Scots to improve tax collection

Scottish local authority finance officers want access to the Inland Revenue database to boost their council tax collection rate.

The proposal is one of a number of ideas under consideration by a joint Scottish Office/Convention of Scottish Local Authorities working party.

Its appointment was announced by Scottish local government minister Calum MacDonald at the annual conference of CIPFA’s Scottish branch at Gleneagles Hotel.

MacDonald was disappointed at the performance of Scottish local authorities compared to their English counterparts, whose average collection rate in 1997 was 95.7% of the tax due during 1996/1997.

A handful of the best performing Scottish local authorities approached the average English collection rate – although several have improved, following a critical Accounts Commission report.

The official Scottish Office list of ideas includes stripping the Right to Buy from council tenants in arrears, a reduction in the sequestration limit and bypassing court procedures for debtors who agree to have their tax arrears deducted from income support.

But MacDonald’s main message was for tax collectors, insisting he wanted to concentrate on improving the means of collection rather than threatening debtors.

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