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Council Tax Reduction - prosecution and penalties

This advice applies to England

Your local authority may prosecute you if you give wrong information when you apply for Council Tax Reduction or if you don't tell the local authority about a change in your circumstances which affects your award. In some cases the authority may ask you to pay a penalty instead of prosecuting you.

This page tells you more about when a local authority can prosecute you or ask you to pay a penalty.

Giving false information to get CTR

Your local authority may prosecute you if you deliberately give wrong information when you apply for Council Tax Reduction (CTR), either for yourself or for someone else. They might also prosecute you if you encourage someone else to give wrong information on your behalf. For example, you might be prosecuted if you tell your local authority that you aren't working or have no savings when you know this isn't true.

Failure to notify a change in your circumstances

If you're already getting CTR, you may be prosecuted if you don't tell your local authority about any change in your circumstances which you know affects your entitlement to CTR or the amount of CTR you receive. For example, you should tell the local authority if you start a job or if a partner comes to live with you. You should tell the local authority promptly. This means telling them within 21 days of the change happening, or as soon as possible if you can't tell them within 21 days.

You can also be prosecuted if you deliberately encourage or allow someone else not to notify changes affecting their CTR entitlement.

Paying a penalty to avoid prosecution

Your local authority may ask you to pay a penalty instead of prosecuting you. If you pay the penalty you won't be prosecuted for that offence. Any penalty you pay will be on top of repaying any CTR you shouldn't have received.

If you got more CTR than you should have the penalty will be half of the extra CTR, with a minimum payment of £100 and a maximum of £1000. If you didn't actually get extra CTR, the penalty will be £100.

Paying a penalty for giving wrong information

Your local authority won't always prosecute you for giving wrong information. Instead, they may ask you to pay a £70 penalty. They may ask you to do this if you didn't take enough care when giving information to them but you didn't give wrong information on purpose

You won't be asked to pay a £70 penalty if you are being prosecuted for giving wrong information or if you're asked to pay a higher penalty as an alternative to being prosecuted.

You may not have to pay a penalty if you take reasonable steps to correct your mistake. Taking reasonable steps might include contacting your local authority as soon as you realise that you made a mistake.

The £70 penalty is in addition to repaying any CTR you shouldn't have received.

Paying a penalty for not telling your local authority about a change in your circumstances

Your local authority won't always prosecute you for not telling them about a change in your circumstances. Instead they may ask you to pay a £70 penalty. You may be asked to pay this if you didn't tell them about a change which you should have known would affect your CTR award and you got more CTR than you should have as a result. You should tell the authority promptly. This means telling them within 21 days of the change happening, or as soon as possible if you can't tell them within 21 days.

You shouldn't have to pay a penalty if you have a reasonable excuse for not telling the authority about the change. You might, for example, have a reasonable excuse if you or someone in your family has been ill or if you don't speak much English.

Investigation for fraud

If your local authority suspects you of giving them wrong or misleading information, they may investigate you for fraud. They could ask you to attend an interview known as an interview under caution. If this happens, you should get advice straight away. It's important that you get advice before you go to the interview and that you take someone with you, if possible. You may be able to get free legal advice under criminal legal aid.

Your local CAB may be able to advise you, or help you to find free legal advice.

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