In this section
Legislation for Wales held in Statutory Instrument 1993 No. 290 The Council Tax (Alteration of Lists & Appeals) Regulations – SI 1993/290
VO letters and forms which are not included as appendices are available as MS Word Templates.
i) an appeal cannot arise other than from a dispute stemming from a proposal;
ii) the appellant is the person who made the proposal, or is deemed to have appealed, but the procedures do not place the burden of proof on the appellant in all cases;
iii) in legal terminology the appeal arises on the transmission by the LO to the VT of data relating to a proposal. No notice of appeal is required to be given by the appellant;
iv) an appeal may be settled by withdrawal at any time prior to a determination by the VT (Reg 11), and in this context agreement reached between the parties constitutes a withdrawal (Reg 12);
v) the VT has judicial powers and will normally sit in public. It may take evidence on oath or affirmation, and may administer such an oath or affirmation;
vi) the parties to an appeal may appear at the VT hearing without giving notice of their intention to appear.
Regulation 29 allows a VT to increase a banding. This is not limited either by the band shown in the List at the date of the proposal or by the band contended for in the proposal. The approach to be adopted where an increase is found to be justified between the date of receipt of a proposal and the hearing is given below.
As a VT has powers to hold a pre-hearing review, or a hearing solely on the validity of a proposal, the scope of jurisdiction at a particular hearing will be limited to the substance of the enquiry or the contention before it.
Regulation 18 states the following:-
i) "It shall be the duty of the president of a valuation tribunal to secure that arrangements are made for appeals to be determined in accordance with the following provisions of these Regulations.
ii) A tribunal shall not hear an appeal under Regulation 13 until any appeal under Regulation 8 (invalid proposals) in respect of the same proposal has been determined.
iii) Where two or more appeals relating to the same dwelling are referred under Regulation 13, the order in which the appeals are dealt with shall be the order in which the alteration in question would, but for the disagreements which occasion the appeals, have taken effect."
The procedural aspects of all appeals are similar but the LO needs to be clear as to the subject matter of the appeal and prepare the case accordingly. It is possible that two types of hearing may be consecutive or in some cases concurrent, particularly when cases regarding validity and alteration of the List itself are involved.
If a LO deals with two or more VT areas, no attempt should be made to isolate those cases not dealt with by the requesting VT.
● 1992 LGFA S.27 Notices requesting the supply of information; and,
● Particulars Delivered (PDs) and data from Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) forms
in VTE proceedings.
Authority for the use of PDs during hearings is given in Reg 17 of the Procedure regs; and for SDLT data in Section 48 of the Finance (No 2) Act 2005.
S.21(1) of LGFA 92 requires the Commissioners of Inland Revenue to disclose information obtained from Notices and the content of PD/SDLT data for the purpose of facilitating the compilation and maintenance of Lists by LOs. LOs are, therefore, entitled to use both Notices and PD/SDLT data when banding a dwelling and when considering the correctness of a band.
S.27(2) of LGFA 1992 enables a LO to serve a Notice on a person who is, or has been, an owner or occupier of a dwelling requesting him/her to supply information required in the Notice which the LO believes will assist in carrying out his/her functions.
When the LO is in possession of replies to Notices served, the content of these replies may be quoted when discussing an appeal at any stage before a VTE hearing. To use them at a VTE hearing, a Notice under Reg 26 (VO7408d) MUST have been served.
Information from PD and SDLT data can be used in evidence under Reg 26 at any time after transmission to the VTE, but the LO must have complied with the requirements for the service of a Notice under Reg 26(3) as detailed below.
Any difficulty with appellants about the confidentiality of PD/SDLT data must be dealt with in a tactful manner. PD information and SDLT data are regarded as personal information which cannot be divulged without the consent of the parties except when the appeal has been listed by the VTE for hearing.
As the tone of the current Valuation List has become established, the use of VTE appeal decisions and relevant settlement evidence has become a more important factor in settling outstanding appeals. In addition to settlement evidence and evidence of comparable bandings, LOs may have sources of sale prices which are not subject to confidentiality, e.g. auction sales particulars, which may help to overcome any difficulties encountered in early disclosure of PD information or SDLT data.
LOs cannot dispute evidence produced by a taxpayer when this can only be challenged by using PD information or SDLT data not in the public domain or subject to Reg 17 procedures. Where the LO believes such evidence to be factually incorrect, this can be stated; as the burden of proof lies with the taxpayer to verify such evidence.
In the early years of a Valuation List, or when preparing for a revaluation, S.27 Notices may be useful. In practice, during the life of the List, this procedure is rarely used, although it remains available to LOs. Where it is felt that it is essential to obtain information using formal S.27 Notices, technical advice should be sought to ensure the Notice and covering letter meet with the statutory requirement. An example of where a S.27 may be used could be in respect of mobile home sites, where the freehold of the pitch and caravan are not usually sold together. The price paid for the chattel and the site rental may be important to establish where both will form part of the dwelling.
i) price, interest and date of sale; i.e. confirmation of details shown on the PD or included in the SDLT data;
ii) details of any fixtures, etc included in the sale and whether any alterations or major repairs have been carried out since the sale (i.e. details not available from the PD or SDL:T data), which assist in determining the state of the dwelling when it was sold and what, if any, fixtures were included.
In the early years of a Valuation List, or when preparing for a revaluation, S.27 Notices may be useful. In practice, during the life of the List, this procedure is rarely used, although it remains available to LOs. Where it is felt that it is essential to obtain information using formal S.27 Notices, technical advice should be sought from the Head of CT Technical to ensure the Notice and covering letter meet with the statutory requirement. An example of where a S.27 Notice may be used could be in respect of mobile home sites, where the freehold of the pitch and caravan are not usually sold together. The price paid for the chattel and the site rental may be important to establish where both will form part of the dwelling.
Regulation 26 applies to four categories of information. A statutory procedure has to be followed to allow the documents containing the information to be used in evidence. The categories of documents are:-
i) PD/SDLT data;
ii) Notices obtained for CT purposes under S.27(2) served on owners or occupiers;
iii) Forms of Return (FORs) and Notices Requesting the Supply of Information (NRSIs) obtained for Rating purposes under Schedule 9 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (for composites);
iv) Notices served under S.27(1) on BAs and any person prescribed for the purposes of the sub-section requesting information specified in the notice relating to property which the LO reasonably believes will assist in carrying out his/her functions.
Information contained in CT Notices or Rating FORs/NRSIs should be taken to include letters to the LO/VO referring to a Notice recently made and giving additional information in relation to that specific notice/return.
At VT hearings, LOs may wish to submit other evidence, e.g. facts relating to their inspections of dwellings. The admissibility of this evidence is subject to the normal requirements of VT procedures.
The initiative in using documents under Reg 26 which contain information rests with the LO and other parties have no rights unless they are introduced into the proceedings by the LO.
Care must be taken to avoid any suggestion that LOs are taking any unfair advantage of this provision
The Regulation 26 Notice is contained in form VO 7408D from MS Word Template together with the schedule of documents VO 7409 and its continuation sheet (VO7473), both from MS Word Template. Provision is made in the schedules for the LO to state the number of dwellings in accordance with the CT List at the date of the notice to which the specified documents relate.
Reg 26 Notices can also be produced from the VOA CDB within the Appeal Package application. This facility has been produced primarily for the defence of the 2005 List in Wales but applies to all Lists.
If any person to whom a VO 7408d notice has been given challenges the validity of the notice, the LO should seek adjournment of the VT hearing and refer the matter, together with full details, to the Technical Adviser
Whilst it is preferable to agree as many factual matters as possible before a hearing, such agreement cannot take the place of the Reg 26 procedure if a LO wishes to use PD/SDLT data, which is subject to the rules of Inland Revenue confidentiality and may only be disclosed where specific statutory authority exists. Reg 26 allows such disclosure but only if the laid-down procedure is followed. This procedure cannot be dispensed with by simply agreeing with the other parties that the information on a PD/SDLT is correct, because the information cannot be disclosed without first serving a Notice under Reg 26(3).
Once a Notice under Reg 26(3) has been served, it is permissible to agree the information as part of the agreed statement of facts.
Notices obtained under Section 27(2) are not subject to the same restrictions as PD/SDLT data. It is, however, usually appropriate to serve a Reg 26(3) notice first, rather than seek to include this information as part of the agreed statement of facts.
i) the Notice is served, to be received not less than two weeks prior to the hearing, on every party, specifying, in relation to any information to be used, the documents (or other media) containing the information;
ii) any party on whom Notice is served, can inspect at any reasonable time and make a copy (other than a photographic copy) of the document.
Regulation 26(3) does not require the LO's Notice to specify the information, but only the documents which contain the information. However, LOs will usually find it helpful to supply some or all of the information with the Notice.
This may be done by enclosing with the Reg 26(3) Notice (VO7408D) a Schedule of the sales (VO7409). The information which the LO wishes to use should be quoted. This is best done by including it on Sales Evidence sheets (VO7465), which will also contain factual details concerning the comparables, and inviting agreement to all the facts prior to the hearing.
The LO should not only select documents which provide information favourable to their case but should aim to give the VT a fair picture of all the relevant sales evidence.
It is often sufficient to produce a reasonable sample of sales evidence, providing that this is representative of the whole. When it is appropriate to only refer to dwellings in the same short road as the appeal dwelling, the LO may decide to produce all the sales evidence. In other cases, a much wider selection maybe required.
Each LO should give guidance to caseworkers on the number of dwellings to be specified but a maximum of 12 is usually sufficient. It should be remembered that the other party has the right to refer to an equal number of other dwellings (or up to four if the LO specifies less than four in the Reg 26(3) Notice).
The introduction by a LO of sales evidence outside the CT Unit area should be restricted to essential dwellings close to CT Unit boundaries.
Whilst a minimum of two weeks' notice is required, LOs should serve Notices as soon as cases are listed. This will enable them to quote evidence from PD/SDLT data during discussions with taxpayers and other parties to appeals.
In addition to the right to inspect, and to make copies of, the documents to be used by the LO, any person to whom notice is given under Reg 26(3) may serve a counter-notice under Reg 26(4), specifying other dwellings which are thought to be comparable in character or otherwise relevant to the case, and requiring the LO:-
i) to permit them to inspect and make a copy (other than a photographic copy) of all documents to which the Reg 26 Notice applies which relate to the dwelling specified and which are in the possession of the LO; and
ii) to produce at the hearing, or to submit to the VT beforehand, the documents which they have told the LO they require.
The right is limited in that the number of dwellings specified in the counter-notice must not exceed the number specified in the Reg 26 Notice, or four if the Notice specifies four or fewer than four.
A counter-notice must be in writing but no set form is prescribed. In a case of ambiguity, the person should be informed by letter of the action the LO assumes the Notice requires.
The right under Reg 26(4) does not extend to inspecting, nor producing, documents which relate to dwellings outside the CT Unit area and which are thus not "in the possession of" the LO. Nevertheless, where a LO has included dwellings outside the CT Unit area in the Reg 26 Notice, he/she should offer the person a similar right. This should not be limited to a number of "outside" dwellings equal to the number of "outside" dwellings quoted by the LO.
The right to serve a counter-notice refers to "any document" containing information to which Reg 26 applies and which relates to the dwellings specified in the other party's notice. The LO must therefore produce, if so requested, all the documents relating to the specified dwellings. The person serving the counter-notice is, therefore, not limited to examining just PD/SDLT data for the dwellings specified but may also examine any FOR/NRSI or other documents to which Reg 26 applies.
No time limit is prescribed in Reg 26(4) for serving a counter-notice. There should be no delay in dealing with one when it has been received. If the counter-notice is received too close to the hearing for arrangements to be made for the inspection and making of copies, the LO should take all the documents and explain the circumstances to the VT at the start of the hearing. The LO should not treat any counter-notice received before the date of hearing as too late for these purposes. The only other course of action available to the LO is to request an adjournment.
If, under Reg 26(4), the LO is told of documents which are required to be produced at the hearing, he/she should state in writing the documents which will be produced, to avoid any dispute.
Regulation 26(4) (a) refers to documents "in the possession of the LO". LOs should act reasonably in the interpretation of this phrase considering it in relation to:-
i) Dwellings in the same CT Unit as the appeal dwelling
If the LO has no documents for a dwelling specified in a counter-notice and which is in his/her Unit, the other party should be informed in writing immediately. There is no power for the other party to substitute another dwelling in a counter-notice, either because the information disclosed does not assist the party's case or there is no document.
The LO cannot decline to produce for inspection any document held which relates to a dwelling which is not in the same BA area as the appeal dwelling.
ii) Dwellings in other CT Units
A LO should refuse to bring into his or her possession any document concerning a dwelling outside the Unit, unless such a dwelling has been included in the Reg 26 Notice.
Regulation 26(4) requires the dwellings specified in the counter-notice to be "comparable in character or otherwise relevant to that person's case".
Regulation 26(6) does not allow any person who has served a counter-notice to inspect, copy or require the LO to produce any document, in so far as it contains information other than that which is reasonably required for the purpose of the proceedings. Whether the other dwellings specified in the counter-notice are comparable in character, or otherwise relevant to the case of the person who has served the notice, is a question for determination by the VT.
Upon receipt of a copy of such an application, the LO should immediately send a full report of the circumstances to the Technical Advisor (TA), including reasons why it is thought the provisions of Reg 26(6) are not satisfied, together with a copy of the application and of all notices in respect of documents served by and on the LO in the proceedings. The LO should state in the report whether it is considered that legal representation should be given at the hearing of the application.
The TA should report to the Head of CT Technical without delay enclosing a copy of all documents and expressing an opinion on the question of legal representation.
If the LO receives notice of hearing of the application before instructions are received from the Head of CT Technical, the TA should be informed.
References to dwellings outside the CT Unit should be restricted to essential instances. When a LO needs to produce documents in respect of dwellings in other CT Units, certified copies should be obtained from the LO holding the documents. The LO holding the originals should certify each copy as follows:-
"Certified a true copy (signature) Listing Officer (name) Billing Authority. Date (...............)".
On rare occasions, the LO or a designated CT caseworker for the appropriate CT Unit may be called to give evidence of comparison between the dwellings with sales evidence and the appeal dwelling. See also paragraph 4.38 v) below.
Regulation 26 does not apply to an unsigned S.27(2) Notice. Such a document should neither be specified in a Notice by the LO, nor produced for inspection in consequence of a counter-notice.
No attempt should be made to erase any notes which have been added on any document after its receipt. The LO should be prepared to explain any such notes to the VT or to the person to whom the document is produced for inspection.
LOs have a statutory responsibility to maintain Council Tax Lists. When information comes to the LO’s attention which justifies an increase in band to that currently in the List and in the proposal/appeal, the LO must act upon that information and alter the List.
In this case, the band should be increased by raising a LO Report in accordance with Section 2, before the appeal is heard by the VT, i.e. without waiting for the appeal to be heard by the VT. The LO should discuss the matter with the taxpayer in order that any further relevant information can be taken into account. It is not appropriate, however, to use the intention to increase the band as a threat or negotiating ploy to settle the appeal.
When the appeal is subsequently heard by the VT, the band defended by the LO will depend upon the facts of the case and have regard to the relevance of the new information.
Further complications could arise on rare occasions, as follows:
Where there are two appeals listed for hearing at the same time, and the additional information shows that the historic entry was incorrect. In this case the LO should contend that the historic entry should have shown the higher band. The VT has no facility to increase a band in respect of any period between the effective date of the historic entry in the List and the serving of the proposals. It is likely, however, that the VT would issue a determination which would comment on the accuracy of the historic band and the reason for the effective date of the current decision.
Where additional information affecting the valuation band comes to light during the hearing. In this case the LO should contend for an increased band to maintain the correct list entry. If the VT agrees, the decision will take effect from the date the List is altered in respect of that decision.
Where the LO considers that the bandings of comparable dwellings quoted by the appellant are too low, they should be increased to the correct level before the hearing. It is essential to advise the appellant of this course of action so that no reliance is placed at the hearing on any incorrect bandings.
Regulation 22 provides for the Clerk to the VT to give at least four weeks' notice of the date, time and place for the hearing.
The notice will include the name of a place where a list of the appeals to be heard can be viewed. LOs will usually be supplied with a copy of the agenda for each hearing in addition to the individual notices, as a party, to each appeal.
Regulation 21 provides for a pre-hearing review. Under these provisions the Chairman, on the application of a party, or on their own initiative, gives at least four weeks' notice of a pre-hearing review. The objective is to secure that all parties make such admissions and agreements as ought reasonably to be made by them relative to the proceedings.
This type of hearing, particularly in complex cases, gives the opportunity for the VT to tell the parties what facts and admissions should be made before a substantive hearing can start.
An application by a LO for a pre-hearing review must be made with discretion. Such an application should only be made in circumstances which would result in the actual hearing being dealt with more quickly or in the issues being clarified.
A series of forms has been prepared to assist caseworkers in preparing the documentation for a VT hearing. Using a common and familiar style of documentation helps VT members to assimilate information more quickly and easily. This format is considered to be easily followed and understood also by appellants and by members of the public.
The series consists of:-
VO 7464 - Appeal Settlement Details
VO 7465 - Appeal Sales Evidence
VO 7467 - Evidence Summary Sheet. This is available within the package referred to below as both a Summary of Sales Evidence (VO7467A) and a Summary of Settlement Details (VO7467B).
VO 7466 - Appeal Dwelling Details
The type of evidence available also varies. Now that the tone has become established, more reliance on settlement evidence is possible. It is the caseworker's duty to present a balanced selection of evidence rather than to select comparables which mainly support the LO's opinion.
The package of forms can be produced from the VOA central database by using menu option 1 within the Appeal Package. This facility has been produced primarily for the defence of the 2005 List in Wales but works for all Lists and for all BAs in both England and Wales.
Full operating instructions are given in the “Valuation Tribunal Presentation Package and Section 26 Notice”. These are included in the process maps (link in 4.7 above)
Whilst a precise valuation figure can be shown on a banding of appeal dwelling sheet, a band or a value range will usually suffice
s, supported by appropriate evidence. Where a dwelling clearly falls within a band, this is all that needs to be established to show the VT that the band is correct. A valuation only needs to be shown where the LO's opinion of value is close to a band margin and is in dispute.
A sales evidence sheet allows for the presentation of sales evidence in the same format as settlement evidence. The Remarks section should include a note of the source of the information, e.g. PD/SDLT or Notice.
For the 2005 Revaluation ‘Bibles‘ were created for each locality with relevant sales and key property sheets included. These are retained in hardcopy, in four ring binders, within the Unit.
Following detailed presentation of comparable evidence at a hearing, the caseworker usually has to summarise the main points which lead to the opinion of the band. A summary sheet allows the VT to compare the main points easily in summary format.
Bands of comparable dwellings can usually be included in schedules of agreed facts between the parties. Should this not be the case, and difficulty is envisaged in this respect, certified copies of the list(s) or part(s) should be prepared, to be produced if required.
It is sufficient for documents to be completed neatly in manuscript. The boxes marked "VO" at the top right hand corner of all sheets is for a page reference number in the VT documentation and allows the caseworker to refer to sheet x or sheet y. The boxes have no significance outside the VT hearing and should not be numbered until just before a hearing, so that last minute inclusions or deletions of sheets do not spoil the flow of numbers.
When the caseworker has prepared the originals, they should be photocopied. Copies are required as follows:-
i) VT members (usually three);
ii) Clerk to the VT;
iii) Parties (one each);
After the hearing, a copy of all the documents should be scanned into EDRM, and hardcopies disposed of as confidential waste.
Where it is clear that a case will proceed to a hearing, the LO should send a copy of the documents to the appellant, inviting agreement to the factual details accompanied by a VO 7408D. This should be carried out at least seven calendar days before the hearing. This period must be increased to at least 14 calendar days when sales evidence is enclosed. This allows time for the appellant to consider them and to respond
It is preferable to have sent details to the appellant before the hearing, but failing to do so does not prevent a LO from including other information in the VT documentation. However, in principle the LO should, wherever possible, adopt a ‘no surprises’ policy, to avoid criticism.
At the same time as sending a copy of the documents, the LO should ask for information about any comparables to which the appellant intends to refer at the hearing. Any reasonable request by an appellant for information about other dwellings which are thought to be comparable should be complied with.
When all facts have been agreed, this should be recorded on the CDB. It is the caseworker's responsibility to ensure that this is carried out.
"an appeal may be disposed of on the basis of written representations if all the parties have given their agreement in writing."
It is not considered that this method of dealing with an appeal should normally be followed because an oral hearing will enable all parties to argue their case more fully and to test the evidence presented to the VT. Some unrepresented appellants could be disadvantaged by having to present formal written submissions, although others may find it easier to put their contentions in writing rather than orally.
Written representations differ from written submissions.
In the case of a written submission, the appellant may present a case in writing rather than appear at a hearing of the VT, and the LO should not object. The LO will present his/her case in person.
Written representations must follow the procedures set out in Reg 20, and the appeal will be determined without an oral hearing, but only if all sides agree.
If all parties agree to proceed on the basis of written representations, the Clerk will serve notice
, and, within four weeks, each party shall serve notice on the Clerk stating:-
i) any further reasons for the disagreement giving rise to the appeal;
ii) that it is not intended to make further representation.
There is a further period of four weeks for each party to serve a reply to the other party's statement if they wish to do so. The VT can require any party to furnish more particulars of the grounds relied on and any relevant facts or contentions. Each party then has four weeks to supply that information.
The VT can order that the appeal be ’disposed of’, i.e. heard, on the basis of a hearing having read the submissions of the parties.
As a general rule, the LO should only consent to this procedure being adopted in the following limited circumstances:-
i) illness or disability of the taxpayer which would make attendance at a hearing difficult. Such a reason could include not only long-term physical incapacity, but mental illness, such as agoraphobia or stress, if certified by a medical practitioner;
ii) excessive distance from the taxpayer's home to the place where the hearing is to be held. If the taxpayer is required to travel for more than two hours, this may be considered unreasonable, and a suitable case for written representations;
iii) there is no dispute on matters of fact;
iv) the issues in dispute are matters of valuation opinion and not of legal agreement. For example, it is not considered appropriate for a dispute to be resolved by written representations if it concerns such issues as state of repair and disaggregation.
It is not considered appropriate to consent to written representations on the grounds that the appellant will find it easier, or preferable, to present a case in writing rather than orally. In such situations, the appellant should be invited to present written submissions to the VT, which will hear the appeal in the absence of the appellant.
All requests for written representations must be referred to the TA for prior approval, who will also offer advice and guidance on the preparation of written notices if it considered appropriate to dispose of the appeal in this way.
Regulation 19 allows for an appeal to be withdrawn before the start of a hearing. This is formally made by notice from the LO to the VT. This can only be done where every party to the appeal (except the LO) has given consent in writing to the LO, preferably by using form VO 7481.
The notice to the VT will automatically be included in the next VT transmission following input. When this is not possible before the hearing, because of the short period following receipt of the signed form, the LO should take it to the hearing, unless other arrangements have been agreed locally.
Although there is a statutory requirement under Reg 19 for the VT to be notified that an appeal has been settled, there is no requirement for the LO to supply a copy of any agreement form. If the VT insists that copies are supplied, this should be complied with. When an agreement form has been signed in accordance with part 3 paragraph 3.21, the working docket should be completed and the casepapers passed for action in accordance with part 3 paragraph 3.23 above. Details of the agreement will automatically be included in the next VT transmission.
It is in the interests of the Valuation Tribunal Service (VTS), taxpayers, appellants, and the VOA, that the LO and all staff adopt a reasonable, helpful and professional attitude at all times during the hearing of an appeal.
It is the duty of the VTS to ensure that the VT is properly constituted and the LO should not object to its constitution except in very exceptional circumstances. When a hearing has taken place and the LO considers that the presence of a member, about whom the question of disqualification could have arisen, has prejudiced a decision, a report should be submitted to the TA who should forward it to the Head of CT Technical after adding any suitable observations.
A Tribunal usually consists of three members. Where all parties agree, the appeal may be decided by two members in the absence of a third. LOs should normally agree to a two-member hearing.
Regulation 24 allows any party at the hearing to be represented by another person, including legal representation. The BA may be represented by their Clerk or by another designated officer. Other parties may appear in person or be represented. No member or employee of the particular VT may act as a representative for a party.
The LO may delegate the duty of conducting appeals to EO caseworkers or above. Whenever possible, the LO in person, CT Team Leader or complex caseworker should conduct any case involving important questions of principle where legal representation is not accorded and they should always be prepared to conduct any case where it is considered that it warrants personal attention.
Although it is not normally necessary, LOs may seek to be legally represented before the VT. If an important point of principle is likely to arise, a report, together with the casepapers, should be sent to the TA at an early stage. If the TA considers that legal representation is advisable, a submission should be made to the Head of CT Technical. Special instructions will then be given.
4.30 Appearing at Hearings
A person's entitlement to appear, and be heard, is a matter solely for a VT to decide. Generally, it is those persons whose signature is required to agree to an alteration to the List who are entitled to appear and be heard.
If any point concerning entitlement arises, as a party to the proceedings, the LO may put forward an opinion. In general, the LO must be helpful to the VT and at all times seen to be taking a reasonable attitude, particularly with regard to unrepresented appellants. The LO should, under no circumstances, refuse to comply with requests to give evidence or explanations about agreements; for example where signatures of taxpayers have not been obtained.
Any party to an appeal which is to be decided at a hearing may appear in person (with assistance from any other person if he/she wishes), by counsel or solicitor, or by any other representative (other than a person who is a member, clerk or other employee of the particular VT).
Only a person who appeared at a hearing by the VT, and who is aggrieved, can appeal to the High Court on a question of law arising out of a decision or order of the VT (or if the appeal was disposed of by written representations, who made such representations).
4.32 Assisting Unrepresented Appellants
LOs must offer all reasonable assistance to unrepresented appellants who are unsure of council tax procedures. LOs should be prepared to help an appellant in the presentation of the facts of the case and should be prepared to open the presentation of a case if requested by the appellant or the VT.
Unless the VT determines otherwise, on the hearing of an appeal under Reg 8 or arising from a List alteration, the LO shall begin the hearing, and in any other case parties may be heard in such order as the VT may require.
When preparing a presentation, a LO should be mindful of the fact that he/she may be required to open the proceedings.
In the absence of a person who is entitled to appear, the VT may proceed on the assumption that that person does not wish to appear, providing they are satisfied that due notice of the date, time and place of the hearing has been given. If the LO is aware of an intention on the part of that person to apply for an adjournment, the VT should be so informed. The LO may ask the VT to dismiss the appeal if the appellant does not appear, but should be prepared to briefly deal with the grounds of the appeal.
VOA staff must ensure that there is no undue liaison with the VT members or with the Clerk. They must avoid any familiarity which could possibly be misconstrued by appellants and others.
If it is considered essential, an inspection of the appeal dwelling would normally be made by the caseworker who will conduct the case before the hearing. If inspection is considered necessary and it is refused, and the caseworker is not sufficiently familiar with the dwelling to reach an opinion, or to comment upon how the value may be affected by any disability mentioned in the grounds of the appeal, the appellant should be informed in writing before the hearing.
If permission to inspect is still refused, the caseworker should inform the VT that an inspection has been refused and, if the circumstances warrant, the caseworker should ask the VT to adjourn the hearing. No attempt should be made to emphasise the uncooperative attitude of the occupier but the caseworker should be prepared to give an account of the efforts made to inspect if asked to do so.
It should be noted that the legislation conveys a general permission to enter where notice conditions have been fulfilled, it does NOT give the LO rights to enforce entry to a property of an obstructive party. Section 26 LGFA 1992 simply states that, in the event of delay or obstruction, “he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale”. Where an inspection is evidently necessary, the VT may not be averse to the suggestion that the hearing be adjourned to facilitate a joint inspection with the co-operation of the taxpayer. An adjournment on the basis that the LO should enforce rights of inspection under S26 will be fruitless.
The nature and extent of the evidence to be submitted to the VT will be governed by any rules prescribed by the VT and the nature of the case. The caseworker should disclose all material evidence, and the VT should be informed in proper sequence of everything that is relevant to assist a decision. A caseworker should bear in mind the need for impartiality; this may be shown in many ways, such as assisting an appellant who is not fully aware of VT procedures.
Although privilege can be claimed in respect of statements made at a VT hearing, a caseworker should avoid making denigrating remarks (e.g. with regard to standards of building) as far as is consistent with giving accurate evidence. If a LO receives a communication about such a statement, the explanatory reply is not privileged. Any such letters should therefore be acknowledged and immediately referred to the Head of CT Technical with a copy to the TA.
The caseworker has the right to cross-examine both witnesses and unrepresented parties. This must be exercised with discretion, particularly in the case of an unrepresented appellant.
Occasions may arise when a public hearing would be prejudicial to the interests of the appellant who makes no application for the exclusion of the public through ignorance of their rights. In such a case, the caseworker should draw the attention of the VT to the question of a private hearing.
If evidence which relates to sales is produced, and the Press is present, the Chairperson should be asked to request the Press not to publish details of any sales quoted.
When the LO wishes to quote any reported case law, reference should be made to reports by volume and page. These should, whenever possible, relate to reports published in a form available to the public rather than those contained in journals of professional institutions.
When the LO wishes to quote a case which has not been reported in the press, a copy of the decision should be made available to the other parties.
Notes must be taken of every hearing. They may be brief and retained in manuscript but contain sufficient detail to enable a memorandum of evidence to be prepared if required. They should show the parties who appeared, whether they appeared in person, or were represented, including names and capacities, the contentions put forward and a summary of the evidence given by all parties. It is important that, where appellants put in relevant material to the VT, a copy is retained, or the VT asked to make a copy.
The caseworker acts in the role of both advocate and witness when appearing at a hearing without any witnesses. When appearing in this dual capacity:-
● The role of "advocate" is taken when introducing the case and setting out the legislation and any case law, the issues in dispute, and the strengths of the arguments.
● The role of the "witness" is undertaken when turning to the facts, presenting the evidence (either by referring to paperwork, or by expressing opinions) and reaching conclusions to be drawn as to the correct value.
A caseworker representing the LO as a witness before a VT has a primary duty to the tribunal to present unbiased evidence to assist the tribunal to reach the correct decision
When both law and fact are involved, there is usually advantage in asking the VT to deal with the two aspects of the appeal separately. This becomes more difficult if the VT requires evidence on oath (or affirmation) and in such a case, the LO must be guided by the Chairperson.
VTs are not required to follow the rules of evidence as applied to proceedings in Courts of Law, and should avoid formality in their proceedings as much as possible. No rules have been prescribed which must be observed, but the VT may have prescribed its own rules which must be observed.
The following guiding principles apply for formulating a correct and logical presentation of evidence:-
(i) The burden of proof rests with the appellant
When the LO is required to open the presentation, he/she should seek to discharge the burden of proof to the satisfaction of the VT.
When the taxpayer opens the presentation, the LO should not normally rest his/her case on any failure of the taxpayer to discharge the burden of proof.
The attention of the VT may be drawn to this fact if the LO considers it necessary.
ii) Evidence should be relevant to the issue
Whether evidence is relevant should not be regarded as a serious matter at a VT hearing, but irrelevant evidence put forward by the LO is usually valueless and only tends to obscure evidence which is relevant.
iii) All evidence must be given in open session
All evidence should be given openly. Evidence can be given in the absence of a party who is entitled to appear but has not. At the VT's discretion, the LO may give evidence in the absence of an appellant who has requested the hearing to proceed in his/her absence, or who has not appeared and has not requested an adjournment.
iv) Direct evidence must be given in preference to circumstantial evidence
The most convincing evidence is that given by witnesses stating facts known to them personally. Direct evidence of value is preferable to opinion.
An opinion is not normally admissible in evidence unless the witness is an "expert witness", i.e. a person with training and experience in the matter in question.
v) Using comparables
Introducing details of comparable dwellings situated outside the CT Unit area should be avoided except when considered essential and then only with the prior approval of the Head of CT Technical.
The band of a dwelling which is the subject of an outstanding appeal should not be submitted as a comparable by the LO.
vi) Hearsay evidence
VTs are not bound by legal rules relating to the admissibility of evidence before a Court of Law. The provisions of Part I of the Civil Evidence Act 1968, together with The Rules of the Supreme Court (Amendment) Order 1969 and the Civil Evidence Act 1972 which contain rules governing the introduction and use of hearsay evidence of fact and statement of opinion, cannot be invoked. The VT will itself decide on the admissibility of any hearsay evidence submitted and the weight to be attached to it.
vii) Limitation of evidence
A VT which adopts formal procedures may require an appellant to keep any evidence within the terms of the appeal. A LO should not normally seek such a restriction.
If the VT requires evidence to be given on oath or affirmation in a case in which the LO appears as both advocate and witness, it will generally be more convenient to take the oath or make affirmation at the outset. If the LO is on oath or affirmation, care should be taken in the presentation to differentiate between advocacy and expert evidence.
On rare occasions additional information may come to light during a hearing which had not previously been made available to the LO. This may cause the LO to wish to change the current band to a higher one. The LO is entitled to seek this higher band when presenting the case, but not of course where a material increase awaits a relevant transaction.
If necessary, a request should be made for a short adjournment so that proper consideration can be given to the matter. If the new information is very complex, a request for the hearing to be adjourned may be more appropriate.
There is always a possibility that a VT decision could be challenged by way of a judicial review (and the appeal set aside or re-heard) if the VT had acted illegally, irrationally, with some procedural impropriety or by giving effect to an increase on the basis of the new information without having heard any formal evidence or arguments to support it from those entitled to appear. Whilst the VT alone must decide whether or not to order a higher band, the LO should endeavour to ensure that it only does so on a sound legal basis in an appropriate case.
If the LO decides, in the light of the additional information, that a higher band should be sought in respect of the appeal before the VT, it is this higher band which should be contended for, regardless of any offer that might have been made previously in the absence of that information.
Unless the circumstances are exceptional, the LO should not ask the VT to inspect an appeal dwelling nor any comparables quoted.
If the VT proposes to inspect, the LO should accept an invitation to be present at the inspection and should be prepared to assist in the making of such arrangements as may be practicable.
The VT has no legal power of entry in this connection and formal notice of inspection cannot be used.
Regulation 28 states that an appeal may be decided by a majority of the VT members present. Where, in accordance with Reg 25(2), an appeal has to be disposed of by two members and they are unable to agree, it shall be remitted by the Clerk to be decided by a VT consisting of three different members.
The decision may be given orally at the end of the hearing or reserved and given in writing only later. In both instances, the decision must be sent to the parties in writing as soon as practicable after the hearing. The written notice must be accompanied by a statement of the reasons for the decision which forms part of the decision.
Regulation 29 provides that on or after the VT has decided an appeal, the LO must alter the List in accordance with that decision within six weeks from the date the decision is given. In practical terms this means that any change to a band must be included in the next Schedule of Alterations.
If the decision is that the band should be higher than that currently shown, the effective date for the change is to be that on which the decision is given (NOT the date of the hearing).
When a VT decision is received, the caseworker should endorse the working docket with details of the decision and then pass the file to caseworker support for case clearance in accordance with Section 3 part 3.
A decision that an appeal which sought to aggregate a number of bands to form one new band should remain disaggregated needs special treatment from an administrative angle. A decision indicator cannot be given to more than one dwelling on the computer. It will therefore be necessary to raise additional appeals, one for each resultant/remaining dwelling and to clear them by inputting the appropriate settlement code of 'C'. This decision indicator will be shown in future reprints of the CT List, and will form part of the entry.
Regulation 30 states that a review of a VT decision can be requested by any party to the appeal. An application must be in writing and can only be made on one or more of the following grounds:-
i) the decision was wrongly made as a result of a clerical error;
ii) one or more of the parties did not appear and can give a reasonable explanation why they did not do so;
iii) the decision is affected by a decision of, or on appeal from, the High Court, in respect of the dwelling which was the subject of the VT's decision.
It is not possible to make an application for a review where an appeal against the VT's decision has been determined by the High Court.
An application for a review may be dismissed if it is not made within four weeks beginning on the day on which notice of the decision in question was received.
An application for a review by a party other than the LO must be made to the VT and not to the LO. If an application is received by the LO, it should be passed immediately to the VT and the applicant informed of the action taken.
A LO can only make an application under i) above. Where ii) or iii) applies, a copy of the decision with an explanation must be forwarded to the TA for approval before proceeding.
There is no specified format for the request, and much depends on the circumstances in each instance. The application should be made in the form of a letter addressed to the VT admin unit with a copy to each of the parties, clearly stating the grounds and the reason for the request. Notification should be sent at the same time to the BA to comply with Reg 34.
If a VT sets aside its decision, any order made in consequence of that decision will be revoked and the VT will order a re-hearing or a re-determination before either the same or different members.
The procedural steps to be taken by the LO to reinstate such an appeal case are set out below.
Hardcopy agendas, if printed, can be disposed of as restricted waste. This does not apply to VT decisions, which need to be linked to the individual appeals to which they apply and stored within the relevant EDRM case folder and retained for the life of the list plus one year.
There may be an occasion when the VT wishes to reinstate a case. This will normally be a case that was previously dismissed.
The following procedures should be followed to reinstate an appeal where a VT decision is revoked and an appeal reopened. They have been agreed between the VOA and the VTS.
The better the liaison between the LO and the VT on issues such as reinstatements, the less likelihood there is of ongoing problems.
The VT will request the LO for a reinstatement and will prevent the original decision from appearing on their Appeals Management page on the Internet.
On receipt of a request from the VT, the appeal must be reinstated with its original CT case number on the VOA central database using the Reinstate Case Option (Option 10) within the Cases Menu of the CT Application.
The reinstatement functionality automatically removes the settlement code and settlement date from the case and, where the original settlement details have already been transmitted, sets the case for transmission to the VT as a reinstatement.
Where the original VT decision ordering a band change(s) that has already appeared on a Schedule of Alterations, this will remain in force after the appeal case reinstatement and an LO Report must be raised to ‘reverse the change’. In such instances, a warning message is displayed on committing the case reinstatement to advise the user that a report should be raised.
If the band change(s) resulting from the original case settlement has not appeared on a Schedule of Alterations, the relevant pending banding record(s) are automatically deleted by the reinstatement process.
Following transmission, the VT will proceed to deal with the reinstated appeal in the usual way.