People claiming Single Person Discount on their council tax in South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse will be asked to confirm whether they are still the only adult living in their property, as the councils crack down on council tax fraud.

More than 35,500 households, around 29 per cent of all homes, across the two districts currently claim to be occupied by a single person and are receiving the 25 per cent discount.

To ensure everyone is paying the correct rate of council tax South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils will send letters to the registered council tax-payer at many of these properties, requiring them to confirm the current occupancy.

Incorrectly claiming the discount can be considered council tax fraud.

Cllr Leigh Rawlins, Cabinet Member for Finance at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “We undertake a pro-active approach to ensure that the correct council tax is paid by all and have procedures in place for reviewing single person discount entitlement. 

“So, if you receive a letter please respond immediately and honestly, otherwise you could risk losing your entitlement or potentially face prosecution for a false claim. The discount is there to support adults genuinely meeting the single occupancy criteria.

“If you receive a letter about your Single Person Discount, please read it through very carefully and then respond as quickly as possible.”

Cllr Andy Crawford, Cabinet Member for Finance at Vale of White Horse District Council said: “Residents on a low income or who claim benefits may be eligible for Council Tax reduction.

“Bills can be reduced by up to 100%. So, I would encourage anyone who thinks they may be entitled to financial support to visit our website”

People will have 21 days to respond by completing an online form or, if they don’t have access to the internet, by returning an optional paper reply.  Anyone who fails to respond in time risks losing their entitlement to the discount.

Anyone who claims the discount but has others living with them who are aged 18 or over who are not already disregarded for council tax purposes, such as students or carers, could be committing council tax fraud and could face the serious risk of prosecution. 

This could result in them receiving a fine, a criminal record or potentially more serious consequences if the fine is then not paid. 

They will also face the prospect of having additional bills when they are required to pay back all the discount that they wrongly received.

The councils state they ‘regularly’ carry out checks to ensure that only those who are genuinely entitled to the discount receive it. 

The checks will be carried out on the councils’ behalf by Capita Local Government Services.

They will work with Experian, the credit reference agency, and will also use the Government’s National Fraud Initiative data-matching technology to identify where people are possibly claiming a discount on their council tax to which they are not entitled.

If anyone feels their records may need updating now, they should contact the councils directly. 

On South Oxfordshire Council’s website it adds: “Every year, an estimated £90 million worth of Single Person Discount is fraudulently claimed across the UK, reducing the money available to invest in important local services.”