Scam alert – Council Tax appeals and refunds

Friday 28 June 2019

Scammers are trying to tempt Inverclyde residents into giving away their bank details by claiming their homes have been put in the wrong Council Tax band and that they are due a refund.

Often the fraudster uses an official sounding name or a name which is very close to that of the genuine government department. On Monday 3 June, Port Glasgow resident, Patrick Brady, was cold called by a company offering to help him challenge his Council Tax banding.

Mr Brady said, “A girl called Angela called me out of the blue and said that my Council Tax band was too high. She asked how long I’d been in the house and I said 30 years. She said they only went back 15 years but that I could take it further and pay for a valuation.

“She kept asking for the long number from my credit card. I said, ‘I’m not going to give you any of my bank details’. I told her to send the information through the post but she replied she couldn’t do that without my card number. I didn’t give her anything.”

Councillor Michael McCormick, Convener of Inverclyde Council’s Environment & Regeneration Committee, said, “Mr Brady did exactly the right thing. In England, the government’s Valuation Office Agency (VOA) handles Council Tax banding appeals but in Scotland it is the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA). If someone calls and says they’re from the VOA, or something which sounds like it, then it’s a scam.

“Similarly, the SAA does not call people to say that their Council Tax banding is wrong. It is up to individuals to make an appeal if they think there has been a mistake or a change in circumstances.

“When we phoned the number Mr Brady was given, we were told the company charged £165 to do a property assessment and gather evidence to challenge a Council Tax banding. The cash is paid regardless of whether or not the challenge is successful.

“However, anyone can submit an appeal, called a proposal, free at www.saa.gov.uk The SAA site has all the information on it that a person needs to make an appeal. There are lots of companies which charge a fee for services which are free. Their websites often look like the official one or have a similar name. People should always look out for the .gov.uk in the web address. Private companies usually have .co.uk or .com in their address.”

Unless there have been significant changes to a building, appeals usually have to be made within six months of a person becoming responsible for paying the Council Tax or within six months of getting a Notice from the Scottish Assessors (not a Council Tax bill from the local authority).

Council Tax valuations are based on how much the property would have sold for on 1 April 1991. Any rise or fall in the property’s value, caused by changes in the housing market since then, are not considered a valid reason for changing the Council Tax band.

A number of Council Tax scams involve organisations claiming to be from the English Valuation Office Agency (VOA). The scammer may:

  • insist you’re definitely in the wrong Council Tax band and that you are owed money back on your Council Tax bill, when your band is correct
  • say they’re from the local council or Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and ask for your bank details so they can give you a refund, then steal money from the bank account
  • say they’re from the VOA and ask you to pay for an inspection – the VOA won’t charge you for any Council Tax or business rates services
  • claim that the VOA charges you to challenge your Council Tax band - this is not correct as you can do this for free
  • claim that taxpayers must, by law, be represented by an agent to challenge their band, when in fact anyone can do this themselves
  • state that they’re on an approved list of agents recognised by the VOA, when there’s no such list
  • tell you they have submitted an appeal to the VOA on your behalf and give you a forged acknowledgment notice when in fact they haven’t submitted an appeal.

Page last updated: 28 June 2019