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Easier Ways To Pay Council Tax
5 December 2001
   Caithness.org News Index

MAKING IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO PAY THEIR COUNCIL TAX

The Highland Council has agreed to introduce a number of measures aimed at making it easier for the public to pay their Council Tax and to further improve collection and recovery of the tax.
The Council has agreed to: -
*Introduce, by February next year, a facility which permits all payments to be made by bank debit or credit 
  card;

*Offer to those paying by 10 monthly instalments the option of paying by 12 instalments;

*Offer to those paying by Direct Debit the option of the first payment being made on the 15th and 28th of the
  month as well as the 1st, as solely available at present;

*Scrap the practice of sending two reminder notices, plus a final notice, to those who regularly default on
  payment, and, instead adopt a combined notice.

The Resources Committee was told 47% of taxpayers now pay by Direct Debit,  helping the Council to achieve a 91.4% collection rate. To maintain the progress, the Council is to promote the availability of "basic bank accounts", available at most High Street banks, which allow Direct Debit payments. 

The Council is to introduce the combined notice to defaulters to cut down on staff time and cost. At present the council sends out 60,771 reminders and 31,426 final notices at a cost in postage alone of 18,000. Introduction of combined notices will reduce by eight weeks the time it takes for court action and allows more time to manage collections and ensure that those eligible for exemptions, discounts and other assistance are receiving their proper entitlement.

Councillor John Matheson, Chairman of the Resources Committee, said: "The intention behind all these changes is to help prevent individuals falling behind in their payment responsibilities, as well as improving the collection of Council Tax. Research shows that once payments fall behind, there is a real risk of longer-term problems developing. By making it easier for customers to pay, it is hoped that the Council may be able to avoid some very strict enforcement action."