Council tax ‘test case’ battle set for Court of Session

The uninhabitable house in Auchterarder at the centre of council tax battle. Picture: Contributed
The uninhabitable house in Auchterarder at the centre of council tax battle. Picture: Contributed
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A woman who won a council tax battle “test case” for Scotland against paying council tax on an uninhabitable property under renovation has said she cannot afford to defend her win when the case goes to the Court of Session next week.

Patricia MacGillivray, a company director in a packaging consultancy business, whose property overlooks Auchterarder golf course in Perthshire, won her case in January this year after defending herself at a panel hearing at Tayside Valuation Joint Board (TVJB). However, the TVJB appealed against the panel’s decision. The case will be heard before three senior judges next Wednesday.

The case has implications for individuals or landlords who are doing up a property which is currently uninhabitable, and has the potential to cost councils millions of pounds in council tax and refunds if the court finds in favour of Miss MacGillivray.

Miss MacGillivray’s property in Orchil Crescent has a band E valuation which, including water and sewerage charges, is assessed at £1,933.43.

However, the inside has been completely demolished, leaving only external walls.

After receiving the council tax demand, she contacted Perth and Kinross Council asking to be removed from the council tax roll and the case went before the TVJB.

“It was ridiculous, I was on my own defending myself and the other side had a QC citing case law, which was an old man living in a croft which didn’t have electricity or water on the Western Isles and whose family inherited it. They challenged paying council tax but lost the case,” Miss MacGillivray said.

“The case would cost me a minimum of £30,000 in QC fees to defend which I cannot afford. If I lost it would double that. It seems to me there is no justice for ‘small people’.

“I’m really disappointed I’m not able to defend myself in the Court of Session. I know of many cases where people are being threatened by the same Western Isles test case.

“There is also the threat of a 100 per cent surcharge if you don’t pay the council tax which intimidates many people so they pay up.

“So if a property is deemed uninhabitable and the assessors still won’t remove it from the valuation list then what is the criteria?”

Alastair Kirkwood, TVJB assessor and electoral registration officer, said: “It would be inappropriate for me to comment on an appeal case which is currently in progress.

“However, I would say this case involves detailed consideration of legislation and case law where the outcome sought by the appellant is at odds with the position established in previous cases.”