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Crackdown on single person discount claims

Councils in Lincolnshire have recovered £611,000 of public money from people who have continued to receive single person discount - either claiming it in error or fraudulently when they are not entitled.

Following a campaign last year by the Lincolnshire Counter Fraud Partnership to encourage people to come forward if their circumstances had changed, a review was carried out of more than 100,000 households to see if people claiming the 25% single person discount were genuinely living on their own.

2229 discounts were taken away and individuals have had to pay back any discount that they were not entitled to. Enforcement action has been taken against 543 people as they have either failed to respond or have provided misleading information.

Cllr Aaron Spencer, Boston Borough Council's finance portfolio holder, said: "This type of exercise is part of our fraud prevention measures which all Lincolnshire councils take very seriously.   We do investigate and take appropriate action against people claiming council tax discount and exemptions that they are not entitled to.  Every pound lost this way increases national and local taxation levels and also threatens essential services.

"£611,000 is a significant amount of money that is successfully being reclaimed - we will not tolerate those who potentially seek to defraud local taxpayers. In Boston borough £61,000 has been reclaimed, 255 claimants have been removed and 98 penalties totalling £7,000 have been issued."

"Council tax payers must tell us within 21 days of any changes to their single-occupancy circumstances. People who are genuinely claiming the discount have nothing to worry about but anyone found to be deliberately misleading their local council could face a penalty of £70."

"We are obliged to amend any records we find to be incorrect back to the date of the change. This means householders do not benefit from withholding information from us and it makes the system fairer for everyone. If you don't tell us it could mean some households will find they have a considerable amount of council tax arrears to pay."

If you are claiming the discount and your circumstances have changed, or you think you may be eligible for a discount on your council tax, you should contact the council.

To report someone incorrectly claiming council tax discount, or to report any type of fraud involving a Lincolnshire council, contact the confidential reporting line - Freephone 0800 0853716.

According to the National Fraud Authority, council tax fraud is estimated to cost councils and taxpayers £130m, of which £92m is undetected single person discount.