NEARLY three quarters of a million pounds worth of overpaid council tax that should be returned to ratepayers is being held onto by two Gwent authorities.

A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed the amounts held by the councils in overpaid council tax.

In Torfaen the borough council is holding £399,658.20 in payments that should be returned to citizens while the figure in Monmouthshire is £338,628.26 – making a total of £738,286.46. 

The organisation which represents local authorities in Wales has advised ratepayers to check their bills carefully to determine if they have paid more than required.

The typical band D council tax bill in Monmouthshire this year is £1,847.25 while a band D household in Torfaen has had to find £1,802.71 for the charge towards local services from sweeping the roads to running schools. 

Though there is no legal requirement for any council to notify individuals that they have overpaid on the charge, which is normally paid in 10 monthly payments from April every year, authorities will issue a closing bill or do so if there is a change in circumstance. 

If there is any credit on a householder’s account it should be “netted” off any new annual bill issued, meaning the over payment will count as payment towards that year’s charge. 

According to the Welsh Local Government Association, which represents all of Wales’ 22 bill issuing authorities, the lack of legal duty on councils to notify households means an individual has only six years from learning of an overpayment to try and claim it back.  

A spokesman for the WLGA said: “In the absence of any express statutory duty (on the council), the Limitation Act 1980 would apply, a right of action would signify six years from the date the taxpayer had express notice of the credit.” 

The overpaid cash sits in a council’s general fund and the WLGA said councils will usually have a policy which allows them to keep it after a period. 

The spokesman said: “After a period of time councils probably will have a ‘write back’ provision in their write off policy to absorb the balances. Some authorities report that they review such credits after eight to 10 years.” 

The WLGA says the first thing anyone who thinks they have overpaid on council tax should do is check their bill. 

The spokesman said: “if the latest council tax bill advises of a credit contact the council to request a refund.   

“Simply enquire with the local authority providing as many details as possible in relation to the account/property the taxpayer is concerned about. Local authority records extend to 1993. Where a clear entitlement to the money exists councils would reverse the write back and refund.”