Advice if your business rates are in arrears

If you miss a business rate instalment you will be sent a reminder notice giving you 7 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 fall behind a second time or do not pay the first reminder within the 7 days allowed, you will lose the right to pay by instalments. You will then have to pay the outstanding balance of your business rates bill in full.

If the balance is not paid we will commence recovery action. This means that we apply to the magistrate's court for a liability order. You will be sent a summons telling you when the Court will consider the application and the amount that we are seeking to recover, which will include additional costs. You have the right to attend the court hearing and offer evidence on why the liability order should not be granted.

However, the court cannot consider any evidence that relates to an appeal against your Rateable Value. Such matters must be dealt with by the Valuation Office Agency and business rates must be paid pending the outcome of any appeal. If your appeal is successful you may be entitled to interest on any overpayment, provided that a liability order has not been granted.

You do not have to attend the court hearing if you agree that you owe the amount shown on the summons. You should, however, contact us when you receive the summons, to try and agree on a payment arrangement if you are unable to pay the whole balance in full.

A liability order gives us powers to recover arrears of business rates by a number of methods including:-

1. Enforcement Agents

We employ an external firm of Enforcement Agents to recover arrears. This can add considerable additional extra 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 Agents has three options:-

a. they can allow you to enter into a Controlled Goods Agreement with you. This means they will take control of goods in order to secure the outstanding debt and costs incurred, up to the value of the arrears but also agree on a payment arrangement with you. The goods will not be removed for sale provided that you maintain the payments,

b. 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 or

c. they can remove goods immediately to be sold to repay the arrears.

2. Commitment to Prison

We may apply to the magistrate's court for a warrant committing you to prison. This action is only taken when other efforts have failed and when the bailiffs have tried unsuccessfully to levy distress.

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 an application for a warrant for your arrest to be issued to ensure your attendance at a future court hearing.

If the court decides 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 3 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 and have not already found that non-payment is due to wilful refusal or culpable neglect and fixed a term of imprisonment.

Note: You may be able to prevent some or all of the above enforcement action if you contact the Revenues Section as soon as you are unable to pay an instalment.

If you are having problems paying your business rates and feel that you are having financial difficulties you can contact the Business Debtline on 0800 197 6026 for free confidential and independent advice. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau may also be able to help if you have debt problems.

Last updated: Thursday, 2 July 2020 3:53 pm