How to identify Council Tax and business rates scams and what you can do to avoid them.
If you choose to appoint an agent, you should be aware that there are a number of fraudulent Council Tax and business rates agents operating around the country. Someone may telephone you or appear at your door claiming to be able to reduce your Council Tax or business rates bill.
You can find out how to avoid and report internet scams and phishing.
How to identify a fraudulent agent
There are a number of tactics that fraudulent agents may use to get you to part with your money.
Types of scams that fraudulent agents may use
A fraudulent agent may:
- insist you’re definitely in the wrong Council Tax band and are owed back payments on your Council Tax bill, when in fact your band is correct
- say they’re from the local council or Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and ask for your bank details so they can provide a refund, then steal money from the bank account
- say they’re from the VOA and ask you to pay for an inspection – the VOA won’t charge you for any Council Tax or business rates services
- claim that the VOA charges you to challenge your Council Tax band - this is not correct as you can do this for free
- claim that taxpayers must, by law, be represented by an agent to challenge their band, when in fact anyone can do this
- state that they’re on an approved list of agents recognised by the VOA, when in fact the VOA does not keep any such list
- tell you they have submitted an appeal to the VOA on your behalf and give you a forged acknowledgment notice when in fact they haven’t submitted an appeal
- quote the Billing Authority (BA) reference for your property – this is public information and can be found using the online service
- tell you that they have been successful in having your Coucil Tax band reviewed and provide a forged confirmation email stating the amount of refund due. The VOA does not calculate payments or refunds and if a refund were due, your local council would contact you direct about this
How to avoid falling victim to these scams
- remember that you can have your Council Tax band checked free of charge by contacting the VOA
- remember that you can find and check your business rates valuation online free of charge
- contact a cold caller’s head office to check that they’re legitimate (make sure that your last call has ended properly and you have a dial tone before redialing the number)
- contact the council or the VOA if you receive a call offering to reduce your band or rateable value, to check their story
- inform the police if you believe that anyone is impersonating staff from your local council or the VOA
- dial 999 if a doorstep cold caller refuses to leave your home
- read the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) mandatory code of practice which applies to agents who are members of RICS, the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation (IRRV) and the Rating Surveyors’ Association (RSA)
- get professional advice and help with business rates from a qualified surveyor
- report any suspected scam to Action Fraud
- give your bank details to anyone
- let anyone into your home without seeing appropriate identification
- feel under pressure from a cold caller to pay an immediate up-front fee - take the time you need to think about it
- accept cold callers’ claims about your band or rateable value without seeing evidence or proof of what they’re claiming
- deal with anyone that is reluctant to give you their company address or contact details
What to do if you think your Council Tax band or rateable value is wrong
If you think the Council Tax band for your home is wrong, then all you have to do is contact the VOA and explain why you think it’s incorrect. We’ll ask you to confirm that the details we hold about your home are correct. We’ll listen to your views and if, following a review, we agree that your band is wrong, we’ll change it. Please note that bands can occasionally go up as well as down.
If you think the rateable value for your business (non-domestic) property is wrong, then you can use the online service to tell us. We’ll ask you to confirm the details that we hold about your property. Please note that your rateable value could go up as well as down.