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Information on the council’s position and an explanation of the basis for lawful collection of Council Tax

The legality of council taxLocal authoritiesLegislation

The legality of council tax

Each year Somerset Council receives a number of Freedom of Information ( FOI ) requests, and other communications, in relation to this topic. The information below clarifies the council’s position and explains the basis for the lawful collection of Council Tax.

We understand that the Freedom on the Land movement and similar groups commonly believe that people are only bound by the contracts and laws they have consented to. However, contract law and alleged rights under common law are not the same as legislation relating to the administration and collection of council tax.

You do not have a choice whether you are liable for council tax. Being a ‘freeman’ does not exempt anyone from paying council tax.

In the UK, liability for council tax is determined by the Local Government Finance Act 1992. This statute sets out a local authority’s rights to demand council tax to fund services and who is liable to pay. The statute was created by a democratically elected Parliament of the United Kingdom and has received the assent of the Crown and subsequent statutory regulations.

Your liability for council tax is not dependent on, and does not require, your consent or the existence of a contractual relationship with the council. Any such assertion to the contrary is incorrect and there is no legal basis upon which to make this argument. Anyone who withholds payment will have enforcement action taken against them.

In extreme cases, this could even lead to a prison sentence. In the Manchester Magistrates’ Court vs McKenzie (2015) case, an individual who attempted to use similar ‘Freeman on the Land’ defences in court ended up in prison for 40 days.

View the article ‘Freeman on the Land jailed for failure to pay council tax’ on the Local Government Lawyer website.

A High Court case has effectively resolved the arguments around no contract/consent to pay Council Tax and the requirement for the issue of written Liability Orders/Court Orders.

In summary laws are considered binding, made by an elected Parliament on behalf of the whole country, therefore, no individual contract is required and it is both “impossible and inappropriate” to gain individual consent.

The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 do not require a written court issued Liability Order. The Leighton v Bristow & Sutor case refers to extracts from a “court list” paired with a signature certifying the number of Liability Orders made and this satisfies the High Court to conclude Liability Orders have indeed been made.

The full transcript is available on Kofa, R (On the Application Of) v Oldham Metropolitan Bolton Council [2024] EWHC 685 (Admin) (27 March 2024)

Payment

Valid forms of payment for council tax are stated on the reverse of bills issued. Promissory notes will not be accepted and recovery action will continue if balances remain outstanding.

Local authorities

The provision of local government and its functions are contained within the Local Government Act 1972.

Legislation

The legislation that covers council tax is freely available from the Government Legislation website, including:

Local Government Finance Act 1992

The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992

The Council Tax (Demand Notices) (England) Regulations 2011

Liability for council tax is determined in accordance with the statutory legislation and liability for this is confirmed by the council tax demand notice issued each year.

Some residents have asked whether Acts and Statutes (opens Parliament website) are an obligation on them and about the difference between a Statute and Law. Other similar questions regarding legal matters have been asked, often stating they have not expressly or impliedly consented to the liability.

Acts of Parliament are Statutes which set out the law. If you have questions regarding other Acts of Parliament or laws, you should seek the advice of a legal professional, not the council.

Sometimes people are convinced that using an archaic law means they don’t have to pay council tax. There are many misleading articles and templates on the internet regarding the legality of council tax, and anyone relying on these should exercise caution and seek proper legal advice before using them as a defence against council tax liability based on contract, consent and common law.

We do our best to answer all relevant enquiries about council tax. However, we reserve the right to refuse to respond to lengthy enquiries that focus on hypothetical arguments that:

  • have no legal basis
  • ask for a personal opinion
  • ask for information that does not fall within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

Such requests place a burden on our limited resources at the expense of other taxpayers. Please note this also includes letters, emails and notices served on our Chief Executive.

Where appropriate, exemptions permitted under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) will be applied and an appropriate refusal notice issued.

Last reviewed: April 16, 2024 by Ian

Next review due: October 16, 2024

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