Non-payment of Council Tax can have severe consequences. Those liable for the charge should prioritise their expenditure to ensure that this charge is met. If you don’t, you can end up in court if you do not pay. If you are likely to fall behind with your payments do seek advice because not paying is not an option. Please see Help with your Council Tax for more information about help you might get.
What happens if I don't pay my Council Tax?
You usually pay your Council Tax bill in instalments over 10 months, unless you have selected to pay over 12 months.
If you fall behind with your payments or you are paying later than the dates shown on your bill we will send you a reminder, giving you seven days to bring your account up to date.
If you bring your account up to date and fall behind again we will send you a second reminder. No further reminders are issued once you have had that second reminder.
If you are unable to bring your account up to date you will lose the right to pay in instalments and the full year's Council Tax becomes due.
If you are unable to pay the full year balance, the next stage is to issue you with a summons to the local Magistrates Court for the non payment of Council Tax. When the summons is issued, additional costs of £103 will be added to your account.
It is not necessary for you to attend court as the hearing can continue in your absence. You do have the right however, to attend the court and offer evidence as to why you are not liable for the debt. If you choose to go to the court hearing, the Magistrates will ask if you have a valid defence which will stop a Liability Order being granted. The examples of valid defences are:
- the amount has not been demanded in accordance with the regulations for example, the Council failed to follow the correct time periods in serving bills and reminders; or
- the amount has been paid; or
- you are not liable for the amount on the summons.
Not being able to pay, awaiting the award of a discount or exemption, waiting for benefit to be awarded or the fact that you will not be remaining in the property for the whole year, are not in the majority of cases considered valid defences against the granting of a Liability Order.
If you are unable or do not wish to attend court, you should speak to us. We will try to come to a reasonable arrangement with you for payment but we cannot do that unless you contact us. You can call the office on 01372 732558 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
What happens once a Liability Order has been granted?
As the Liability Order is not granted in a County Court it is not a County Court Judgement (CCJ) and so will not affect your own personal credit rating, or the rating of the property for which the outstanding tax is due.
It does however, allow the us to take further recovery action against you if you do not pay your outstanding Council Tax. This can include deductions to your wages or benefits or your Case being passed to the council's enforcement agents for collection. If these methods of recovery are unsuccessful the council may also decide to pursue Bankruptcy action against you or apply for your committal to prison.
Further arrangement to pay
After the court hearing has taken place we will write to you with a Financial information form. This form asks for some details from you regarding your household income and expenditure. At this stage we can use our discretion to agree a special payment arrangement based on the the information you have provided.
At the bottom of the financial information form it asks you to make a suggestion of how much you can pay each month towards your Council Tax arrears. When filling in this part of the form, we ask that you keep in mind that Council Tax is a priority debt (after rent and/or mortgage payments) and that we require this amount to be cleared in the same financial year, when making a offer to pay.
If you require any assistance with completing the form or would like any further information please contact the Council Tax Office on 01372 732558 or by email at email@example.com.
If you do not return the financial information form or contact us we will have no other option but to pursue one of the following methods of recovery action against you.
Deduction from wages
We can order your employer to deduct a regular amount from your wages toward your unpaid Council Tax.
We take pro-active steps to identify the employers of Council Tax debtors. A copy of the order will be sent to you and your employer confirming the Liability Order details and the total debt to be repaid, once the order is in place. Your payroll department will then set up payments to be made to us on a daily, weekly or monthly basis in accordance with how you are paid, until the debt is settled. Once set up, an attachment will not be cancelled until the debt is paid in full or you cease employment.
The amount of money deducted depends on your net pay. This is your wages, salary (including any fees, bonus, commission or overtime pay) or any statutory sick pay, after the deduction of income tax, primary Class 1 national insurance contributions, superannuation contributions and any deduction with a higher priority. You can find more information and an indication of the percentage of your pay that will be deducted in our Attachment of earnings guidance for employers. These percentages are non-negotiable as they are set by central government, not the us.
Deduction from benefits
We may be able to apply for deductions if you are receiving Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, or Income Support.
If your account is passed to our enforcement agents (formerly known as bailiffs) an additional amount of £75 in fees will be added to your outstanding balance. If you receive a letter from one of our agents you should contact them immediately on the details below. Failure to do so can result in further fees being added to your account. Once your case has been passed to an enforcement agent we will only intervene in exceptional circumstances.
Bristow & Sutor Enforcement Agents
Tel: 0871 677 0070
Goodwillie & Corcoran Enforcement Agents
57 Liddon Road
Tel: 0208 466 9111
For information about the role of enforcement agents please visit the Civil Enforcement Association.
We can commence bankruptcy proceedings against you under the provisions of the Insolvency Act 1986.
Committal to prison
If all efforts to collect the amount due from you have failed and the enforcement agents have been unsuccessful in trying to remove goods to cover the value of the debt, then as a last resort we can apply to the Magistrates' Court for a warrant committing you to prison.
Before such a warrant can be issued the court must hold a means enquiry with you present and they will only issue a warrant if satisfied that the failure to pay is as a result of wilful refusal or culpable neglect. The maximum period of imprisonment is three months. Having fixed a term of imprisonment the court can postpone the warrant on certain conditions and normally these relate to payment of the outstanding amount being made by regular instalments over a period of time. The court also has the power to cancel all or any part of the outstanding amount where they do not fix a term of imprisonment.