Council Tax Manual

Section 1: introduction and essential background

The Valuation Office Agency's (VOA) technical manual for assessing domestic property for Council Tax.

Part 1: introduction

VO letters and forms which are not included as appendices are available as MS Word Templates.

1.1 Preface

This Manual has been written to enable Business Unit and site management, caseworkers and administrative staff in England and Wales to deal with Council Tax work.

It consists of three sections:-

  • section 1 - introduction

  • section 2 - maintenance of Council Tax lists

  • section 3 - England : Proposals and Appeals

  • Section 4 - Wales : Proposals and Appeals

Appendices are attached to each section.

Additional Practice Notes provide guidance on legal and technical matters concerning the banding process.

The process maps accord with this Manual and have been developed to assist all staff employed on Council Tax duties to deal with the aspects of work with which they are involved.

1.2 Legislation

Council Tax came into effect on 1 April 1993. It was established under the provisions of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (referred to as LGFA 92 in the remainder of this manual). The Act requires the Commissioners of Inland Revenue (now known as HM Revenue & Customs) to carry out valuations of dwellings in England and Wales for the purposes of compiling and maintaining valuation lists and specify bands within which dwellings are to be placed. The Commissioners have delegated this duty to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

Specific Regulations are contained in Statutory Instruments. (Each title is a hyperlink to the legislation)

Statutory Instrument 1993/290 - The Council Tax (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) Regulations 1993 (SI1993/290). The regulations apply to the English and Welsh 1993 Council Tax Lists.

Statutory Instrument 2005/181 The Council Tax (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) (Amendments) (Wales) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/181) amended the 1993 regulations for Wales. The regulations apply to the 2005 Council Tax List for Wales only. See 1.3 below.

Statutory Instrument 2009/2270 The Council Tax (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) (England) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/2270) revoked the 1993 regulations for England. The regulations apply to England only and came into effect on 1 October 2009.

Currently, there are 8 valuation bands in England, lettered between A and H, and nine in Wales, lettered between A and I. One of these valuation bands is allocated to each dwelling. There are different levels of value appropriate to the bands in England and in Wales. For the 1993 Lists these were:-

England

Valuation Band Range of values
A Not exceeding £40,000
B Exceeding £40,000 but not exceeding £52,000
C Exceeding £52,000 but not exceeding £68,000
D Exceeding £68,000 but not exceeding £88,000
E Exceeding £88,000 but not exceeding £120,000
F Exceeding £120,000 but not exceeding £160,000
G Exceeding £160,000 but not exceeding £320,000
H Exceeding £320,000

Wales: 1 April 1993 – 31 March 2005

Valuation Band Range of values
A Not exceeding £30,000
B Exceeding £30,000 but not exceeding £39,000
C Exceeding £39,000 but not exceeding £51,000
D Exceeding £51,000 but not exceeding £66,000
E Exceeding £66,000 but not exceeding £90,000
F Exceeding £90,000 but not exceeding £120,000
G Exceeding £120,000 but not exceeding £240,000
H Exceeding £240,000

1.3 Council Tax revaluations

In Wales, there was a revaluation which took effect on 1 April 2005, with an Antecedent Valuation Date (AVD) of 1 April 2003.

In England, a proposed revaluation, due to take effect on 1 April 2007 (with an AVD of 1 April 2005), was postponed.

The instructions for carrying out the revaluations were given in short term Instructions & Advice documents (IAs).

This Manual includes instructions covering the maintenance of Council Tax Valuation Lists and challenges made against the bands in these Lists. It has been updated to take account of the revaluation in Wales. The bands in Wales are now:-

Wales: 1 April 2005

Valuation Band Range of values
A Not exceeding £44,000
B Exceeding £44,000 but not exceeding £65,000
C Exceeding £65,000 but not exceeding £91,000
D Exceeding £91,000 but not exceeding £123,000
E Exceeding £123,000 but not exceeding £162,000
F Exceeding £162,000 but not exceeding £223,000
G Exceeding £223,000 but not exceeding £324,000
H Exceeding £324,000 but not exceeding £424,000
I Exceeding £424,000

The Local Council (the “Billing Authority”) is responsible for the setting and collection of Council Tax, based on the valuation band ascribed to each dwelling.

1.4 Client bodies

The VOA’s client bodies for Council Tax are Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in England, and Welsh Government (previously Welsh Assembly Government) in Wales. On policy matters, Welsh Government generally accepts advice from Department for Communities and Local Government.

1.5 Antecedent valuation dates

The Antecedent Valuation Date (AVD) for Council Tax purposes has been set in the legislation. The basis of valuation states that the value of any dwelling shall be taken to be the amount which, subject to certain assumptions, it might reasonably have been expected to realise if it had been sold by a willing vendor.

1993 Council Tax lists (England and Wales)

The AVD for England and Wales is 1 April 1991. SI 1992/550 The Council Tax (Situation and Valuation of Dwellings) Regulations 1992

2005 Council Tax list (Wales only)

The AVD in Wales is 1 April 2003. SI 2003/3046 The Council Tax (Valuation Bands) (Wales) Order 2003 applies

Further guidance relating to the AVD is given in Practice Note 3 to this Manual. Separate versions are provided for England and Wales, as different regulations apply.

1.6 Definitions of “proposal” and “appeal”

As with Rating legislation, LGFA 92 refers to the term “proposal” for any documentation completed by a taxpayer, or their agent, in which they seek a different CT band to that currently shown in the CT List. This in turn becomes an “appeal” when agreement is not reached and the matter is referred to an independent Valuation Tribunal for a decision.

Before 1 April 2008 the appeal regulations required a listing officer to identify unresolved proposals and forward them to the clerk of the Valuation Tribunal, at which time they became appeals. This remains the position in Wales.

From 1 April 2008 in England an “appeal” will only arise in the following circumstances. The new regulations require the Listing Officer to serve a formal decision notice in response to a proposal within four months of receipt of the proposal, and require the proposer to make an appeal direct to the valuation tribunal should the decision notice not be accepted. An unresolved appeal will be heard by the Valuation Tribunal.

1.7 The VOA website – further information

Information on Council Tax is provided on the Directgov - Home and Community website.

Additional information relating to both England and Wales has been published on the VOA website. This includes the Council Tax Manual, IAs and other statistical information.

Staff engaged with CT work are encouraged to visit both sites regularly to familiarise themselves with all the information leaflets and factsheets available.

As well as general information and advice, including the HMRC Charter and VOA Customer Service Standards, specific leaflets are available on the internet or in printed form:-

1.8 Use of the Welsh language

The VOA is fully committed to the provisions of the Welsh Language Act 1993.

All correspondence received in Wales in the Welsh language must be similarly replied to, and all information can be supplied in Welsh.

Listing Officer Notifications for dwellings in Wales are issued automatically in both English and Welsh, with bilingual letter headings.

Council Tax valuation sheet for estimated bands

Council Tax Valuation Sheet for Estimated Bands
Estimated Council Tax Valuation List Entry: Billing Authority Code:
BA Ref. No (if available) Current band (if available) Estimated Band UARN (if available)
       
 
Locality ID: Reason for Report: Report No:
 
Property Details For estimate only – do not capture on CDB  
Grp Type Age Area Htg Rms Beds Bths Flrs/ Level Pkg Cons Type Cons Size Out VSCs Mod Plot Size Reason Effective Date
 
 
Inspection Code Date Reason for Inspection
 
Other Tone Comparables:
Ref Address Band Grp Type Age Area Accomodation VSCs Sale or decision details
16                  
17                  
18                  
19                  
20                  
Sales Comparables:
Ref Address Band Grp Type Age Area Accommodation VSCs  
21                  
22                  
23                  
24                  
25                  
Reasons for Estimate / Representations by Taxpayer:
Caseworkers Conclusions / Remarks / Thought Processes:
 
ESTIMATED BAND:  
Caseworker:   Date:

Part 2: the initial banding exercise - England and Wales and the subsequent revaluation in Wales

VO letters and forms which are not included as appendices are available as MS Word Templates.

2.1 Background

The initial banding exercise was carried out in 1991/1992. The Valuation Office Agency was responsible for the completion of the exercise and was assisted in its task by outside contractors. It required the allocation of a band to every known dwelling in England and Wales in accordance with Section 1 part 1.2, and for these bands to be entered into the Valuation List ready for publication in March 1993.

To assist in this task, a valuation model for banding purposes was set up.

2.2 The valuation model

The Model sought to utilise to the full, information and records already held within the Agency, thereby enabling the great majority of dwellings to be banded at the desk, thus reducing the need for external inspections.

The Model laid down the identification of distinct value-significant locations and the main property types occurring in those locations. For these main property types, key properties were identified, fully described and valued to provide a basis for the banding of other properties by using comparables identical to the key properties.

The Model was not appropriate for every locality, or for the valuation of every dwelling in each locality. Nevertheless, it provided a basis for the allocation of bands.

2.3 Key properties

A number of key properties were identified in each of the discrete value-significant locations. For each of these key properties a Key Property Form VO 7400 (Appendix 1.1) was created. The key property concept provided for the identification of permissible variations whilst still allowing the subject dwelling to remain within the same band.

At the same time, evidence of sales of dwellings on, or within 6 months either side of, the AVD were analysed to accord with the statutory definition of market value as set out in the Domestic Property (Valuation) Regulations 1991.

The valuation of each key property was undertaken in accordance with the above Regulations and its appropriate Council Tax band allocated and the key property form noted accordingly, including details of the comparable evidence and remarks to show how the conclusion was reached.

This was followed by a consideration of which variations were permissible before the band became inappropriate, and these were also noted on the Key Property Form.

The key property forms may be filed in a series of four-ring binders and centrally sited within each Agency location, or included in the valuation banding “bibles” referred to in paragraph 2.5 below. Whilst their usefulness has diminished since their original Valuation List compilation, they should never be destroyed.

2.4 Co-ordination

Following the valuation banding of key properties, Listing Officers liaised with their colleagues in neighbouring/adjoining locations to ensure there was consistency of bands where Agency or Billing Authority boundaries divided centres of population.

2.5 Valuation banding “bible”

All information and material which it was considered could be used to effectively defend the initial bandings were filed in a series of binders appropriate to each location. The contents should include:-

i) description of the location

ii) plans and maps depicting the valuation location(s)

iii)list of the main key property types (with addresses)

iv) key property forms (VO 7400) unless filed separately (see paragraph 2.3)

v) sales information obtained from Particulars Delivered, either in the form of a printout from the ITSD MILO Application or a series of Council Tax transaction forms

vi) any press or professional reports on the state of the market in the location generally at the AVD and any commentary reporting movements (if any) in prices between the date of the evidence and the AVD

vii) an index

Valuation Banding “bibles” must not be destroyed whilst the current Council Tax Valuation List remains in force.

2.6 The 2005 revaluation in Wales

On 1 April 2005 a new valuation list came into force in Wales.

The Welsh Assembly Government (now the Welsh Government) commissioned a Council Tax Revaluation and Rebanding of all dwellings in Wales, which took effect on 1 April 2005, with an Antecedent Valuation Date (AVD) of 1 April 2003.

Details of the banding structure were announced in The Council Tax (Valuation Bands) (Wales) Order (SI 2003/3046(W289)) which came into force on 30 November 2003.

Banding methodology

It was decided from the outset that a “manual” Revaluation would take place in Wales. Statistical information of property sales was provided by the VOA to the Welsh Assembly Government in order that a banding structure could be arrived at, and then individual properties placed in those bands. This followed closely the approach adopted for the 1993 Initial Banding Exercise.

The broad methodology and timescale adopted was as follows:-

Survey records (April 2002-ongoing)

Updating of survey records takes account of alterations to dwellings since 1993.

Information was gathered from taxpayer questionnaires together with external and internal inspections.

Key sale creation (October 2002- September 2003)

Identification of the key sales evidence from Particulars Delivered (PD) within each locality was completed. A taxpayer questionnaire was then used to verify survey records as at the date of sale. The sales were later analysed, when the bands were known, to set parameters in readiness for banding.

The banding exercise (April 2003 - July 2004)

Billing Authority areas were divided into “communities” and the larger communities divided into location specific batches in readiness for banding. Banding sheets were created, which contained not only current band and addresses but also survey characteristics and the last sale on each property, where available. The majority of survey information was not held electronically and, therefore, part of the process involved the caseworker identifying the type and size of each property from manual records, inspection or digital mapping. Where time allowed, and such information was readily available, it was recorded electronically at the same time as the bands were input to the IT system.

Prior to commencement of banding, research was done within each “community” enabling a “bible” to be created containing a summary of key property types and their values, the key sales (with photocopies of relevant documents in readiness for defence), taxpayers questionnaires, estate agents particulars and any other relevant information; e.g. new housing development - house types, etc. The properties within each batch were then banded:

  • where the sales indicated that the property fell well within band margins no inspection was undertaken.

  • where the information showed the property to be on the band margins, or there was a lack of property attribute data, an external inspection was usually carried out.

The completed batches were subject to quality control before and after input.

As Communities/Billing Authorities were completed, further quality assurance was undertaken using two computer-generated reports:

  • deviation reports looked for large band movements (i.e. by comparison of the proposed 2005 band with the 1993 band).

  • sales reports acted as a check as they allowed comparison of sale prices with bands over a period of time.

Specialist property types including agricultural dwellings, licensed property and park homes were the subject of national (England and Wales) co-ordination to ensure consistency of valuation approach.

Part 3: the duties of a Listing Officer, liaison with stakeholders and disclosure of information

3.1 Appointment of a Listing Officer

The Commissioners of HM Revenue & Customs are responsible for the appointment of a Listing Officer (LO) for CT purposes for each Billing Authority (BA) in England and Wales. This is a statutory appointment under S.20 of LGFA 92. In practice a LO has responsibility for a valuation area which will include a number of BA areas.

3.2 Authority of a Listing Officer

The Listing Officer/CT Unit Head of each Valuation Office holds a document VO9059 signed by the Chief Executive Officer on behalf of the Commissioners of Revenue and Customs, authorising them to act as:

  • the Listing Officer for the purposes of LGFA 92 ;

  • the Valuation Officer for the purposes of carrying out any of the functions imposed or conferred on the Commissioners of HM Revenue & Customs by S.26 and S.27 LGFA 92 ;

  • the Valuation Officer in relation to rating matters (see Rating Manual).

The absence or imperfection of such an authority may invalidate actions taken and any LO who, at any time, is without any authority covering the BAs concerned, should contact CEO (Human Resources - Operations) immediately.

If there is a gap between the end of one LO’s appointment and the start of the next (for example, due to death), it will be necessary to stockpile CT work until the new appointment is made. There must always be a duly authorised LO in post.

There is no provision for the appointment of Deputy Listing Officers.

3.3 Delegated authority

LGFA 92 provides authority for VOA employees to carry out inspections. Part of Section 26, which is reproduced below, states:-

1) If a Valuation Officer needs to value a dwelling for the purpose of carrying out any of his functions, he and any servant of the Crown authorised by him in writing may enter on, survey and value the dwelling if subsections (2) and (3) below are fulfilled.

2) at least three clear days’ notice in writing of the proposed exercise of the power must be given; and there shall be disregarded for this purpose any day which is:-

a) a Saturday, Sunday, Christmas Day, Good Friday; or

b) a day which is a Bank Holiday under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 in England and Wales.

3) in a case where a person authorised by a Valuation Officer proposes to exercise the power, that person must if required produce his authority.

4) if a person intentionally delays or obstructs a person in the exercise of a power under this section, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.

5) in this section…”Valuation Officer” means any Listing Officer and any other officer of the Commissioners of HM Revenue & Customs who is currently appointed by them to carry out any of their functions.”

Therefore, to comply with the requirements of s.26(1) LGFA 92, all staff who are engaged in inspections and valuation duties for CT purposes must hold a written authorisation signed by the Valuation Officer. The authorisation is required to be in the form of VO 9059 (reproduced as Appendix 1.2) and produced on VOA headed paper. VO9059 refers to the authority to inspect and the authority to represent the VOA at tribunal and must be amended appropriately for individual use. A copy must be placed on the Listing Officer’s personal file, and the officer is expected to keep the original in a safe place.

It is not intended that this authorisation should be shown whenever a dwelling is inspected. The identity document VO 9053 is designed for that purpose, and should be produced when inspecting a dwelling for CT purposes.

3.4 Listing Officer and Valuation Officer

The CT legislation uses both the terms ‘Listing Officer’ and ‘Valuation Officer’.

This is because the Local Government Finance and Valuation Act 1991, which authorised work to start on the initial banding exercise, used the term ‘Valuation Officer’. This was carried forward to LGFA 92.

For most purposes regarding valuation and valuation lists the statutory officer is the ‘Listing Officer’. For certain purposes the LO’s powers are in effect enhanced by being defined as the ‘Valuation Officer’. For these purposes the LO must be described as ‘Valuation Officer’. These concern Powers of Entry (s.26 LGFA 92) (see 3.3 above) and the power to serve Forms of Return (s.27(2) LGFA 92).

3.5 Representation at Valuation Tribunal Hearings

S.16 of LGFA 92 provides that:-

“Any party to an appeal may appear in person (with assistance from any person if he or she so wishes), by counsel or solicitor, or any other representative (other than a person who is an employee or member of the valuation tribunal).”

The LO may therefore delegate to any officer in their CT Unit, caseworker or above, the duty of conducting cases before the Valuation Tribunal where the appeal concerns a dwelling which has been banded either by the LO or a member of staff, or by a person appointed to assist in carrying out valuations (s.21(3) LGFA 92) in practice this means a contractor who carried out a part of the initial banding exercise). An officer who is to represent the LO at a Valuation Tribunal/Valuation Tribunal England (VT/VTE) hearing requires an authorisation to do so (this does not apply to officers who may be called solely as witnesses to matters of fact). The form of that authorisation is VO 9059, previously mentioned in paragraph 3.3 above and held in Appendix 1.2.

At Valuation Tribunal hearings an officer conducting a case for the LO should not describe herself or himself as “the Listing Officer” but rather as the LO’s “representative”. References to the LO should be considered to be to the one appointed officer.

3.6 Appeals to the High Court

An appeal against a VT/VTE decision for CT purposes is made to the High Court (HC). This may only be made on questions of law and not on matters of fact, such as the level of valuation/banding. See Section 3 part 5.

The Board’s Solicitor (HM Revenue and Customs) will be instructed and will handle the administration of all appeals to the High Court.

When an application is made by a taxpayer to the Valuation Tribunal for a case to be stated for the decision of the High Court, the Clerk will notify the LO.

3.7 Southern specialist rating unit – with responsibility for London licensed property

The Southern Specialist Rating Unit deals with CT bandings for any living accommodation within licensed property for London BAs 5030 to 5990. All staff involved should, for each BA area in which those duties are carried out, hold an authority VO 9056 signed by the relevant LO.

3.8 Signature of documents

All documents issued by the LO in exercise of his/her statutory function must be issued either in the LO’s name or signed on his/her behalf by a member of staff to whom authority has been delegated. CT Unit instructions should clearly state which documents are to be signed by the LO, and to whom and in respect of which documents authority is delegated to sign on the LO’s behalf. All CT documents and letters must be signed by, or on behalf of, the Listing Officer, and not in the name of the District Valuer or the Valuation Officer.

3.9 Impartiality of Listing Officer

The LO must preserve an attitude of complete impartiality in all contact with members of the public and BAs. Bandings must be completely free from interest or prejudice. The amount of Council Tax which taxpayers have to pay to BAs depends on these bandings and it is, therefore, imperative that in no circumstances should it be possible for an accusation of bias to be made against the LO.

3.10 Relations with the public

The LO should be accessible to any Council Taxpayer who requests a personal interview. Correspondence and interviews will normally be conducted by the member of staff who is dealing with the banding of the dwelling in question, but it sometimes happens that a person with a grievance feels a greater sense of satisfaction if the matter can be discussed personally with the LO. An unnecessary appeal may be avoided if such a meeting is arranged. Requests for an interview should always be met unless the request is known to be frivolous.

The LO should ensure that staff are as helpful and informative as possible in their discussions with Council Taxpayers. In particular, taxpayers should be made fully aware of their banding and appeal rights and be given a full response to their queries subject only to the standard rules of confidentiality. If there is doubt in any particular case, the Customer Services Manager (CSM) should be consulted. It is important that taxpayers are satisfied they have been given all the information they are entitled to receive.

When informal discussions are initiated by a taxpayer, or an authorised representative, and the LO decides not to alter the CT List, the LO must ensure that the other party clearly understands they can submit a challenge to alter the list and may have a right to make a proposal.

The inspection of a person’s home is a sensitive matter and it is essential that all staff who inspect dwellings carry this out in a tactful, courteous and businesslike manner. Staff should show their identity documents as a matter of course on arrival and not wait to be asked.

Staff must record details of all conversations, both on the telephone and face-to-face on VO9498 (Appendix 1.3). Such notes must be initialled and dated and, where relevant, the time of the conversation should be recorded. For new and existing cases this information is logged within EDRM. For CR90 enquiries a record is made within the Central Database. Complaints and enquiries from Members of Parliament should be entered on the Customer Contact Record (CCR) application.

3.11 Advice to council taxpayers

Where a reduction in the banding is conceded by the LO or a Valuation Tribunal as a result of a temporary change of circumstances, it is essential that the taxpayer clearly understands that the LO reserves the right to restore the banding whenever there is a further change of circumstances, e.g. on completion of the work and following a relevant transaction (i.e. a sale). Where the LO alters the List by reducing the band in such cases, or settles a proposal, the LO should write to the taxpayer explaining the position and send a copy of the letter to the BA for information. If the LO subsequently decides to restore the banding, the LO Notification should be accompanied by a further explanatory letter. A copy of the letter should be sent to the BA at the same time as the Schedule of Alterations.

In appropriate cases the LO may, at his/her discretion, inform appellant taxpayers, or their agents, that appeals concerning comparable dwellings have been unsuccessful. Care should be exercised when supplying this information not to make any suggestion that the taxpayer should withdraw their appeal. Care should also be taken to avoid making any statement from which the inference could be drawn that if the taxpayer proceeds to a hearing by the Valuation Tribunal and is successful, an appeal to the High Court by the LO will follow automatically.

The LO should be careful not to give any formal advice to taxpayers personally, either of a general nature or of a more specific nature, relevant to the subject enquiry or any particular appeal, because if a negligent mis-statement were to be made during the course of such advice, or if a taxpayer was to be given a legitimate expectation of a particular course of action or practice (not later realised), the LO could face legal proceedings, including judicial review proceedings, being instituted against him/her.

The LO should make certain that all staff take the greatest care when answering taxpayers’ enquiries. The desire to assist should not lead to superficial advice being given where insufficient evidence or knowledge is available to reach a proper conclusion. Where a member of staff is unable to give accurate advice, it should be courteously explained to the taxpayer that further consideration needs to be given to the enquiry. The matter should then be referred to a senior member of staff.

3.12 Aggrieved taxpayers

Enquiries can be received from taxpayers raising questions on the banding of their dwellings or other entries in the CT List. Answering these queries successfully often resolves the matter without the need for the taxpayer to make an appeal and can establish goodwill between a taxpayer and the LO. All queries must be dealt with courteously, and not imply that it is not worthwhile for a taxpayer to make an appeal.

It is possible for a letter to constitute an proposal if it fulfils the statutory requirements. If it is intended to be an appeal but does not meet the statutory requirements, it should be treated as an invalid proposal.

All queries by letter, telephone or in person should be answered fully as soon as possible. Taxpayers who intend to make a complaint should be directed to submit full details in writing to the Unit Customer Services Manager.

3.13 Enquiries from taxpayers in band a dwellings

Taxpayers of dwellings in Band A have the same rights as all other taxpayers. However, any dwelling already in Band A cannot have a lower band. This should be pointed out in the reply to any taxpayer of a dwelling which is already in Band A, who enquires about a lower band in their query, and they should be advised that there is no lower band. This does not apply to a taxpayer of a Band A dwelling who is seeking a deletion from the CT List, a higher band or a reconstitution.

3.14 Response times for correspondence

Replies to enquiries must be made within the spirit of the HMRC Charter supported by the VOA Service Standards (refer to the Customer Services Homepage).

Current standards are that correspondence should be acknowledged within an average of three days and a full reply provided within an average of six days.

3.15 Filing of correspondence relating to enquiries

Appropriate correspondence should be saved and stored in EDRM in accordance with the policy advice set out in the EDRM homepage. This is set out in the guide available on the EDRM intranet homepage.

3.16 Liaison with billing authorities

The LO should make every effort to establish and maintain close contact with BAs. The relationship between LOs and BAs demands goodwill and co-operation on both sides. Any reasonable requests made by BAs should be acceded to.

The LO should arrange for a Service Partnership (SP) Document (covering both Rating and Council Tax) to be set up with each of their BAs and for these to be reviewed in accordance with the terms of the SP, normally by the GCSM. Fresh SPs will need to be drawn up annually.

3.17 Liaison with neighbouring Listing Officers

The LO should keep in touch with LOs of adjoining CT Units to ensure uniformity in relation to banding. This applies particularly to dwellings situated close to boundaries.

If a dwelling is divided by the boundary between CT Units, only one LO will be responsible for its banding and for any appeal proceedings, but should consult the other LO(s) concerned whenever it is necessary to do so. The LO responsible for the Valuation List which includes the dwelling will be responsible for this contact.

3.18 Liaison with Valuation Tribunal admin units

The LO should consult with VT/VTE Admin Units so that good administrative working arrangements are maintained.

VT/VTE may occasionally call conferences to discuss matters of mutual concern. Any questions about the appropriateness of LO attendance will need to be discussed with the Director Council Tax & Housing Allowances, notifying also the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Valuer.

3.19 Duties relating to Council Tax valuation lists

The LO has a statutory duty to compile and maintain a CT List for each BA area under his/her control. As part of this duty, the LO and his/her staff should note any physical changes to dwellings, or features, which are observed in the course of inspections for any purpose which lead them to suppose that any alteration to the CT List may be required. Appropriate action should then be taken.

Whilst there is no specific obligation on LOs to police BA areas under their control to record all changes which could lead to alterations of the List, vigilance on the part of all outdoor staff will ensure that VOA survey records are adequately maintained.

3.20 Ascertaining the name of the occupier

The LO has a duty to ascertain the name of the current Council Taxpayer. Reg 35(1) (3) of the Council Tax Regulations 1993 states that:-

“If the name of any taxpayer on whom notice is required to be served cannot after reasonable inquiry be ascertained, the notice may be served by addressing to “The Council Tax Payer” of the dwelling concerned.”

BAs should be encouraged to supply names of Council Taxpayers on their reports. The supply of this information for postal purposes is permissible under the Data Protection Act 1988 and can be distinguished from the inclusion of names of current taxpayers on Schedules of Alterations as a means of identifying dwellings, which is NOT permissible.

Where a BA does not supply this information, the LO should make every effort to find out the name from existing office records for the correct addressing of Listing Officer Notifications and other correspondence. Referencers should ask for the occupier’s name when inspecting dwellings, but specific visits should NOT be made for this purpose only.

3.21 Disclosure of property attribute data and sales information

3.21.1 Context

This policy reflects legislation that restricts the disclosure of data and replaces previous advice. It sets out what can and cannot be disclosed when VOA staff are handling a council tax enquiry or case where, in order to resolve the matter, there is a clear need to disclose information (e.g. about transactions and/or the property attributes). This policy does not cover general enquiries about sales information or property data, or requests for bulk information. These may need to be treated as Freedom of Information Act requests and different rules will apply – to see information about Freedom of Information requests please click here . Your CSM or CEO Customer Services will be able to give advice. Requests for bulk data, often from other public authorities, should be brought to the attention of the Data Strategy Team and the CT & HA Directorate via e-mail.

3.21.2 Overview of legislation

The circumstances in which we can, or cannot, disclose information stems from the Commissioners for Revenue & Customs Act 2005 and the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). The main provisions are summarised below.

3.21.3 The Commissioners for Revenues and Customs Act 2005 (CRCA) s.18(1) to 23

We all have a duty of confidentiality to a ‘person’ which can include a council taxpayer which is set out in s18 (1) to s23 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act (CRCA) 2005. Section 19 makes it a criminal offence for an individual employee to disclose information capable of identifying a person. The full Revenue and Customs Act can be seen by clicking here.

The CRCA was drafted with the full knowledge of the application of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI). Section 23 of the CRCA specifically states that any information which would specify a person or enable a person to be identified (which will, by implication, relate to any information about the sales of a property or its property attributes) is also regarded as exempt information under s44 (1) (a) of FOI.

Therefore, whilst section 18 (1) of the CRCA prevents VOA staff (as HMRC’s executive agency) from disclosing information which is held in connection with any of our statutory function. Section 18 (2) and (3) go on to set out when we may be permitted to disclose. This includes when we need to disclose information during the progression of an enquiry or case.

Section 18(2) of the CRCA allows us to disclose information provided that it is reasonable and proportionate to a specific case in order to carry out our statutory functions; one of these functions is the maintenance of Council Tax Valuation Lists. The legislation, therefore, allows VOA staff to disclose certain information when dealing with registered enquiries, proposals and appeals where that information would otherwise be prohibited from disclosure.

Information cannot be disclosed if the enquirer is, for example, merely asking about neighbouring properties - the disclosure has to be linked to performing a statutory function and dealing with such enquiries is not regarded as carrying out a statutory function.

Section 18(h) of the CRCA also allows you to provide information relating to the person or their property if they request it. It is VOA policy that such a request is made in writing. This works in conjunction with the disclosure of personal data, when the requirements of the DPA must also be considered and adhered to. Information held about a living individual is deemed to be personal data and should only be released to that individual, or to a third party, such as an agent, if the individual has given their written consent.

Finally section 18(2)[c] of the CRCA deals with civil proceedings like Valuation Tribunals, and 18 (3) confirms that s18 (1) is also subject to any other enactment permitting disclosure.

The CRCA 2005 states we must not even admit we hold specific information if the information sought or requested identifies or enables a person to be deduced like (PD/SDLT) sales data or property attributes even though it, or similar information, may be in the public domain.

Under the CRCA a person includes ‘legal’ persons such as companies and local authorities. Information provided under the FOI Act is anything that could be provided to anyone, anywhere. Disclosure to individuals within the CT business stream to enable staff to carry out statutory functions is under a different disclosure regime and, does not make the information accessible/releasable to anyone under FOI.

3.21.4 Personal data and the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA)

The personal data that is collected and held by the VOA can be sub-divided into three types:

Property Personal Data - this represents the vast majority of the data we collect and includes such information as number of bedrooms, the area and type of a property.

People Personal Data – this includes data that relates directly to an individual such as name, address and contact details.

Sensitive Personal Data – this is information that we rarely need to know about to do the job but may be inadvertently provided to us. It also includes some personnel data held about us as employees of the VOA. The DPA classifies this information as sensitive personal data, and any sensitive personal data inadvertently provided to VOA must not be retained.

3.21.5 The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) – the principles

The Data Protection Act is underpinned by 8 common-sense principles. If data is handled in line with these principles then compliance should be achieved. The 8 principles about information can be summarised as:

  • fairly and lawfully processed

  • obtained for specific lawful purposes

  • adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose for which it is held

  • accurate and up to date

  • kept for no longer than business needs or specific purpose require

  • processed in accordance with the individual’s rights

  • secured against unauthorised or unlawful access or processing

  • transferred only to countries with adequate levels of protection

The DPA requires data relating to identifiable living individuals to be processed fairly. ‘Processed’ includes the circumstances in which such information is disclosed. In the context of Council Tax it would be contrary to the DPA to disclose sales price data about specific, identifiable properties other than via a Reg 17 Notice - England (formerly a Reg 26 notice) or Reg 26 Notice - Wales. This is because those sales prices are the personal data of the owners and disclosure would be unfair to them.

For property attribute data, it is reasonable to disclose general property information (from say property attributes) if this is clearly visible to anyone walking down the street providing it is reasonable and proportionate to do so.

For example, “I note from our records that all the properties in your street are semi-detached and were built at the same time”. [The reason why some properties are in band C and some in band D, with a different effective date, is because there have been alterations to these properties after 1993. The Listing Officer has to be made aware of a ‘relevant’ sale and these acts as a legal trigger which enables us to take the alterations into account.]

However, never be drawn into giving lots of specific information as you are subject to the restrictions on disclosure under CRCA which sets out that any information provided should be necessary to undertake our statutory functions.

In summary, we may disclose general sales information or property information as long as we don’t identify the specific properties, or individuals, to which that information relates. The DPA does, of course, allow individual council taxpayers to access information we hold about them and their property. This is known as a Subject Access Request (SAR). Before divulging such information, evidence that they are indeed the owner or occupier will be needed. We may be able to confirm this from our records; if not, a copy of the council tax bill should suffice. If you receive a SAR consult with your Customer Service Manager.

You can view The Data Protection Act

3.21.6 Disclosure of information for Council Tax work

The following provides guidance on how to strike a balance between disclosing information necessary to carry out a statutory function (as allowed by s.18(2) and (3) of the CRCA), and the need to be careful not to divulge prohibited personal information. The guidance applies to most day-to-day circumstances encountered by members of staff who handle council tax work and must be adopted by everyone for consistency.

Although the CRCA allows us to disclose some information in certain circumstances as part of our job (function), it should not be taken to mean that we have complete freedom to reveal what we like, when we like. We must only disclose information that is relevant and absolutely necessary to resolve the enquiry, proposal or appeal in accordance with the CRCA. There are clear rules on sales information, but for property attribute information it is less clear. As a matter of policy we will, therefore, adopt a cautious approach, which is important, as it will help to maintain the confidence of taxpayers that the information we hold about them, or their properties, is handled securely.

3.21.7 Using information for casework

All information obtained and held by the VOA, with the exception of Local Housing Allowance data, can be used internally for any other VOA purpose that assists the VOA in carrying out its functions.

Information that is provided to us in written format (letter or e-mail) should not be edited even if sensitive, as the writer has chosen to provide this information. However, if we are provided with sensitive personal data verbally, we should not record this unless it helps us to deal with the taxpayer more effectively. For example, a taxpayer may inform us they have hearing difficulties and ask that we take this into account when we contact them. It is essential that such information is deleted once it has served its purpose.

If we are provided with more information than we need to progress a case, the superfluous information should be returned to the source. For example, if we are provided with numerous photographs or copies of correspondence that do not assist us in processing the case then they should be returned. Consult with your line manager or team leader if you are unsure how to proceed without creating another record of them. You should also ensure there is a record of what action has taken place with the relevant papers.

Information gathered for a business purpose should not be retained once all business use for the information is exhausted. The Records Management policy provides advice in respect of information retention protocols. Hardcopy information that is no longer required, should be disposed of in a manner that is appropriate to its protective marking. Information marked PROTECT or RESTRICTED should be placed in the lockable bins. Information marked CONFIDENTIAL should be shredded on site with an approved cross-cut shredder and disposed of with other restricted waste.

3.21.8 Sales information

Post 2000 sales information is now in the public domain following a change in the legislation, which allowed HM Land Registry to sell their information to third parties. Purchasers of this information have included it in their websites as part of the service they provide.

Any sales data, usually post 1 April 2000 that is sourced from the internet or in the public domain, or details of any sales information provided by an enquirer, can be discussed at any stage of case progression. In verifying any such information against that held on the VOA database, however, care should be taken not to reveal personal information that may not be in the public domain, such as the name of the vendor or the fact that our records are different.

3.21.9 Dealing with informal enquiries

Generally, enquiries disputing the accuracy of the band should be handled by reference to comparable bandings using, for example, the ‘Inspection Support Data’ information from the CDB and/or the Comparable Selection Tool. Where an enquirer insists on sales information, or it is necessary to refer to sales to resolve the enquiry, broad detail can be given verbally or in writing of the comparable sales evidence that we hold or have used in connection with the case, providing this does not identify, or enable someone to deduce the identity of specific properties and individuals.

It has been confirmed that you can identify the taxpayer and what they paid for a property by the release of the sale price, the date of the sale and the address, so information at this level of detail should not normally be disclosed.

Information that can be disclosed for any enquiry might therefore include:

i) Any information concerning addresses and bandings available in the CT list application available on the internet which can reflect whether they are agreed or been subject to a Valuation Tribunal to establish ‘Tone’.

ii) Information about the enquirer’s property to show the relevance of the comparables used, provided the enquirer is the taxpayer.

iii) An approximate sale price, which can be expressed as a range of values.

iv) An approximate sale date which can be the quarter and year of sale.

v) A general location. In urban areas it may be possible to go down to street level if necessary, providing this would not reveal the precise property.

vi) Summary property attribute data for comparable bandings or anonymised sales, which can include group, age, type, (e.g. 1930s semi detached property) approximate floor area (can be a range if more than one property e.g. 65m2 to 75m2) and number of rooms e.g. “a 1960s detached house of approximately 100m2 with 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and a detached garage sold on Acacia Avenue for between £40,000 and £45,000 in May 1991”.

In dealing with enquiries it is important to consider the totality of information provided. In disclosing several general pieces of information, we should be cautious that we do not enable the enquirer in identifying any specific properties and thus an individual.

As a matter of policy a reasonable number of properties discussed or cited would normally be restricted to 5.

3.21.11 Dealing with proposals

The opportunity to release detail on PD/SDLT information is not available at proposal stage. The same rules for dealing with informal enquiries will, therefore, apply to any disclosure prior to the Valuation Tribunal (England or Wales) appeal stage. This includes the level of detail that is provided on the VO7410 Supplementary Information Document sent with a Decision Notice.

3.21.12 The appeal stage - PD and SDLT data

Reg 26 of the Council Tax (Alteration of Lists & Appeals) Regulations 1993, replaced in England by Reg 17 of the Valuation Tribunal for England (Council Tax and Rating Appeals) (Procedure) Regulations 2009 and Section 48 of the Finance (No 2) Act 2005 allows Particulars Delivered (PD) and Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) sales information, provided by HMRC Stamp Taxes, to be used ‘in relevant proceedings’ i.e. when a proposal has become an appeal. Formal Reg 17/Reg 26 notices releasing sales information can be served once an appeal has been made as ‘proceedings’ have commenced. The precise location as well as the full property attribute details can be revealed. At this stage the VOA considers it appropriate that full attribute details can be disclosed, as our responsibility is to ensure the VT/VTE has the information it needs to make a decision. Sales information, and the associated property attribute data can also be disclosed for 4 (or more) other transactions if requested on a taxpayer’s counter notice. For further detail of Reg 17/Reg 26 procedure see the Council Tax Manual Section 3 part 4.

3.21.13 Other sources of information

If enquiries fall outside Reg 17/Reg 26, the enquirer can be informed that information might be available on property related. Details of sales since 1st April 2000 are also available on payment of a fee from the Land Registry at www.landregistry.gov.uk/

3.22 Discovery of mistakes

If a mistake is identified by a taxpayer or the general public a clear record should be made of what the issues are and consult with your line manager, team leader or customer service manager, as appropriate, to ensure that, beyond any doubt, a genuine error has been made.

From 1 April 2014, the Council Tax (Reduction for Annexes) (England) Regulations 2013 SI2013/2977 require Billing Authorities (BAs) to reduce liability in annexes by either 50% nor 100%, depending on the nature of the occupier.

What is the role of the BA?

Responsibility for administering these regulations rests entirely with the BA. When it receives an application for a discount, the BA will need to satisfy itself on three counts:

a. that the dwelling was created through ‘disaggregation’;

b. that the applicant is eligible under the criteria of the regulations; and

c. that both these criteria apply for the entire period of the discount.

Listing Officer (LO) records may in some cases include notes on these aspects. However, the Commissionaires for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 does not permit the sharing of information that the VOA holds unless it is for a VOA function. The administration of the regulations does not fall within a VOA function, which means there is no ‘gateway’ for making the information available. The Listing Officer (LO) cannot therefore disclose any information about the legal route leading to the entry of an annexe in the Valuation List if a BA seeks it under this legislation.

Which dwellings are included in the regulations?

Regulation 3(2) of the regulations states that: “The dwelling (a) forms part of a single property which includes at least one other dwelling”.

These regulations are intended to cover occupation of annexes. However, ‘annexe’ is not a term used in the Council Tax legislation. ‘Article 3 dwellings’ created through ‘disaggregation’ are the most likely type of dwelling to be covered. We therefore expect these regulations to apply only to dwellings created through ‘disaggregation’.

Which occupiers are covered?

Regulation 3(b) of these regulations describes in detail the relationship between the occupants of each ‘disaggregated’ dwelling who will be covered.

What is the role of the Listing Officer?

The LO’s responsibility under Council Tax legislation is to ensure the accuracy of entries in the List. However, the Valuation List does not record the legal route for recording an entry. Annexes, for example, can switch between different legal routes; whether an annexe is a ‘Section 3 dwelling’ or an ‘Article 3 dwelling’ will depend on who occupies it. Any change to the legal route will not, however, require alterations to the Valuation List entry.

The effective date of a Valuation List entry for a disaggregation is the date of the List alteration and the effective date of a new dwelling is the date of the event.

As indicated above, the LO cannot disclose the legal route by which an entry in the Valuation list was made in any specific case. While they can examine the Valuation List to determine whether the effective date matches the date of schedule indicative of a ‘disaggregation’, this cannot be relied upon because subsequent changes in the occupation of the property that would not need to be reflected in the List entry might have occurred.

What should LAs do if they are asked for advice?

If an LO receives a request for information or advice on how individual list entries were created, they cannot disclose this information even if they hold it.

However, they can refer the BA to this section of the Council Tax Manual, explain what we may hold in general terms, or have a general discussion on the principles governing how entries to the List are created by either route.

If the BA remains unhappy, the LO should escalate this matter to the caseworkers’ team leader.

Part 5: supply of information from Council Tax lists

VO letters and forms which are not included as appendices are available as MS Word Templates

5.1 Background

S.28 of LGFA 92 contains the provisions governing the right of access by the public to copies of CT Lists and the facility to take extracts and request copies of the information.

The LO and the BA are both required to allow such access and, if necessary, to provide extracts. This part deals only with the LO’s duties.

5.2 Council Tax lists on the internet

The public have had access to Council Tax Lists via the VOA’s website since June 2002. This utilises the CT Internet Valuations Lists (IVL) software which also allows for proposals to be submitted electronically (see Section 3, Part 1).

The software enables taxpayers to enquire on their band, and is in line, broadly speaking, with the similar service provided for the Rating Lists. It provides the following facilities:-

(i) it enables users to search the CT list of a selected BA by entering specific search details or by selecting from a range of parameters

(ii) it enables users to scroll through banding records retrieved on-screen a page at a time. The number of entries displayed on a single page can be customised by the user

(iii) it enables users to print a page of records in a ‘printer friendly’ format

(iv) it details all current ‘live’ bandings, together with a complete history of previous banding records

(v) it identifies where a current banding has a logged CR10 report

(vi) it incorporates links to BA websites to enable users to access these sites

(vii) it is completely bilingual (English/Welsh) and enables users to search for and view details in their chosen language, regardless of where the dwelling is situated

The data is refreshed every two weeks, usually immediately after the generation of the Schedules of Alterations. The current band details, therefore, always reflect changes included in the last Schedule.

The corporate website has been updated and includes a link to Directgov which also gives access to council tax information and gives the taxpayer, or a representative, the facility to check a CT band or submit a challenge.

5.3 Supply of information in hard copy

Guidance on the supply of information has changed since the publication on the VOA website of the Council Tax lists for England and Wales. Although the necessity for supplying hard copy extracts is now considered largely redundant, the standing instructions relating to the pre 2002 situation may apply in rare circumstances as outlined below.

5.4 Hard copy extracts

Extracts of not more than 20 pages can be supplied by a LO in two ways:-

(i) by providing a print out of the relevant pages of the Lists and/or Schedules of Alterations

(ii) by providing a formal Extract, of 20 pages or less, of the Council Tax List signed by the LO. This can only be initiated following a written request

No charge should be made for such extracts.

5.5 Formal extracts

The LO may receive requests in writing for formal extracts from Lists. Contact the Data Strategy Team and Customer Services for current information relating to the provision of documents.

Before complying, the LO must ensure that form VO7470 from MS Word Template is completed. This signifies that the customer understands that a charge is to be made and it will form part of the audit trail.

The form can be completed in the reception area by personal callers, but must be posted to anyone who makes their initial request in writing.

Following receipt of the completed VO7470 and the payment (see paragraph 5.6 below), the LO should complete VO7471, also from MS Word Template.

The extract must be checked and signed by or on behalf of the LO, dated and sent to the person who requested it. A copy should be retained, stapled to the request form VO7470 and filed in a separate binder for audit and statistical purposes.

5.6 Charges

No information is to be supplied until the fee has been received. Customer Services can advise on current charges.

A receipt VO8344 must be made out and sent to the customer when the fee has been received.

5.7 Requests for full Council Tax lists

A decision has been taken by DCLG that full CT Lists may not be sold or passed on to members of the general public.

All such requests must therefore be refused. In cases of difficulty CEO Customer Services should be consulted.

5.8 Statements of numbers and bands

A statement of Numbers and Bands (i.e. the total number of properties in each band within a specific Billing Authority) in the CT List is produced as part of the generation of each Schedule of Alterations and of each full CT List. As this does not show bands for individual or identified dwellings, a photocopy can be supplied free of charge to any member of the public who requests it.

Part 6: enquiries in respect of a proposed purchase of a dwelling

VO letters and forms which are not included as appendices are available as MS Word Templates

6.1 Prospective purchasers

LOs can expect to receive enquiries from prospective purchasers, or their solicitors, for current CT information or band estimates on specified dwellings.

It has been agreed with the Department for Communities & Local Government that the supply of information about the current entry in the CT List, and details of any logged reports, is not contrary to the provisions of LGFA 92.

6.2 Personal enquiries

LOs can supply the following information to prospective purchasers of existing dwellings:

1) the current entry appearing in the CT List, including the latest effective date; and

2) whether any improvements or alterations, for which a report has been received or raised, are reflected in the band shown in the list or are ‘logged’ awaiting a relevant transaction.

When accessing the computer to obtain details of the current banding, it is essential that the following access path is used from the CT Main Menu:

Option 3 - Enquiries

Option 3 - Enquire on Banding by Address

Select Address using the MAQ screen

A message: “Warning: A CR10 Report is logged against this address - potential band increase” will be displayed when appropriate and must be acknowledged before the user is provided with the information which is being sought. This advice must be included in the reply provided to the enquirer.

When possible, LOs should arrange for property attribute data to be checked when replying to enquiries from the public. When writing to enquirers, questionnaire VO7497 should be enclosed, together with a business reply label. When contacting enquirers by telephone, telephone details questionnaire VO7498 should be used as an aide-memoire by the person dealing with the call. The information obtained from both forms must be checked against that already held within Property Details – individual dwellinghouse codes. These forms are printed externally and are not available on the MS Word Templates.

Letter VO7722 should be obtained from MS Word Template/EDRM and used for enquiries concerning improvements where a written reply is requested.

Legal representatives acting for prospective purchasers of dwellings may also approach LOs for information, similar to that detailed in paragraph 6.2 above, relating to specific identified dwellings. Such enquiries should be treated similarly. Most solicitors will expect a written response.

6.4 Enquiries for estimated bands for new or existing dwellings

On occasions, informal requests may be received from members of the public or developers seeking estimates of bands. These normally fall into one of the following categories:

  • Proposed new build properties on ‘estate’ developments.

  • Proposed new build properties (not part of a new ‘estate’) or reconstitutions of existing property.

When estimates of banding are undertaken the relevant documentation must be stored in EDRM. VO7723, which can be found in the MS Word Templates, provides a standard letter template for the appropriate response to the enquirer.

Proposed new build properties on ‘estate’ developments

A Local Office report (LOR) must be raised for each property ‘type’ with a ‘reason for report’ code which best fits what is being asked to be estimated (e.g. CR03 for a new build or CR05 for a recon). Special process code (SPC) ‘ESTIMATE’ must be selected when registering the report on the CDB to ensure that these report can be identified.

A standard format electronic estate file (Appendix 1.4) must be created and completed for each new development. The electronic estate files should be stored on Unit ‘L’ drives for future reference.

Proposed new build properties not forming part of a new ‘estate’ development and reconstitutions

This includes non-estate dwellings, such as infill developments, individual build projects and conversions from non-residential property such as offices, schools or barns.

As this is an estimate being provided in advance, the property attributes must not be captured on the CDB. Accordingly, an automated CTVS (council tax valuation sheet) cannot currently be produced. The property attributes, comparables, thought processes and estimated band must be captured on the ‘estimate template’ (Appendix 1.5)

EDRM requirements for estimates

The following documentation in relation to the estimate should be saved within the associated case file in EDRM:

VOA Document Type Document Type Naming convention Default Protective Marking EDRM Folder To Be Stored
The request for the estimate of banding CT report case document CT estimate request estimate request Protect Case
The Estimate Template (or CTVS when capable of production) CT report case document CT estimate calculation estimate calculation Protect Case
The letter of response providing the estimate CT report case document CT estimate response estimate sent to Protect Case
The plan(s) sent with the estimate Plan CT report case document CT estimate plan estimate plan from Protect Case

Part 7: management information

VO letters and forms which are not included as appendices are available as MS Word Templates

7.1 Statistical returns

Monthly statistical returns on CT work are supplied from the VOA’s SAS statistics application. This facility relies on information extracted from the ITSD CT application and it is, therefore, essential that everything which will be reflected in one or more of these returns is input promptly.

Information is taken from each CT Unit and summarised separately for England and Wales, and for the Agency as a whole. Some returns are not available by BA from this source.

The returns are available within the Statistics folder on the Public drive P:\CEO1\Statistics\Council_Tax (this is not a clickable link) They are ‘read only’ and not capable of manipulation at CT Unit or local level. Information from these returns is used as part of the compilation of each Unit’s Management Plan Monitoring Return.

7.2 Contents of returns

The returns provide the required information in a logical format intended to meet the needs not only of Units but also of CEO and the client bodies.

VO7750 Wales Only – Reports cleared within 3 months and reports cleared and outstanding.
VO7750a Summary of maintenance reports This return tracks the progress of maintenance reports, which have been categorised into various types to reflect the source of the reports and the method by which they have been cleared.
VO 7751 Wales Only – Valid appeals clearance and outstanding
VO7751a Summary of valid appeals This return tracks the progress of valid appeals, categorised into various types.
VO 7751f England Only - Summary of Proposals
VO7751g England only – Summary of Appeals direct
VO7753 Summary of invalid appeals
VO7754 Summary of appeals to the High Court
VO7755 England Only - Considered Decisions
VO7758 England Only – Handling of LO reports
VO7758a England Only – Handling of LO reports/consequentials
VO7773 Wales Only – Adherence to sub programming start dates
VO 7774 England Only – CT banding accuracy
VO7775 England Only – CT elapsed time

7.3 Interpretation of returns

Detailed explanations of what lies behind the entry in each of the columns in each return have been provided by CEO’s SAS team.

Generally, where a date relates to the date of receipt, that date is the actual date and not any date of input to the computer.

Where a date relates to clearance or settlement, that date is one of :-

a) the List alteration date

b) the no action schedule date

c) for withdrawn appeals only, the date of input to the application

As an example, a maintenance report which is cleared by inputting a new band on the 31st of a month will be outstanding at the end of the month if the last Schedule of Alterations was produced on the 30th.

7.4 Valuation tribunal downloads

A Listing of the contents of the download to the Valuation Tribunal Admin Unit is generated as part of the VT/VTE File Transmission procedure, and is available for output to hardcopy the day after the generation has taken place (see Section 3).

7.5 Statements of numbers and bands - CEO

The Analysis and Information Team compile a summary of property numbers and bands at BA level each quarter. This information is published on the intranet as part of the VOA’s official statistics release.

7.6 Other returns

The need for other returns on CT work may arise from time to time for operational and other business reasons. Ad hoc returns will be called for by means of instructions or announcements on the VOA’s intranet news page.

7.7 Retention of hardcopy returns and QC checks current returns

When no longer required, hardcopies must be destroyed as restricted or confidential waste. This does not apply to QC checks. Copies of all Management QC listings must be retained for a minimum period of 2 years before they can be destroyed as restricted wastepaper.

Part 8: transaction reports and integrity checks

With the introduction of Appeals Direct in England this section mainly applies to Wales. Section 3 England provides information on appeals to the VTE.

VO letters and forms which are not included as appendices are available as MS Word Templates

8.1 Overview

Integrity Checks are a useful way of ensuring that the status of appeal data held on the VOA computer system is consistent with that held on the VT system, and vice versa.

There are occasions when appeal data transmitted to VT fails to load correctly or is rejected by a VT Admin Unit because it does not fulfil validations built into their computer system. The majority of these rejections are accounted for by the transaction reports which are produced by the VT Admin Units and passed to LOs for investigation and any necessary action.

Similarly the settlement of appeals by VTs, which are notified to LOs in hardcopy, may go astray. As a consequence, such appeals, which are cleared on the VT system, remain outstanding on the VOA’s.

Failure by either organisation to take prompt action upon the transaction reports and upon the exception reports obtained from Integrity Checks could result in taxpayers being disadvantaged as a result of either the VT rejecting appeal data or the LO not acting upon a settlement following notification from the VT Admin Unit.

8.2 Transaction reports

Transaction reports will be sent by VT Admin Units in the following circumstances:

a) when case details as transmitted are rejected by the VT system

b) when exceptional changes have taken place, e.g. a change of appellant

c) when an appeal has already been cleared from the VT system as a result of direct notification from the appellant, but the LO settlement of the appeal has not taken place

Following receipt of a transaction report, the relevant case papers should be obtained and checked to establish the current status of the case(s), having regard to the ‘reason for rejection’.

8.3 Dealing with transaction reports

Where it is clear from the case papers that an appeal has been settled, i.e. withdrawn, agreed or decided by the VT (and confirmation of the decision has been received from the VT), the appeal should be cleared on the VOA system as quickly as possible.

A withdrawal or agreement will be included in the next VT transmission, and this will then trigger an automatic entry on the next transaction report. No further action on these settlements need be taken.

Where it appears from the case papers that an appeal is still outstanding, the VT Admin Unit should be telephoned and the reason for the discrepancy investigated. Possible scenarios are:-

1) the appeal was not received by the VT (shown as ‘appeal not present’)

2) The appeal was settled by the VT following a hearing or as a result of an agreement or withdrawal being received direct by the VT from the appellant. If this is recent, the LO may still be waiting for hardcopy documentation (shown as ‘appeal has been decided’ or ‘appeal closed’)

3) A duplicate case file exists

Where it is established that the appeal is missing (either it has not been received or it has been previously rejected by the VT system), it must be sent again. This has to be carried out by a Local System Administrator (LSA) who will have the necessary permission levels.

Where it is established that the appeal has been settled by a VT hearing or by other documentation received direct by the VT and the LO has not received a copy, this should be requested.

Any other rejection which cannot be accounted for should be referred to the VOA IT Help Desk.

8.4 Generating integrity checks

Integrity check generations are always carried out during the early hours of the Thursdays shown on the VOA’s Calendar of Overnight Generations at the same time as Rating integrity checks. These will usually be the third Thursdays in April, July, October and January of each year. BA’s for CT are currently owned by the relevant NDR unit and separate files are generated for each NDR/CT Unit/VT Admin Unit combination. The files are transmitted directly to the VT system and loaded onto their database.

Following the loading, an exception report in two parts will be produced by the VT which will identify those appeals where there is a mismatch between the two databases. This will be forwarded to the NDR/CT Unit Office. An exception report will show.

  • appeals outstanding with the VOA but cleared or not received by the VT

  • appeals outstanding with the VT but cleared by the VOA

CT Units should distribute exception reports as appropriate depending upon the way the Unit is organised.

If a CT Unit has not received a hardcopy exception report from a VT Admin Unit within 10 working days of the generation date shown in the calendar, the appropriate Admin Unit should be contacted and suitable arrangements made.

8.5 Dealing with exception reports

Where an appeal is shown on an exception report, the relevant case papers should be obtained and checked to establish the current status of the case, and action taken in accordance with paragraphs 8.6 or 8.7 below.

Failure to take action on any entry appearing on an exception report will result in the same entry appearing on the next report in three months’ time. It is therefore important that early action is taken.

8.6 Where appeals are shown as outstanding with the VOA but not with the VT/VTE – this applies to both England and Wales

Where it is clear from the case papers that an appeal has been settled, i.e. withdrawn, agreed, decided by the VT and confirmation has been received from the VT Admin Unit, that appeal should be cleared on the VOA system as quickly as possible. A withdrawal or agreement will be included in the next VT transmission, and this will then trigger an automatic entry on the next transmission report. No further action in such circumstances need be taken.

Where it appears from the case papers that an appeal is still outstanding, the VT/VTE should be telephoned and the reason for the discrepancy investigated. Possible scenarios are:

  • the appeal was not received by the Valuation Tribunal Office (appeal status shown as ‘missing’)

  • the appeal was settled by the VTO following a hearing. If this is recent, the LO may still be waiting for hardcopy documentation (appeal status shown on Report as ‘decided’)

  • a duplicate case file exists

Where it is established that an appeal is missing (either it has not been received or it has been previously rejected by the VTO system), it must be sent again. This has to be carried out by a Local System Administrator (LSA). The appeal will then be available for listing.

Where it is established that an appeal has been settled by a VT/VTE hearing or by agreement or withdrawal received direct by the VTO and the LO has not received a copy, this should be requested.

8.7 Where appeals are shown as outstanding with the VT/VTE but not with the VOA

Where it is clear from the case papers that an appeal has been settled, ie withdrawn, agreed, decided by the VT/VTE (and confirmation of the decision received from the VT/VTE), the VT/VTE should be contacted to ascertain if the appeal has been reopened for further consideration. Where it is confirmed that this is not so, the VT/VTE should be asked to clear the appeal on their system. If required a hardcopy of the withdrawal, agreement or decision should be sent to the VT/VTE Admin Unit as confirmation.

Part 9: Council Tax main enquiries - CDB application

VO letters and forms which are not included as appendices are available as MS Word Templates

9.1 Overview

CT Main Enquiries is a software facility which allows a user to make searches against data held on the central database. Having made an enquiry, the user is able either to view the records found or to print them out in hardcopy, either in whole, or in part.

There are currently five enquiry modes available. These are:

  • Council Tax Bandings – Live

  • Council Tax Bandings – All

  • Council Tax Reports

  • Council Tax Cases

  • Mass Data Capture Exception

The Mass Data Capture Exception enquiry produces a list of all domestic properties with missing Property Attribute Data.

When searching in ‘live bandings’ mode, only those bandings which are not inactivated or historic will be retrieved. When searching in ‘all bandings’ mode, all records which exist, i.e. live, historic and inactivated will be retrieved.

A user is not restricted by his/her BATlinks, and enquiries can be run across the database provided the user’s records restriction (see paragraph 9.2 below) is not exceeded. As no validations are applied to an enquiry, it is important that a user adopts a sensible approach to the searches made. Wide, global-type searches can have a serious detrimental effect on the performance of the database.

9.2 Search limits and permission levels

The maximum number of records which can be achieved by a user depends upon their CT Enquiries permission level. There are five permission levels available:

  • CTENQ_1 - User restricted to a maximum of 1,000 records

  • CTENQ_2 - User restricted to a maximum of 3,000 records

  • CTENQ_3 - User restricted to a maximum of 5,000 records

  • CTENQ_4 - User restricted to a maximum of 10,000 records

  • CTENQ_5 - User restricted to a maximum of 15,000 records.

If a user with a permission level of CTENQ_1 - CTENQ_4 requires a higher level, this should be arranged through, and set up by, his/her Local System Administrator. Currently there is no facility to increase the number of records to a figure exceeding 15,000 (CTENQ_5).

9.3 Parameters

An enquiry using the software in any of the six enquiry modes requires the inputting of one or more parameters. These have been preset.

Following a primary parameter search, the user can pass directly to the View Options screen, to refine the retrieved records further by using the secondary parameters or to amend the primary parameters. Searches made within secondary parameters are made only against those records found by the primary search. It should be noted that secondary parameters include additional ones not found in primary parameters.

In general terms, the more parameters which are entered for the primary search, the longer the search takes. The best practice is to make a global search using the minimum number of primary parameters and then refine the records found using the secondary parameters.

When entering each parameter to be used for the search, it is necessary to define how the value entered should be compared with the data held. These definitions are labelled as “operators”. A list of these is provided in a look-up table within each field. It should be noted that not all operators are appropriate for each parameter. Having entered an operator value, the cursor will move to the “clause” field for the relevant parameter, where the user enters the search value(s) for that parameter or selects from the List of Values.

Where an invalid value is entered as a search criterion and the enquiry is run, a search of the database will be made by the software but the result will be that no records are retrieved.

9.4 Searching for data

A search will not begin until the cursor is positioned against one of the required search parameters.

If the result of the search is that the user’s search limit is exceeded, an error message is displayed on-screen, and it will be necessary to add further parameters which restrict the search, or to abort the search.

When the number of records found using primary parameters is within the user’s search limit, the actual number of records found is displayed. The user can then proceed to the View Options screen, or to secondary parameters, or to refine primary parameters.

The minimum requirement when in secondary parameters is a repeat of one of the primary parameters. Differing secondary parameters may be set which will further refine the data retrieved.

If primary parameters are amended, any secondary parameters already selected will be lost. A fresh primary parameter search is then undertaken, followed by any refinement needed using secondary parameters.

Having made a successful search, the results, which are output in Adobe Acrobat format, can be viewed on-screen or printed to hardcopy, or aborted.

9.5 Storing parameters

Users can store sets of parameters and/or sets of values for a given parameter by pressing . When it is necessary to re-run the enquiry, the user can select from their list of ’Saved Parameters’ which is accessed by pressing . The application will automatically input the details. This is in line with all other Main Enquiry modes on the database.

Appendix 1.1 VO 7400

Appendix 1.2: authority to staff member

Authority to staff member I hereby authorise (name) to:

  • enter on, survey and value dwellings for council tax purposes in accordance with the provisions of section 26 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992

  • (England) be my representative at valuation tribunal hearings, in accordance with the provisions of regulation 13 of the Valuation Tribunal for England (Council Tax and Rating Appeals) Procedure Regulations 2009

  • (Wales) be my representative at Valuation Tribunal hearings, in accordance with the provision of regulation 24 of the Council Tax (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) Regulations 1993.

This authority should be produced with an identity document, serial number, bearing a photograph of the holder. Signed Listing Officer Date VO9059

Appendix 1.3: Council Tax telephone query form

Council Tax telephone query form

Appendix 1.4: electronic estate file

Electronic estate file

Appendix 1.6: managing the Council Tax and NDR borderline - Director’s memo

Protect

CT Director Memo No: 01/2011

Date: 13 December 2011

CT I NDR Borderline - Delegated Authority

With the move to business streams there have been a number of enquiries regarding CT/NDR borderline cases. Following a meeting between CT and NDR technical experts on 25 November 2011, the issues surrounding referencers’ and caseworkers’ ‘Authority to Inspect’ have been clarified and guidance is provided in this memo. These instructions will be incorporated in the Council Tax and Rating Manuals.

Under Paragraph 7 of Schedule 9 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 the Valuation Officer [VO] may delegate authority to inspect hereditaments. Similar powers to delegate exist for the Listing Officer (LO) under Section 26 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992. Regulation 13 of the Valuation Tribunal for England (Council Tax and Rating Appeals) (Procedure) Regulations 2009 permit the VO and LO to appoint a representative to appear before tribunals. As a matter of pragmatism and normal Agency practice, both VOs and LOs may authorise members of their staff to sign settlement forms for and on their behalf.

Instructions found in the rating manual section 1 part 1 require the VO of each NDR Unit in England and Wales to maintain a spreadsheet for their Unit listing the individuals with delegated authority, including the start and expiry date. Since the move to the new VOA structure on 7 November 2011 the same approach should be adopted for CT Units and separate spreadsheet templates have been provided. This is used to generate the authority letters and to record the delegation of any VO or LO functions.

Composites

A composite is a hereditament part only of which is domestic within the same occupation [see RatingManuaIIV014/sect9.shtml#P80 1469], (for example a shop with a flat above occupied by the shopkeeper). A composite is defined in primary legislation in 5.64(8) & (9) LGFA 1988 and 5.3(3) LGFA 1992 as being both a nondomestic hereditament and a dwelling and an authority from either the VO or the LO is sufficient to undertake an inspection of the whole hereditament.

There may be occasions where the property is not a composite (for example, the shop and flat above are in separate occupations). In these circumstances, delegated authority from both the VO and the LO would be required to inspect both hereditaments.

Delegated authority

Responsibility for deciding whether delegated authorities for both NDR and CT are appropriate for an individual rests with the VO or LO. Consideration should be given to the following:

  1. Location - delegated authority for billing authorities beyond the area the individual would be expected to work in while undertaking normal duties should not be given (for example, a referencer based in St Austell should not normally have authority to inspect in Birmingham even though he/she is part of the same CT Unit).

  2. Skill/Capability - a referencer with only CT experience should not be given authority to inspect NDR hereditaments.

  3. Frequency/defined periods - consideration should be given to the frequency of inspections across CT/NDR and whether the requirement is for a temporary defined period. Temporary authorities should not be open-ended and an end date should be entered on the Authority Spreadsheet at the end of the defined period.

  4. Abuse of powers - each case should be considered on its merits and should stand up to scrutiny from an audit or a Freedom of Information request Delegation of the same authority to all outdoor staff is not considered appropriate.

  5. Separate sheets - the VO and LO spreadsheets should be maintained separately by a Business Manager [BM] within each NDR or CT Unit on behalf of the statutory officer. This should reduce the risk of abuse or error.

  6. Quarterly Review - the BM should undertake a quarterly review in November, February, May and August of the spreadsheet to ensure that it is accurate, identifies authorities that have been ended and that the expired authority letters have been recovered.

  7. Lost or Missing Authority Letters - where an authority has expired or is no longer needed, the letter(s) should be returned to the BM to enable him or her to update the spreadsheet. Failure to return an authority should be treated as a data security incident and should be reported to the appropriate Director within 2 working days in accordance with the instructions on reporting security incidents.

  8. National Specialist Units - caseworkers from the NSU need authorities from all VOs across England and Wales. Alex Osborne in NSU Support will facilitate authority letters where appropriate.

  9. Types of property - authority may be restricted to certain types of property depending on the work requirements for the individual.

  10. Central List - authority to represent the Central Valuation Officer (CVO) needs to be obtained from Paul Sanderson (Director of the National Specialists Unit and the statutory CVO). Alex Osborne in NSU Support will facilitate authority letters where appropriate.

  11. Audit - the NDR and CT Policy, Process and Assurance Teams will carry out an annual audit of each Unit’s authority spreadsheet to ensure compliance.

An authority merely provides the power to act on behalf of the VO or the LO. When deciding whether to inspect a hereditament, how the ratepayer or taxpayer can be served in the most efficient and cost-effective way should be considered. This will include consideration of the complexity of the domestic/non-domestic borderline hereditament (for example, a hospital), the capability of the individual (is he/she trained to inspect hospitals?) and the impact (does it affect other rate/taxpayers?). The decision rests with the individual at the time, but should stand up to scrutiny and should be recorded on RSA. It is expected that in the majority of instances, especially for non-complex casework, the referencer inspecting the property (regardless of business stream) will be able to gather sufficient information to allow changes to be made to both NDR and CT Lists by the relevant team on return to the office.

If you have any queries please contact Michael Pearce or Justin Giles.