What's the future of local taxation in Scotland? In this consultation response, CAS uses evidence from Scotland’s citizens advice bureaux to show the aspects of local taxation that need to be improved in any new proposed system.
“Council tax isn’t the only problem, but it is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back so to speak. Also, it is the one that it is in the power of the Scottish Government. It’s really important to look at a fairer system.” Money Advice Worker, East Sutherland CAB.
In 2014/15, clients sought advice on over 29,000 new issues related to Council Tax and Council Tax arrears at citizens advice bureaux – a 4% increase on the previous year. This represents over 100 advice issues per working day, or around one Council Tax issue for every 10 clients that seek advice at a citizens advice bureau. After years of consumer debt dominating debt advice figures, Council Tax arrears is the now most common debt that clients seek advice on.
However, our figures may underplay the impact of Council Tax on people’s finances and budgeting. It is likely that for many clients who seek advice on other issues, paying their Council Tax may have left them in a financially precarious position. The impact of Council Tax on low income households is likely to be felt more keenly than is suggested by the figures recorded.
In this response, we use the evidence of Scotland’s citizens advice bureaux to show the aspects of local taxation that need to be improved in any new proposed system. In particular, our evidence shows that:
- The current system is very prescriptive, failing to take enough account of affordability or ability to pay outside of those who claim Council Tax Reduction
- An increasing number of workers in low paid, part-time, and unpredictable employment find Council Tax difficult to pay and receive little or no support through Council Tax reduction. Any new system should look to support this group
- Water and sewerage charges are poorly communicated, leaving many on full Council Tax Reductions receiving an unexpected bill.
- Our evidence suggests that enforcement and collection of Council Tax arrears is very often disproportionate and causes people to fall into worsening financial situations