Providing details of a PIT when applying for benefits

joannemoores Sep 14th, 2017

An interesting decision from the High Court indicates that clients with a Personal Injury Trust must provide whatever proof the council requests to support an application for Council Tax Reduction/Support. A letter explaining the personal injury related disregards and a copy of the Trust Deed were provided in support of the application in this case but, the council also wanted to see details of the PIT bank account. The Valuation Tribunal, and now the High Court, have agreed the claimant should supply this information if the council request to see it.

Here is the summary from Rightsnet:

[2017] EWHC 2252 (Admin)

In a new judgment, the High Court has determined that a claimant had not satisfied the onus of proof about capital held in a personal injury trust when she provided details of the trust but failed to comply with requests to supply bank statements.

In Francois v London Borough of Waltham Forest [2017] EWHC 2252 (Admin) (08 August 2017), Mrs Francois had received, since 1996, a reduction in her council tax which continued under the locally determined scheme of council tax support from April 2013. The council identified that she had received money from a personal injury award and that it was in a personal injury trust. Following a request for information about the trust and the amount of the award, Mrs Francois supplied a letter dated 22 March 2010 from her solicitor (Wrigleys) written in general terms stating that they believed her benefits should not be affected by capital held in the trust. The council decided she was not entitled to a reduction in council tax as she had not complied with its information request and with the requirements of its scheme to -

‘... furnish such certificates, documents, information and evidence in connection with the application or award, or any question arising out of the application or the award as may reasonably be required by the authority in order to determine that person's entitlement to, or the continuing entitlement to a reduction under the scheme…’

The council then requested further details of all of Mrs Francois' bank accounts, including relevant statements. Having not received all the requested information, the council refused to alter its decision and Mrs Francois appealed to the Valuation Tribunal of England (VTE). The tribunal gave directions obliging her to provide details of her bank accounts and a statement providing details of all transactions relating to the trust. She failed to comply with the direction and the VTE decided the case against her.

The High Court dismisses the claimant’s appeal, finding that whilst the letter dated 22 March 2010 from Wrigleys does establish that there was a personal injury trust, following Kerr, the VTE had concluded that was not enough in itself and the onus of proof remained with Mrs Francois to provide the information requested by the council. Deputy Judge Marquand observes -

‘In my judgment this is entirely consistent with the cases of Kerr and Jeleniewicz. Mrs Francois was seeking a benefit in the form of a reduction in council tax. The information requested was in her knowledge and control and as such it was for her to provide it. In the absence of that information, the VTE concluded that the Council was entitled to conclude that she had capital of more than £6,000 and therefore not entitled to the reduction she was seeking. I do not see any merit in the grounds advanced by Mrs Francois in this appeal, there was no obligation on the VTE to give the letter dated 22 March 2010 any more weight that it was given. The VTE's reasons are clear and in accordance with Kerr.’