So, I failed to pay my council tax.
(Council Tax, Americans and other aliens, is a local authority tax for paying for things like police, roads and county swimming pools. There is no way around it, no way though it, and they can charge basically what they like, hiking way above the rate of inflation and then saying that any less would mean fewer policemen on the streets, which ranks alongside “taking your liberties solves terrorism” and “This is a magical hat that protects me from tigers when in London” in undefendable statements. Anyway.)
I do this every so often. Bedford CC don’t let you pay by bank transfer, which is my money-management drug of choice (I had a bad experience with an authenticated random-amount DD going batshit-insane a few years ago), so I have to do it manually over the phone/counter/something, and what with Amsterdam, and leaving Bedford, and quiting EM, and general arsehattery on my part, I entirely failed to do so. And, being the fourth time this year I was late…
…The weekend after I started living in E17 (Where I now live) my smallest little brother – who has a car – kindly helped me transfer essentials (such as bedding, bed cushions and tea) to London. This was the point when I opened my mailbox to discover a court summons from the county council.
Of course, sending out a little piece of paper summoning me to appear before the court of the land is not an inexpensive process. Just that little A4 sheet and accompanying letter cost them £60. It wasn’t even very good quality paper, to be honest, and I do worry how much of the budget goes on paper if it costs them quite that much.
£40 underpayment plus £60 muppetry tax = £100. Quite a chunk in a month where I’ve moved house.
I said a number of unprintable words at this point, distinctly unimpressed. At this point I still believed – as is apparently engraved on my heart never to be forgotten – that Council Tax runs from March to December, skipping January and February. Also, my my council tax is a bit more than £40/month, so the £40 made no sense for a missed payment.
So I forgot about it for a while (Hearing wasn’t until March) before sending an email. “I have”, I said in my email,
“now moved house. I now live [HERE], if you could cancel my ‘accounty thing’ with you, that would be handy. Incidentally, I’ve recieved a court summons. If you could also give me a breakdown of where I missed the payment that would be useful”.
They got back within a couple of hours.
Like many things engraved as mentioned above, it is no longer true. KV doesn’t heart DC 4evar, we will forget what happens when war is declared, and council tax runs from April to January. However, being a muppet, I can never remember how much the payment is, and so over the course of 2006 I had almost – but not quite – overpaid enough to cater for the missed month. I owed £40.
But, since I was moving out, I didn’t need to pay for March. They would recalculate, and they would send me a letter.
Because the calculation was wrong, the summons was invalid and I don’t need to pay the £60. Because I didn’t need to pay for March, I get some money taken off my bill. This entirely wipes out the £40. Because I overpaid, Bedford Council now owe me £23.
Which is a decent result from a court summons.