The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres


Imagine how you would feel if, out of the blue one fine early autumn morning, you received a bill in the post for unpaid council tax for a sum of over £700, dating from 12 years ago. And when you phone up to enquire what on earth this is all about, you are told the onus is on you to prove that you paid it, and if you can’t legal proceedings will be put in place (so that bailiffs can come into your house and take your belongings to sell off towards your debt).

Does it matter that your own memory is fairly certain it was all sorted out at least 8 to 10 years ago?


Does it matter that even the Inland Revenue only require you to keep records for 7 years?


Does it matter that you don’t have cheque book stubs and bank account statements from that long ago, so there’s no way you can check?


Does it matter that you moved away from the area over 5 years ago?


Does it matter that you don’t even use the same bank, and haven’t for several years, so the chances of getting hold of statements are nil to minuscule (especially within the demanded 7 days)?


Everything about it screams to me that this is a scam.

But with public spending being cut and less money available, Clackmannanshire Council are looking for ways to claw in money.

And unless we can find a way to prove we paid something they tell us we owe them from a dozen years ago, they have a whole pile of draconian laws on their side to destroy our lives, should we hesitate too long to stump up the cash.

We’ve been mugged by local government.


savannah said...

can you get legal advice? here in the states, it's possible to have an advocate (who knows the law about taxes,etc.) who can represent the taxpayer in dealings with the internal revenue service which sounds like your inland revenue people. go luck, sugar. xoxoxo

Jennifer said...

WOW, this most definitely doesn't seem right.

Jacqui said...

That is shocking and scary! I hope you find someway of proving them wrong!

Carole said...

Completely insane. I can't imagine they can do that. And if you are not required to keep records, it seems to me the onus should be on them and not you.

Sandy's witterings said...

I know this feeling - my old employer (one of the worlds biggest companies as it happens)got my tax all wrong for a few years and I got a big bill just at the wrong time - actually the tax people are strangely quite flexible if you look like you're going to pay which I doubt Clackmannanshire county council will be.
Perhaps the Falkirk Herald might help you let of a little pressure.

JRS said...

That sucks. Big time. Something similar happened to my in-laws. Their accountant made an error that my in-laws found which was that they owed $50,000 to the IRS from their small family business. The in-laws paid it. Then the IRS building burned down along with the records that said they had paid. The IRS charged them again and garnished wages. To fight it, they have been put on a wait list for court which by my understanding was 2 decades ago. They have the records to prove it but haven't been allowed to show their case yet. My FIL won't even talk about it anymore.

Lisa said...

We are having similar problems here in America.

Anonymous said...

Wow unbelievable! I don't know anyone who keeps their records that long - not even my husband who's completely anal about that sort of thing!! I would talk to my solicitor and let him do my fighting for me :)

Eryl said...

Go and see the CAB right now. Also, the Guardian has a brilliant service in their 'Money' supplement which may be able to help you, can't remember which day of the week it runs but it's worth checking out.

Aoife.Troxel said...

That is so typical, but don't get me started...
Prepare to pay.

erika said...

Oh Kim this is outrageous! It IS like being mugged and violated! I am so sorry that you have to deal with this awful situation. I have no clue about the UK system, but is there an advocate or a lawyer that you can contact? You must have some options for due process - or am I being naive?

hope said...

Only 7 days? I realize you're in another country but here you get at least 30 days to "prove" something.

I know how you feel when a stupid system threatens you with something which is, no doubt, an error THEY made.

Hang in there! We're pulling for you!

Vicky said...

I would go to that areas local paper and have a chat. It is totally unreasonable to ask for payment after 12 years or proof of payment.
Actually you should ask them if you can go through their accounting records of x amount of years ago and see if you can find an entry for your payment being received, bet they don't keep accounting paperwork going back that far :)

Ron Tipton said...

Something doesn't smell right here. If you're only required to keep records for seven years, I don't understand how they can claim you owe from twelve years ago.
I can understand your feeling of helplessness and being screwed over.
Someone else made a comment "We have similar problems here in America." I know it doesn't help your situation but we do have the same thing happen here.
No one wants to get caught in that bureaucratic web.

I hope your situation is resolved in your favor soon.

Litzi said...

Hi Kim,
Apparently the Clackmannanshire Council has become your worst nightmare…

Although you’re required to keep financial statements for only 7 years, don’t these buffoons have to maintain their financial records indefinitely to prevent this sort of chicanery?

Best of luck sorting this mess out…

Thrup'ny bits said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thrup'ny bits said...

Yes; what Eryl said: Citizens' Advice Bureau.

Is there a local paper in Clackmannanshire you could contact? If the local council are that desperate for monies perhaps there are other people who've found themselves in the same situation as you find yourself, Kim.

Dare I say this seems it could turn a little Kafkaesque?


Previous post suffered from rotten spelling; I think all is right now

A Daft Scots Lass said...


Jayne said...

Hi Kim - I'm a new reader to your blog & was really shocked at this post. I don't know if it helps or not, but according to my hubby (who recently got his Masters degree in English & Scottish law) the onus is on the council to prove you owe the money, first & foremost. It'll buy you a bit of time in hopefully being able to get copies of bank statements from 12yrs ago etc. I also agree with a couple of the other commenter, who have suggested the CAB.
I hope it all gets sorted out & that you don't have to pay :-)

Pat said...

Two names leap to mind - the Ombudsman and Citizen's Advice Burea. You must fight the b------s.
And there's always Anne Robinson.
I'm outraged on your behalf and wish I could do something.

Jasmine said...

That is not right. I have no advice, (especially being in another country) but I think everyone who has commented has the right idea. I wish the best for you and your family.

Chris said...

Hey there!

I work with Council Tax in my Local Authority and from experience, it sounds like they are simply trying their luck by trying to recover any and all unpaid CT, no matter how old. Realistically, they have no chance of justifying this sort of recovery so fight it all the way and I'd bet my bottom dollar that they would give up!

Good luck!

Chrissie B said...

This is disgusting! I suggest contacting the BBC's Watchdog and/or Dominic Littlewood. I hope you get it sorted out.

BB said...

I´ve been where you are now !
And my friends this is happening all over Europe in the most scandalous of fashions.
I wonder how these fellows can sleep at night...wait ! They don´t.
Vampires don´t sleep.
Sorry Kim,i have no words...

TalesNTypos said...

That's pants.

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks to each of you for your supportive comments.

Part of the problem here is this has to do with a debt that was apparently already in secondary stages of being collected. By that I mean we'd been through a complication and council tax had not been paid for previous years. Anyway, 8 years ago I set up with them a payment scheme to clear that debt.

Now, I thought that was all sorted, but now they say they only got the first payment and no more. Having heard nothing from them in all this time, I hadn't given it any further thought.

Had they sent me notification a month, 6 months or a year later saying I hadn't paid the next installment, I would have dealt with it then. The problem is I have no idea if I did or not, and I have no way of checking beyond their word.

So, if they are right it's not strictly a brand new debt. But quite simply the powers they have at their disposal frighten the shit out of us, and with the CFS, I just don't have the physical, mental or emotional energy (nor financial means to employ a lawyer) to make a stand against it, especially if it turns out we do owe it.

So Maggie's setting up a repayment plan with them of monthly payments spread over a couple of years.

It just pisses me off to the back teeth that I have no way of knowing whether it's real, an administrative cock-up, or a scam.

It does feel very akin to being mugged - you don't know for definite whether your attacker would knife you in the stomach, but you don't feel you can take the risk so hand over your wallet and feel like shit

Falak said...

The whole thing sounds preposterous! Hope you find a way out of this.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Kim, I'm so sorry. This smacks of highway robbery. Do they not have a statute of limitations on things like this? Ridiculous... I hope you figure out a way to shame them into dropping the whole scheme.

Kim Ayres said...

We're just paying them back at £20 a month, so the impact on us is less and they can damn well wait for their money

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