Council Tax Debt

Council Tax debt occurs when you are in ‘arrears’ with your council payments. Even if you are exempt from Council Tax, you may still owe money for your public water and sewerage charges which you will need to pay to your council.

Council tax arrears is considered a ‘priority debt’, so you should not wait to be contacted by the council for overdue payments and should prioritize repaying your council tax over other,

non-priority debts. If you neglect Council Tax arrears, you are likely to be taken to court by your council without delay since, as a priority debt, they have more power to pursue the debt in full. This can significantly increase the money you have to pay overall, by adding to your bill court cost and potentially sheriff fees.

If you are facing difficulties in making payments towards your Council Tax bill, you can approach your council about making arrangements to pay the debt off in smaller amounts. In this case, you will likely need to commit to a regular amount that you are able to pay each month.

However, if for any reason you feel unable to commit to an amount you can afford, your nearest Citizens Advice can provide you with an advisor. It is very important that you act quickly if you cannot pay, as there are consequences for letting council tax debt accumulate.

Two weeks after you miss a payment you will receive a reminder to pay from the council. Check the letter carefully if you do not pay council tax to be certain of the amount you are being asked to pay. You will not need to take further action if you manage to pay before 7 days have passed; in this case, you will be clear of debt.

If you go beyond 7 days without paying, you no longer have the option to pay the Council Tax bill off in instalments. You will then receive a letter from your local council informing you that you have 7 days to pay the years cost of Council Tax, sewerage charges and public water. This ‘summary warrant’ demanding payment comes from the sheriff count, by the request of your council.

The summary warrant will inform you of when and how to pay, covering both the arrears you owe and the 10% administration fee. If you believe that paying your Council Tax bill at once will lead you to hardship, you can request to pay it off in instalments by contacting the sheriff court directly.

In the event that you are unable to reach an agreement with the sheriff officers on payment, the local authority may attempt to collect the debt from the following benefits, if you are receiving them:

  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance

If you do not receive any benefits, you will instead be sent a ‘charge for payment’ letter from the court instructing you to pay off the debt by a set date. If you need more time, request a ‘time to pay order’ from the court and consider seeking advice from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If the date outlined on your charge for payment letter passes without payment of the debt, the local authority sheriff will pursue the debt via the following methods:

  • They may contact your employer to arrange taking money from your earnings.
  • They may take money from your bank accounts (if your money is in a joint account they will still be able to do this)
  • They may seize belongings from your home

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