Council Tax scams – a Warning from the Valuation Office]
The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) would like to warn taxpayers about unscrupulous individuals and companies that may be operating in your area. They may telephone you or appear personally at your door. Here are some examples of the tactics used to try and get you to part with your money.
- Insisting you are definitely in the wrong band, when in fact your band is correct.
- Saying they are from the local council or VOA and asking for your bank details so they can provide a refund. You may then find that money is taken from your account.
- Claiming that the VOA charges you to challenge your band, when you can do this for free.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you avoid falling victim to these scammers:
- Remember that you can have your band checked free of charge by contacting your local Valuation Office.
- Inform the police if you believe that anyone is impersonating staff from your local council or the Valuation Office.
- Dial 999 if a cold caller refuses to leave your home.
- If you suspect you have been the victim of a council tax scam telephone the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.
- Don’t give your bank details to anyone who contacts you by phone or who visits in person.
- Don’t let anyone into your home without seeing appropriate identification.
- Don’t feel under pressure from a cold-caller to pay an immediate up-front fee. Take the time you need to think about it. What’s the rush?
- Don’t accept cold callers’ claims about anything without seeing evidence or proof of what they are claiming. There is nothing wrong with being sceptical.
- Don’t speak to anyone that is reluctant to give you their company address or contact details.
If you feel that the band on your home is wrong, then all you have to do is contact your local valuation office and explain why you think it is incorrect. They will ask you to confirm that the information they hold about your home is accurate so they can check if the band is correct.
They will listen to your views and if they agree that the band is wrong, they will change it. Please note that Bands occasionally go up as well as down.
Contact the Valuation office on Tel: 03000 501501 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Valuation Office advises that in many cases the quickest and easiest way to get your query dealt with is to contact your local Valuation Office first, details above, because enquiries can often be resolved on the spot. Here is the link to the Valuation Office’s webpages in which they provide full details about their valuation service: http://www.voa.gov.uk/corporate/CouncilTax/index.html
Trading Standards can confirm that the Valuation Office do not charge for the advice or for dealing with any challenge to the banding. If the band is wrong they will change it and if it reduces the Council will arrange an automatic refund of any credit on your Council Tax bill.
The procedure is very straight forward and you do not need to use an agent who will charge an upfront fee (despite telling you they do not charge). In the unlikely event that a reduction in banding is granted any agent will charge a large percentage of any refund. Trading Standards experience is that many firms have charged fees to ‘process the claim’ knowing full well that almost all claims will be rejected.
You can find detailed advice on how to challenge your Council Tax banding, if there is any indication that it is wrong, at this link: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/reclaim/council-tax-bands-change.
We hope the above information is useful.
If you suspect that a business has tried to scam you please report it to the national consumer advice line, Citizens Advice Consumer Service, on 03454 04 05 06.
They can advise what your rights are and how to pursue them. They will log all complaints on a national database which will assist Trading Standards and other Authorities to determine whether there is a pattern of poor trading practices so appropriate action can be taken.
You may also like to register with the Telephone Preference Service, to reduce the number of unwanted sales calls you get – ring them on 0845 070 0707.