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Investigation reveals thousands of Kent residents are owed a share of £5m in council tax refunds


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Thousands of taxpayers in Kent are owed a share of nearly £5million in council tax refunds, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed.

A total of 24,443 residents living in eight of the county's districts and boroughs are owed a sum from £4.71m of overpaid council fees.

Thousands are owed council tax refunds
Thousands are owed council tax refunds

Locations include Dartford, Gravesham, Maidstone, Medway, Sevenoaks, Swale, Tonbridge and Malling and Tunbridge Wells.

Meanwhile, the eight councils are together owed around £53million of unpaid council tax.

Harry Fone, grassroots campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Council chiefs should make it easier for those struggling by keeping taxes low, while pursuing those who wilfully avoid settling their bill."

Kent residents have been urged to contact councils "as soon as possible" if they believe they are owed money, or, are entitled to discounts and council tax support for those on low-incomes, such as 25% for an adult living on their own.

Reasons for overpayment of council tax include moving home to another borough in England or a different house in a lower band.

"As soon as a resident finds they are struggling to pay tax or have a query over their liability they should urgently contact the council..."

Problems can also arise when local authorities do not have bank details or an up-to-date home address.

For instance, some taxpayers have died and there has been no means of contacting the families of the deceased, according to some Kent councils.

An FOI request was recently carried out by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRs) involving eight borough, district and unitary councils in the county.

It was found that 8,864 Medway residents are owed refunds from overpaid council tax. They are due £1.4million in repayments, the highest in the county.

In turn, Medway council is owed around £18million from unpaid council tax.

Gun Wharf is the home of Medway Council
Gun Wharf is the home of Medway Council

A Medway Council spokesman said: "As soon as a resident finds they are struggling to pay tax or have a query over their liability they should urgently contact the council tax service in order to discuss their financial position.

"This is to ensure that their liability reflects any appropriate discounts, exemptions and benefits."

Most refunds from Kent's councils can take place within 10 working days of the original request.

However, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council said it can "take months" to trace people who do not provide personal bank or address details.

A Tonbridge and Malling council spokesman said: "Our advice to residents is to open an online account with us and pay council tax by direct debit which ensures any over payment can be refunded promptly.”

"We're still dealing with the financial impact of Covid..."

Meanwhile, 1,368 Swale residents are owed £215,938 in tax repayments, which is the lowest in the county.

Around £7.4million is owed to Swale Borough Council from unpaid council tax.

This comes alongside the local authority's bid to increase tax from April 2022.

Under this, the proposed increase would see council tax for Band D homes rise by 2.6% from £184 per year to around £189.

Cllr Roger Truelove (Lab), leader at the council, said: "We’re still dealing with the financial impact of Covid, and with an uncertain future, we must be smart in how we meet our responsibilities while continuing to support our residents."

Cllr Roger Truelove. Picture: Swale Council
Cllr Roger Truelove. Picture: Swale Council

The aim is to cover a high budget gap of £2.3million for spending on frontline services, such as bin collections. This has been covered through reserves and government grants amid the coronavirus health emergency.

Meanwhile, Kent's other 13 local authorities will also be making key decisions on council tax proposals in the new year.

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