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 as to 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, created by a democratically elected Parliament of the United Kingdom and which has received the assent of the Crown and subsequent statutory regulations, sets out a local authority’s rights to demand council tax to fund services and who is liable to pay.
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.
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.
The legislation that covers council tax is freely available from the Government Legislation website, including:
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 and other similar questions regarding legal matters, 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.