To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many people have been sentenced to a term in prison for (a) non-payment of council tax, (b) watching television broadcasts without a television licence and (c) tax evasion in each year from 2008-09 to 2014-15.
30 September 2016
The law and penalties in these three areas are different. The Government takes tax evasion very seriously. There is no single definition of “tax evasion” so there are several offences under which those who evade taxes can be prosecuted, with a maximum penalty of up to 7 years for the most serious cases under c) below. Watching television broadcasts without a television licence is also a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of a fine.
Non-payment of council tax is not a criminal offence. Where a person fails to pay the council tax after it has been demanded, the local authority may apply to the magistrates’ court for a liability order. Liability orders are granted for the amount owed plus reasonable costs. If they are still not paid the local authority can apply for a warrant committing an individual to prison; an individual cannot be fined for non-payment of council tax.
a) The number of people imprisoned following non-payment of council tax in England and Wales, by financial year from 2009/10 to 2014/15 can be viewed in table 1. The magistrates’ courts have been using their centralised case management system since early 2009 so data are only available from 2009/10.
b) Immediate custody is not an available sentence for TV licence evasion; the maximum sentence is a fine.
c) The number of offenders sentenced to immediate custody at all courts for offences relating to tax evasion, in England & Wales, by financial year from 2008/09 to 2014/15, can be viewed in table 2.
Individuals imprisoned for non-payment of Council tax 2009-10 to 2014-15
Data are only available from 2009-10 onwards as Libra, the centralised case management system, has only been in use since early 2009.
The date is based on case completion date.
The report looks only at 'Complaint for Council Tax Committal Application' and 'Complaint for Council Tax Liability'.
The Total Imprisoned includes Committal to prison, Detention until court rises, Imprisonment and Imprisonment in default.
After the warrant is issued the defendant can pay the warrant in full or part payment in lieu of custody. Table 2.