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Advice if your Council Tax is in arrears

The following information tells you what can happen if you do not pay your Council Tax on time.

You should contact us immediately for advice if you think you will be unable to make a payment of Council Tax or that you can only make the payment after the due date.

We can check if you are eligible for any discounts, exemptions, or Council Tax Support that may reduce the amount that you have to pay.

Even if the amount that you have to pay does not reduce, we may be able to suggest options that will reduce the impact of the enforcement actions which are shown below. For example, if you have had a final notice and lost the right to pay by instalments, you can regain this right if you agree to pay by direct debit.

In addition to general help and advice, the Council Tax Team offers a scheme called Customer Care Plus, which offers additional help to customers who have special needs, due either to age or disability. For example, customers who are eligible to join the scheme can request a telephone call prior to an instalment reminder being issued or can request that a friend or relative deals with matters on their behalf. Please contact us if you would like more information about this scheme.

If you are having problems paying your Council Tax and feel that you need help with your financial situation, you can contact the National Debtline for free confidential and independent advice.

The Council tax bill

A Council Tax bill (Demand Notice) is issued to all domestic properties within the Borough, allowing payment by up to 10 monthly instalments, running from April to January. Many tax payers prefer this as it means they have two months when payments are not due.

However, you can apply to pay by 12 monthly instalments which normally run April to March. To get the full 12 instalments you need to apply by 15th April. If you apply after this date we would expect you to pay any existing overdue payments and the balance would be spread over the remaining months in that financial year.

Payments are due by the first day of each month, with the exception of the first instalment, which may be due on another date. If you choose to pay by direct debit you have a choice of payment dates, either first or fifteenth of each month.

To minimise the cost of non collection, which has to be passed on to all Council Tax payers, we always take prompt and early action to recover arrears. If payments are not received as shown on your Council Tax bill you will receive a reminder notice.

Reminder notice

If you miss a Council Tax instalment you will be sent a reminder notice giving you seven days to bring your payments up to date. If you bring your account up to date you may continue to pay by instalments.

If you have brought your account up to date after the first reminder notice, but you fall behind a second time, you will receive another reminder notice giving you seven days to bring your account up to date. If you bring your account up to date you may continue to pay by instalments.

The regulations only allow for two reminders each year. If you have brought your account up to date after the first and second reminder but then fall behind again a final notice will be issued.

Final notice

If a final notice is issued the whole amount of Council Tax outstanding on your bill becomes due, and you will have lost the right to pay by instalments. The final notice will give you seven days to pay the outstanding balance in full.

A final notice can also be issued if all outstanding instalments have become due, for example if you have not paid the final instalment shown on your bill, a Final Notice can be issued without any previous reminders having been issued.

The right to pay by instalments can be re-instated, and no summons issued, if you agree to set up a direct debit over the telephone also paying the outstanding instalment, as soon as you receive the final notice. If the whole balance due is not paid within seven days a summons will be issued.

Summons

If you do not pay the whole amount requested in the first reminder, second reminder or final notice, within the days allowed, the Council will apply to the Magistrates Court for a summons to be issued notifying you of a liability order hearing.

The summons will tell you when the court will consider the application, and the amount that we are seeking to recover, together with the additional summons and court costs involved. As this action is taken in the Magistrates Court it will not affect your credit rating, unlike action taken in the County Court. If the balance outstanding on the summons, including the summons costs, is paid in full before the hearing we will not obtain a liability order.

The liability order hearing

You have the right to attend the court hearing and offer evidence why the liability order should not be granted. However if you accept liability you do not need to attend the court hearing.

If the court is satisfied that the Council has followed the correct procedures then they will grant a liability order and costs.

As this hearing is about your liability to pay the Council Tax the Magistrates cannot consider your ability to pay. Please contact the Council if you wish to discuss your arrears and make a payment arrangement.

The Magistrates cannot consider any appeal against the banding of your property, a discount or exemption not being granted, or your being held liable to pay the Council Tax. Such appeals must be dealt with by The Tribunal Service.

There is no provision in the Council Tax regulations to allow you to withhold payment pending the outcome of any appeal.

If you have any queries about the summons, or wish to attend the liability order hearing, please let the Council Tax Team know in advance so that we can resolve any issues or ensure that any relevant paperwork is taken to the court hearing so that all the facts can be put before the Magistrates.

If the Magistrates issue a liability order the actions detailed below can be taken.

Actions after a liability order is granted

The Council will normally issue a request for information and an offer of payment form after the liability order is granted. You must complete and return this form or telephone the Council to provide this information within 14 days. This information may enable the Council to agree a suitable payment arrangement.

If the information is not provided or a suitable payment arrangement cannot be agreed, the liability order gives the Council the following remedies to collect the debt:

  • Attachment of earnings
  • Attachment of benefit
  • Use Enforcement Agents
  • Statutory demand for bankruptcy
  • Charging order
  • Application for committal to prison

Attachment of earnings

This allows the Council to have money deducted by your employer direct from your net earnings and paid to the Council. Net earnings are earnings after the deduction of income tax, primary Class 1 National Insurance contributions, superannuation contributions and any deduction with a higher priority. Earnings do not include Tax Credits within the meaning of the Tax Credits Act 2002.

Attachment of benefit

Attachments can only be made from Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance (including Incapacity Benefit)and Pension Credit. The amount that will be deducted is £3.70 per week (April 2015).

Enforcement agents

We employ an external firm of Enforcement Agents to recover arrears. This can add considerable additional costs to the arrears which you will be liable to pay. The Enforcement Agents will expect payment in full immediately. If you are unable to do this the Enforcement Agent has three options:

  • They can allow you to enter in to a Controlled Goods Agreement. This means they will take control of goods in order to secure the outstanding debt and costs incurred, up to a value of the arrears but also agree a payment arrangement with you. The goods will not be removed for sale provided that you maintain the payments.
  • They can secure your goods in a room, outhouse or garage. This means they take control of goods but they remain on the premises until payment in full is received or the goods are removed for sale.
  • They can remove goods immediately to be sold to repay the arrears.

Bankruptcy

The Council may issue a statutory demand for you to be declared bankrupt. This action may put your home, pension and other assets at risk.

Charging orders

The Council may make an application for a charge to be put on your property so that the debt is paid out of the proceeds of the sale. The application will include the substantial costs of the application, together with interest on the amount outstanding until the debt is paid.

Committal to prison

The Council may apply to the Magistrates Court for a warrant committing you to prison. This action is only taken when other efforts have failed and when the Enforcement Agents have tried unsuccessfully to take control of goods.

Before deciding whether to commit you to prison the Magistrates must hold an enquiry into your conduct and means and will issue a summons so that you are present at the court. If you do not attend the court hearing in answer to the summons, we will make application for a warrant for your arrest to be issued to ensure your attendance at a future court hearing.

If the court decide that your non payment is due to wilful refusal or culpable neglect they have the power to send you to prison for a maximum period of three months.

The court may decide to fix a term of imprisonment but postpone issuing the warrant of commitment provided that you make payments as ordered by the court. They also have the power to remit the debt if they are satisfied that there is an inability to pay, provided that they have not already found that non-payment is due to wilful refusal or culpable neglect and fixed a term of imprisonment.

To avoid all of the above actions why not pay by direct debit - the convenient way to pay and you can apply to pay by Direct Debit by completing the form below:

Direct Debit Mandate (PDF Document, 67.57 Kb)

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