Nearly half a million pounds in overpaid council tax has still to be repaid by Falkirk Council.
It comes after a freedom of information (FOI) request was made by a campaigner who believes councils are “deliberately withholding taxpayer funds”.
Falkirk Council has rejected the claim, insisting that it actively takes “every step possible to ensure that those who are entitled to a refund receive it quickly”.
The FOI shows £429,274.04 of overpayments – dating back to 1993 – have still to be returned, with the largest amount overpaid over £3000.
Most people who are owed money will be those who have moved to a different local authority and who didn’t pay by direct debit.
However, according to the campaigner, more than half of the accounts in question have a contact/forwarding address, so this money should have been refunded.
He said: “All councils are notoriously quick to issue reminder letters for small amounts, yet some councils appear extremely lax, and that is being kind, in refunding overpaid council tax, with some individual amounts of running into hundreds or even thousands of pounds.”
A spokesperson for Falkirk Council says it actively tries to ensure people who are entitled to a refund get it as quickly as possible, with any refund made automatically in the case of direct debits as the council can make payment straight into a bank account.
The spokesperson said: “We write out to all others asking them who they would prefer to receive their refund.
“We no longer issue unsolicited cheques routinely as this can cause issues (e.g. joint council tax payers who do not have a joint bank account) and instead we look to refund in the way that best suits each taxpayer.
“Any non-refunded money is retained as a credit balance until we have exhausted all potential options to engage with relevant taxpayer.”
“In 2020/21 we refunded more than £715,000. This is much more than the total waiting to be refunded, which has built up over a number of years.
“For context we have collected £1.5bn in Council Tax since it started in 1993 (including water charges).
“The amount we have not yet been able to refund is around 0.005% of the total billed.”
“We act in accordance with best practice along with other Councils in Scotland.”
By local democracy reporter Kirsty Paterson