BA in which the dwelling is situated. Specific email addresses exist in each Unit and these are used for the service of Council Tax proposals.

Proposals sent by email must be treated as received on the actual day the message is received, regardless of the time of day. For example, a proposal received electronically on 9 June at 23.59 is deemed to have been received on 9 June; one received electronically on 10 June at 00:02 is deemed to have been received on 10 June. A proposal received during a weekend or on a Bank Holiday should be treated as received on the next working day. On the rare occasion when this occurs, the retained email message should be endorsed accordingly.

At present there is no facility to transfer details electronically from the internet into the Council Tax Application. Proposals received electronically need to be printed out and then treated as those received in hardcopy. If Council Tax processing for the subject dwelling is carried out at another site within the Unit, the hardcopy should be forwarded as described in paragraph 1.12 below.

The electronic proposal should be saved in EDRM in accordance with the guidance given via the link on the EDRM Homepage

The electronic proposal and any attachments must be saved in the folder on the Unit drive called “CT Proposals”.

Saving electronically is an audit requirement and is also necessary operationally should there be a dispute at a later date.

1.12 Proposal forms sent to Wrong Locations

If the subject dwelling is dealt with at another location within the Unit, it should be forwarded to the correct processing location by internal mail. The date of receipt should be treated as that when the form is received at any site within the Unit.

If the subject dwelling is not in the LO's Unit, it should be returned to the maker with a covering letter explaining that the proposal has not been properly served, and giving the title and address of the LO to whom it should be sent.

Rarely, the subject dwelling will have been transferred between Units as a result of Agency Restructuring or a Local Government Boundary Change. So as not to disadvantage the taxpayer who has served a proposal on whom they believed to be the correct LO, the proposal form should be date-stamped on receipt. The LO receiving the form will, in effect, be acting as agent for the correct LO but should not carry out any test to determine its validity. The form should be forwarded to the correct LO by internal mail. At the same time, the proposer should be informed in writing of the action taken. The title, address and telephone number of the site to which the proposal has been sent should be quoted so that the taxpayer can make any future enquiries to the correct LO.

1.13 Initial Procedures

On receipt of a completed form, (including a printed electronic version or a letter which has been accepted as a valid proposal), the following procedures should be followed:-

i) date stamp the form in the space to the right of the LO's address box. Any further markings by the LO must be restricted to the "Official use only" box;

ii) check that the dwelling referred to is within the LO's Unit and dealt with at that location;

iii) check that the form has been fully and correctly completed;

iv) check that the proposal has been validly made (see Appendix 3.3).

1.14 Proposals received "out of time"

The Regulations stipulate the time limits for the service of proposals and various notices. Where it appears that a proposal or a notice has been received outside the prescribed statutory time limit, the LO should first check the facts of the case. It should be noted that for a proposal as a 'new taxpayer' to be accepted as within time to be valid (i.e. 6 months from becoming the taxpayer), the clock starts ticking from the date they first became liable (solely, jointly etc.) to pay council tax in respect of that dwelling, which may be later than the date they acquired an interest in the property. Occasionally the two dates may not tally. Where this becomes a particular issue advice should be sought from the Head of CT Technical.

When considering whether the maker of a proposal or notice intended to comply with a statutory time limit for service by post, the rules laid down in Section 7 of the Interpretation Act 1978 together with the guidance provided in the Practice Direction dated 8 March 1985 and issued by the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court on service in the ordinary course of post (reproduced as Appendix 3.5) should be applied. LOs should have regard to:-

i) the postmark shown on the envelope;

ii) the class of post used;

iii) the date on which the document was actually received at any site within the Unit.

Where a proposal or notice was posted in sufficient time for it to have been delivered "in the ordinary course of post" within four working days (second class) or two working days (first class), the document should be treated as validly made as regards the time limit. A proposal may, however, still be considered invalid for some other reason.

Where it is evident that there was a postal delay in the delivery of the document which was outside the control of the LO and/or the taxpayer or, following investigation, the LO is satisfied as to the bona fide intentions of the maker of the proposal or notice to comply with the particular time limit requirements, the LO should exercise discretion in favour of the maker and treat the proposal as valid.

In other cases, consideration should be given to treating the proposal as invalidly made.

1.15 Completion of "Official use only" Box

When all checks regarding validity have been carried out, the "Official use only" box of VO7455 must be completed. Additional items of information to be inserted are:-

i) whether the form is to be treated as a valid proposal or an invalid proposal (tick boxes);

ii) the relevant reason code;

iii) the party status (OCC, etc) ;

iv) the initials of the person carrying out the above.

This box is completed with the computer-generated case number following the case registration process as either an invalid proposal (Section 3 part 2) or a valid proposal (Section 3 part 3).

Where a taxpayer has used his / her own form, or one is printed out following an electronic submission, these items of information should be recorded on a sheet of paper and stapled to the original document.

1.16 Status of proposals as public documents

Section 29 of LGFA1992 states that a proposal is a public document. Hence, if requests are made to view proposals that have previously been made, this should be complied with within the terms of the legislation that states:-

(1) A person may, at a reasonable time and without making payment, inspect any proposal made or notice of appeal given under regulations made under section 24 above, if made or given as regards a list which is in force when inspection is sought or has been in force at any time in the preceding five years.

(2) A person may—

(a) make copies of (or of extracts from) a document mentioned in subsection (1) above; or

(b) require a person having custody of such a document to supply to him a photographic copy of (or of extracts from) the document.

(3) If a reasonable charge is required for a facility under subsection (2) above, that subsection shall not apply unless the person seeking to avail himself of the facility pays the charge.

(4) If without reasonable excuse a person having custody of a document mentioned in subsection (1) above—

(a) intentionally obstructs a person in exercising a right under subsection (1) or (2)(a) above; or

(b) refuses to supply a copy to a person entitled to it under subsection (2)(b) above,

he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.

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