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Council Tax Arrears Help & Advice

Your council tax debt should be one of your main priorities as local authorities have rights that private companies don’t when it comes to debt recovery. The amount of council tax you need to pay depends on the value of your house. If you are of pension age or on a low-income, you may be able to apply for a council tax reduction.

As stated previously, councils have extra-legal powers meaning they can apply to collect unpaid council tax from your wages or salary – and in some cases, you can go to jail for non-payment.

If you do happen to fall behind with your payments it’s vital you contact your council right away to clear your arrears.

How is council tax paid?

Council tax is usually spread over 10 months, you will receive an annual bill in March showing how much you need to pay for the year. You can pay by phone, bank transfer, by cheque or by setting up a Direct Debit or standing order.

Your instalments will most likely be higher if you move house and your council tax bill is sent out later than April as the bill must be paid in full by the following March and you have a shorter time to pay it.

What months do you not have to pay council tax?

 As stated previously most people choose to pay their council tax over 10 months, meaning you receive a two-month tax break in February and March where you won’t pay any council tax on your property. However, if you choose to pay your council tax over 12 months you will not receive the tax break, but your instalments will be less each month.

Do I have to pay council tax?

The long and short of it is yes you do need to pay your council tax, however there are a few loopholes and you may be entitled to a reduction in how much you have to pay.

Challenge your council tax band

Your council tax is charged based on the valuation or ‘band’ of your house in 1991. The more expensive the house is the higher the council tax band. They range from A being the cheapest to H being the most expensive.

If you think your house is in the wrong council tax band you may be able to pay less by asking for you home to be reassessed – however beware, your banding could be found to be too low and you could end up paying more! You can check how your property is valued at the Valuation Office Agency website.

Council tax exempt properties

Some properties may be temporarily exempt from council tax if:

  • It empty due to a death
  • All residents are full-time students
  • Its owned by a charity
  • All residents are under 18
  • The property is a self-contained flat where a dependent lives
  • All residents have severe mental impairments
  • The property is now empty as the occupier is being cared for elsewhere

Council tax discount

You may be able to apply for a discount in your council tax if:

  • You live alone
  • Claim benefits or are on a low income
  • If you live with someone who exempt from council tax i.e. students and those with severe mental impairments.
  • If you are in severe financial hardship

To find out more about reducing your council tax please click here.

What happens if you go into council tax arrears?

If you choose to pay monthly and miss a council tax debt payment, you will receive a reminder from your local authority.  This will give you seven days to pay the missing instalment.

If you don’t pay within this time, you will be asked to pay all outstanding council tax debt within a further seven days. If you miss this payment, your council may take legal action.

At this stage they have the power to collect unpaid tax from your wages. If you’re receiving benefits, the council may also deduct unpaid council tax from these.

Councils may also instruct bailiffs to seize your possessions to recover unpaid tax. (But remember, if they are visiting for the first time, you don’t have to let them in.)

In the worst cases, non-payment of council tax debts can lead to a prison sentence. You could be sent to jail for up to three months if the court decides you don’t have a good reason not to pay your Council Tax and you refuse to pay it.

Council tax liability orders

If you fall into council tax arrears your local authority can apply for a liability order – which will add an additional £40 on to your total bill. You will be summoned to appear before the magistrate’s court, you don’t have to attend but it’s an opportunity for you to explain your circumstances surrounding why you are unable to pay.

Keeping on top of council tax arrears payment plans

It’s easier than you think to fall into council tax debt. For example, if you move house and forget to forward your post, you may not receive your final bill.

The key to keeping on top of your council tax is to make sure you budget for it each month. Council tax debt is normally a fixed amount, so set it aside. If you share the bill with other people, make sure they pay their share before it’s due to leave your bank account.

If you are unable to pay the arrears by the end of the year you need to realistically work out what you can afford and contact your local authority. You can request to spread the cost over 12 months rather than the usual 10, either in weekly or monthly instalments.


Can bailiffs force entry for council tax debt?

As stated previously, councils have the power to carry out formal enforcement procedures. They will pass your debt onto debt collection agencies who may send bailiffs to your home.

Whether or not they can force entry or not depends on the type of debt they are collecting and if it is their first visit. They are not allowed to force entry for council tax debt.

Bailiffs can only visit between 6am and 9pm and can only gain access if you or someone else lets them in or they gain access through open doors, gates, and attached garages. However if you have previously let a bailiff into your home, they are allowed to force entry on their next visit.

If you have been threatened with a bailiff you should seek advice as soon as possible.

If you’re struggling with council tax debt and need debt help then call us now for a confidential chat or complete the form on our page. 

We can start to work through your debt problems as soon as you contact us.  Our advisors are trained to give you the best advice for your situation.

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