Almost three quarters of a million pounds worth of council tax overpayments held by two Welsh councils
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
Nearly three quarters of a million pounds worth of overpaid council tax that should be returned to ratepayers is being held onto by two local authorities.
A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed the amounts held by two Gwent councils in overpaid council tax.
In Torfaen the borough council is holding almost £400,000 in over payments while the figure in Monmouthshire is nearly £339,000
The overall figure amounts to a staggering £738,286.46.
The organisation which represents local authorities in Wales has advised ratepayers to check their bills carefully to determine if they have paid more than required.
The typical band D council tax bill in Monmouthshire this year is £1,847.25 while a band D household in Torfaen is £1,802.71.
Council tax is usually paid in 10 monthly instalments over the year and contributes toward local services like sweeping the roads and running schools.
Though there is no legal requirement for any council to notify individuals that they have overpaid on the charge, authorities will usually issue a closing bill or do so if there is a change in circumstance.
If there is any credit on a householder’s account it should be deducted from any new annual bill issued, meaning the over payment will count as payment towards that year’s charge.
According to the Welsh Local Government Association, the lack of legal duty on councils to notify households of an overpayment means an individual has only six years from learning of an overpayment to try and claim it back.
A spokesman for the WLGA said: “In the absence of any express statutory duty on the council, the Limitation Act 1980 would apply, a right of action would signify six years from the date the taxpayer had express notice of the credit.”
Check your bill
The overpaid cash sits in a council’s general fund and the WLGA said councils will usually have a policy which allows them to keep it after a period.
The spokesman said: “After a period of time councils probably will have a ‘write back’ provision in their write off policy to absorb the balances.
“Some authorities report that they review such credits after eight to 10 years.”
The WLGA has urged rate payers to check their bill if they think they may have overpaid on their council tax.
The spokesman said: “If the latest council tax bill advises of a credit, contact the council to request a refund.
“Simply enquire with the local authority providing as many details as possible in relation to the account/property the taxpayer is concerned about.
“Local authority records extend to 1993. Where a clear entitlement to the money exists councils would reverse the write back and refund.”
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