Your Council Tax bill shows how much you need to pay and when your payments are due. You must pay in accordance with the bill and if you pay by post you should allow extra time for your payment to reach the Council.
- If you do not pay your instalments when they are due, you will receive a reminder telling you to bring your account up to date.
- If you are having genuine difficulty in making your payments you should contact the Council straight away.
- If you pay the amount requested on the reminder within seven days no further action will be taken against you. If you fail to keep up your payments once again you will receive a second reminder.
- If you don’t pay the amount requested on the reminder, after a further seven days, legally a summons can be issued to you for the full balance due.
- If you pay the amount requested on the second reminder within seven days no further action will be taken against you. If you fail to keep up your payments once again you will receive a final notice.
- If you don’t pay the amount requested on the second reminder, after a further seven days, legally a summons can be issued to you for the full balance due.
- You should be aware that once a final notice has been issued you will lose the right to pay by instalments and you will have to pay the full outstanding balance on your account.
- If you do not pay the amount outstanding or make an acceptable payment arrangement, usually by direct debit, to clear the balance of your account, you will receive a summons.
- A magistrates’ court summons incurs costs of £50.00 for the issue of the summons, and this will be added to your account.
- If you do not pay the balance in full by the court hearing date, which will be stated on the summons, the magistrates will normally issue a liability order against you. A further £45.00 will then be added to your account for the issue of this order.
- You have the right to appear at the hearing and explain to the magistrates why a liability order should not be issued against you.
- Receipt of this liability order will then allow the Council to recover the debt from you in a number of ways, including deductions direct from your earnings or passing your account to the Council's enforcement agents.
- Even at this stage of recovery an acceptable arrangement for you to pay is possible, preferably by direct debit.
Once the magistrates have granted a liability order, you will be notified in writing of the situation. You will again be asked to get in contact with the Council to discuss your account when every effort will be made to reach an acceptable payment arrangement to pay the outstanding liability. If this is not possible, or you fail to keep a previously agreed payment arrangement recovery action will continue.
A liability order, as stated earlier, gives the right to recover the debt from you in a number of ways, including:
- deductions direct from your earnings or Income Support/Jobseekers Allowance
- passing your account to the Council's appointed enforcement agents.
- commencing committal proceedings against you to commit you to prison
- commencing bankruptcy proceedings against you
- applying for a charging order against your property
Attachment to earnings
Your employer may be asked to deduct the Council Tax you owe from your salary and send it directly the Council. The amounts to be deducted will depend on your earnings and the deductions will continue until you have paid in full the amount you owe. By law, your employer must comply with the attachment of earnings order, and once the order has been issued, the order will not be withdrawn until your debt is cleared, even if you wish to make an alternative payment arrangement.
Deductions from Income Support/Job Seekers Allowance/ESA
If you are receiving the above allowances an application can be made to the Department of Works & Pensions (DWP) for amounts to be taken from your benefit, to be paid directly to the Council.
If a suitable payment arrangement has not been made, or your Council Tax cannot be collected direct from your earnings or Income Support/Job Seekers Allowance, the collection of your account may pass to an appointed bailiff. Once this action is taken you will have to contact the bailiff direct to discuss payment of your account. As well as the outstanding Council Tax you owe and court costs that will have been incurred, the bailiff will add his statutory fees to your account, further increasing your debt. If you do not pay the amount you owe in full to the bailiff, they may remove your goods and sell them at public auction to clear your debt.
Bankruptcy and charging orders
If a suitable payment arrangement has not been made, or your Council Tax cannot be collected from your earnings or IS/JSA, the Council may consider applying for a bankruptcy petition against you or a charge against your property.
If, despite all recovery action, you still do not pay the Council Tax you owe an application may be made once again to the magistrates’ court. This time it will be for you to be issued with a means enquiry summons, when the Council's application will be for an order to commit you to prison. At this stage of recovery you are advised to consult a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
If you do not pay the amount shown on this summons, prior to this hearing date, you must attend the court hearing in person or risk being arrested by the police. At this court hearing your income and outgoings will be assessed to determine whether the reason you have not paid is due to your wilful refusal or culpable neglect. At this hearing the magistrates can issue an order committing you to prison.
If you fail to attend the hearing, as stated above, the magistrates may issue a warrant for your immediate arrest. You may then be arrested and held in custody to wait for another court hearing.