Birmingham residents owed over £5.4m in council tax refunds, investigation reveals

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Money Saving Expert probe shows that over 30,000 people in Birmingham are owed council tax refunds

A total of £5.4 million in council tax refunds could still be owed to Birmingham households, an investigation by Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has revealed.

Figures announced this week (Monday, July 4) - which cover the period from the end of the last financial year - show this is the highest total of any council across the country.

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The information comes off the back of a Freedom of information request submitted by MSE to councils across the country which found a total of £150 million is owed to residents.

UK council’s owing the most in Council Tax refunds from Money Saving ExpertUK council’s owing the most in Council Tax refunds from Money Saving Expert
UK council’s owing the most in Council Tax refunds from Money Saving Expert | LDRS

The investigation revealed that out of 34 councils in England, three in Scotland and one in Wales which owed over £1 million - Birmingham City Council owed the most at almost £5.4 million. The council is also the biggest in Europe.

The total is nearly half a million pounds higher than the second-highest council located in London. It means that at the time of the request over 30,000 people in Birmingham were still due a refund.

The smallest total of money still owed by any council belonged to Bristol City Council – which owed £3,000. It is thought many people pay their council tax in a lump sum and then move away from the area, forgetting that they have overpaid.

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The finance guru is now urging people across the country to check whether they are still owed money. The investigation by Money Saving Expert (MSE) was submitted at the end of 2021 with the last councils declaring their totals in February of this year.

Birmingham City Council HouseBirmingham City Council House
Birmingham City Council House | LDRS

What has Money Saving Expert said about the findings in their own words?

Gareth Shaw, deputy editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: “While many councils do make an effort to track down those who have cash lying unclaimed, they are still staggeringly sitting on £150 million worth of overpayments.

“You’re less likely to have overpaid if you use direct debit, but it’s not impossible, so if you’ve moved home it’s worth checking if you might be due – especially if you changed local authority area and paid by cash, cheque or standing order instead. Each council has its own way of processing claims, but some have an easy online form.

“But don’t just call on the off chance you might be due – do a little bit of digging so you don’t clog up councils’ switchboards for those who need essential and urgent support. Check your previous statements and bills to see if council tax you paid upfront covers a period after you moved and if you closed your account in credit.”

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UK council’s owing the most in Council Tax refunds from Money Saving ExpertUK council’s owing the most in Council Tax refunds from Money Saving Expert
UK council’s owing the most in Council Tax refunds from Money Saving Expert | LDRS

What has Birmingham City Council said about the findings by MSE?

In response, Birmingham City Council pointed out that they are the largest authority in the country. They said: “As part of our standard administration process we refund credit balances to residences automatically, however this is not always possible if a customer changes their bank account or forwarding address without notifying us.

“If we are then unable to trace the customer we are left with no other option but to leave the credit balance on their council tax account until such a point that it is claimed.

“In terms of the monetary value of total credits and being in the top five, it should be noted that Birmingham City Council is the largest authority in the country and at least three times the size of most (93%) of all other local authorities. Clearly if someone feels they have overpaid we’d encourage them to contact us.”

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