to feel insulted by this letter from the council and to go and "speak" to them about it?

(190 Posts)
mateysmum Mon 01-Apr-13 07:56:03

OK Ladies, my first AIBU, but I have been stewing about this and want your wisdom please before I make an idiot of myself.
Background... I live in the UK with DS but DH lives and works abroad and has done for years. He is non resident for tax purposes and comes here every few weeks for a day or two. I am the sole owner of my home. Therefore I claim council tax allowance for a single person. I recently moved house and notified the council. On Sat I received a letter from them querying why if I am living singly am I paying council tax from a joint account. (never been queried at the old house). Then what got me going was the following questions:

1) What is your relationship to the joint bank account holder?
2) If this is a spouse are you still in a relationship and if not why do you continue to use a joint bank account?
3)Where does the joint bank account holder live?

Now I know that benefit fraud is common and that as a tax payer I should be grateful that the council are trying to stop people cheating the system, but I just found the whole tone insulting - especially ? 2. None of their business. It also asks me to reply straight away. If I wanted to cheat I could easily have paid from my personal account and no problems.

So AIBU. Should I just meekly send a reply answering all their questions or do I politely let them know that their letter could be "improved"...

TIA.

moonabove Mon 01-Apr-13 09:46:23

Whether you are claiming legitimately or not you are claiming a BENEFIT. You have taken umbrage at getting a letter treating you as one of the hoi polloi ('I found the whole tone insulting') but that is how other people on BENEFITS are routinely treated - in fact it's far more neutral in 'tone' than the majority of subtly threatening communications that those in receipt of BENEFITS are subjected to.

ALittleStranger Mon 01-Apr-13 09:47:20

YABVU.

Also this > "I am not claiming a benefit I am claiming an allowance". I'm sorry but you are claiming a benefit in the meaningful sense, they just name it something different so people like you feel OK to be claiming a nice middle class benefit. Because we can only call poor people scroungers, not nice people with DHs who live abroad and are just trying to find every loophole in the system. It's the same logic that sees benefits to pensioners named "allowances".

moonabove Mon 01-Apr-13 09:49:00

And your benefit is payed for by other council tax payers.

StillSeekingSpike Mon 01-Apr-13 09:49:01

So you get two incomes, claim single allowance even though you are married and have a joint bank account- and you want to 'speak' the the plebs at the council for daring to question you????

At a time when some of the poorest families are having to start paying council tax as their benefits are cut- have my first ever biscuit

captainbarnacle Mon 01-Apr-13 09:49:40

I don't feel entitled to claim the benefit/ allowance, so will carry on paying full whack. The OP should too.

Hissy Mon 01-Apr-13 09:52:05

I think the council statement you pasted here OP proves that they won't think you qualify for the sole occupant's allowance.

Hissy Mon 01-Apr-13 09:55:26

Before people get too bent out of shape about the allowance/benefit thing, the allowance is for those living singly, not given to single people who are hard up.

Earnings don't come into this.

I think the council will consider him liable, as the home is the residence he stays in with his wife and children while in the UK.

mateysmum Mon 01-Apr-13 10:00:27

Thank you to those making positive suggestions. I will follow them up.

Being single in the married or not sense is not relevant to council tax - it's about who lives at the property. Thanks Downton/Holly and MrsBW. MummytoKatie - that's exactly what I plan to do.

For those who think I'm trying to run a scam - DH does not live in the UK. He has no possessions here other than a couple of pairs of undies. He hasn't lived here for 10years. How is that a scam ref an allowance which is valid if only 1 adult lives in a property?

If you're away from home on a tour etc then unless you are non resident for HMRC purposes, then this is still your home and council tax is due.

Delboys - how do you know if I am middle or working class?

mateysmum Mon 01-Apr-13 10:03:33

Thanks Hissy - exactly right. Cross post.

MidniteScribbler Mon 01-Apr-13 10:06:38

I think this is called "having your cake and eating it too".

LordEmsworth Mon 01-Apr-13 10:07:13

I do think some people are a bit confused about the nature of the single person's discount.

It is based on the premise that one adult uses less resources than two adults would. So someone living alone generates half as much rubbish, for example, as a couple. The 25% discount applies to people living alone, whatever their financial circumstances.

So partner's income etc is irrelevant; in fact, whether they pay tax elsewhere is irrelevant; the question is, does the OP in fact live alone - as defined by the council - and therefore is correctly claiming the discount/allowance/benefit.

OP - I think it's perfectly reasonable for the council to ask why the evidence suggests that you are not living alone, when you say that you are. They have told you the "suspicious" bits and asked you to explain them - they didn't have to do that, they could have just taken the discount away and told you they didn't believe you without explaining why, and left you to prove otherwise without telling you why they're suspicious.

I am not sure though, whether they will agree with you about whether you "live alone" or not, I think as others have said it may depend on whether your partner intends to return to live with you in the future or not - if the former, then arguably they are "temporarily" absent.

DowntonTrout Mon 01-Apr-13 10:08:10

mumofkatie I was surprised when the council told me I was eligible for the single persons allowance. It never crossed my mind it would apply to the other house too.

But as you say, that is our family home, so I will just leave it as it is anyway.

Either way, it is not fraud to claim the single person allowance if you live there alone. It is not the same as someone working away for a few weeks, or a holiday home. It is there because as a person, by yourself, you use less of the services provided, or a smaller portion of them, than two people.

Lockedout434 Mon 01-Apr-13 10:08:27

Yes it's based on single living not income but you also can decide to pay rather than grabbing everything cos your entitled.

The greater good could be looked at especially as this is looking at technicality.
Just pay the tax you gain in the long run more money in council better services better life. More police, firemen etc etc

Go on pay it, how smug will you feel

mateysmum Mon 01-Apr-13 10:10:43

A benefit is usually where something is paid out to a person an allowance is where the person pays less in but yes I know the gov confuses the two.

Spike - don't put words in my mouth. My local council has always been great when I have had to deal with them on anything. Very helpful over the phone and keen to resolve any issues. I would never assume they were plebs. And I repeat I am not claiming anything relevant to being single or married it's about living as the single adult in the household.

Lockedout434 Mon 01-Apr-13 10:10:45

Think of the extra social worker it may employ,
With that extra money left in the council you could save a life.
Go on save a life.
You have enough

BeckAndCall Mon 01-Apr-13 10:13:08

Also, can we assume that your DH does not use the NHS st all, as he's not UK resident nor paying any taxes here?

sorry but like many people who have a Dh in the forces who is abroad they still pay council tax at full rate

So i think you should be as end of day you are still married and not separated or divorced .just live apart for financial reasons which would make you no better than someone say claiming single parent benefit money when they are still with partner but not living together in same house

retrorita Mon 01-Apr-13 10:16:14

You are claiming a benefit.

And as such, you are subjected to the same intrusion into your personal life that all benefit claimants have to put up with.

Last year, h walked out. I had to quit work and claim benefits for the first time in my life. It took ages to sort out (13 week wait for SMI mortgage benefit) and finally when I had it all sorted and caught up with all the payments I was behind on, I received a letter saying I was being investigated for Tax Credit fraud. Apparently this is standard procedure now.

I had to send off a wad of documents to support my claim (bank statements, his rent book for his new house, council tax bills, TV licence, proof of all benefits I was receiving and proof of all utility bills I was paying without his support) to prove that I was legitimately claiming. It took over three months for them to tell me that I was no longer being investigated and didn't owe any money. During that period I was worried sick they were going to stop my tax credits and I wouldn't be able to pay the bills or feed the DC. It effectively ruined Christmas for me as I couldn't sleep with worry.

Welcome to the world of benefit claiming. Sounds like you are in the fortunate position of not needing to claim so you no longer have to put up with this if you don't like it. Some of us are not that fortunate.

mateysmum Mon 01-Apr-13 10:21:03

For further clarification. DH does pay tax here as required.

Beck&Call no he doesn't use the NHS. His employer provides private health insurance as the country he lives in does not have a public health system.

Lockedout - I take it you voluntarily pay the top rate of tax!!

DowntonTrout Mon 01-Apr-13 10:21:33

What a silly thing to say lockedout go on, pay more, because you can.

I hate this goading that goes on because you are perceived to have more than others. There is no requisite, morally or otherwise, to pay more than your share.

OP the council are entitled to ask you those questions, in any way they like really. Just answer them and they will decide whether you are entitled to the discount or not. They told me I was, in my case, because when I live here, I am alone, therefore a single person living in the property.

fedupofnamechanging Mon 01-Apr-13 10:24:32

I can't see why people ate getting their knickers in a twist over this. OP's dh probably doesn't use the NHS, seeing as he doesn't live here and if he did it would probably be for emergency treatment,which we would give to anyone, tax payer or not. They might have 2 incomes but they also ate paying for 2 residences.

The OP does use fewer resources on a day to day basis than if her dh was there all the time.

Personally, I think the onus should be on the council to prove you are committing fraud, not on you to prove that you aren't. I think that shift in emphasis would prevent people from having their benefits cocked up, everytimr the dss has a query.

mateysmum Mon 01-Apr-13 10:26:48

Thx Downton,

I agree. If they decide I have to pay, then I'll pay. I don't question their right to query my situation at all, just didn't like the tone, but the wise women of mumsnet have put me in my place.

ivykaty44 Mon 01-Apr-13 10:26:59

I would tell them:

you are not allowed to give out the address of another person to a third party, they wouldn't just give you information would they they are bound by data protection and it does work the other way around. You have told them where this person doesn't live - but you can't just go giving out address for people without the other persons consent.

I would let them know you will contact the other person on the bank account and ask them to be in contact with the council.

As for the other two questions - you don't have to answer them, they are not questions you need or should be answering

no, because single parent benefit money is based on income, the single occupant coucil discount is based on the amount of adults RESIDENT in a home.

The ops Dh is not resident. He has never lived there, the bills are not in his name, none of his belongings are there, he is not classed as being a resident in the UK because he lives and works abroad.

Forces people are still resident, they keep their belongings here, the OP's DH does not.

retrorita Mon 01-Apr-13 10:29:34

I agree Karma. The onus should be on them to prove guilt rather than you to prove your innocence. The same as in a court of law.

The letter I received from Tax credits was worded to imply my guilt. It was made clear that if I didn't adequately prove I wasn't committing fraud, it would be assumed I was.

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