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council tax arrears header

How to deal with council tax bills and arrears

After changes to the council tax system over the past few years, it has become something of a financial burden for many people. It is a common problem but failure to pay your council tax can have consequences including fines, court summons or being made bankrupt.

If you are struggling to pay your council tax bill, you should obtain financial advice and contact your council as soon as possible. Together, you can agree a plan of regular payments that you can afford, either at a reduced rate or over a longer period of the year (12 months instead of 10).

After initial communication with the council of your struggles to pay, this should resolve problems. If you are not happy with their service or they have not replied, you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.

When you miss a payment, your local council will have a system to deal with this. It is a system that increases in severity the longer or the more you miss your payments.

  • You will receive a reminder within 7 days if you have missed a council tax payment.

    If you don’t pay that instalment within 7 days, you will have to pay your full year tax bill in full instead.

  • You will be sent a reminder if you miss another payment later in the year.

    Councils only allow a maximum of 2 reminder notices in a 12 month period.

  • After receiving your second notice and paying within 7 days, you will be sent a final notice.

    This will say that you must pay your whole year’s tax bill if you miss a payment for a third time that year.

  • If you still do not pay after going through this system, the council can ask a magistrate for a liability order.

    This is a legal demand regarding the unpaid tax you owe them. If you are employed, this order can be sent to your employer to receive unpaid tax from your wages.

  • It is also possible for your council to apply to take money from benefits such as:
    • Employment and Support Allowance
    • Income Support
    • Jobseeker’s Allowance
    • Pension Credit
    • Universal Credit
  • Your council could send bailiffs to your house to seize property equal to the cost of the debt you owe.

    This will only be used if there is no other way to recover the debt from you.

  • You could also be taken to court by your council.

    This is usually only used if you don’t pay the money and bailiffs cannot recover enough from your property to cover the debt.

  • Courts will consider if you can afford to pay the bill and whether you have a valid reason not to pay the bill.

    council tax arrears content

However, for many the cost of council tax bills is too much but payments may not yet have been missed. If you are in this situation, you should look into ways you may be able to save money on your council tax.

You may not already be aware of the criteria for reduced bills or those that don’t have to pay. Some of them are listed below for you.

  • Check your council tax band.

    Your property may have been placed in the wrong band so you may be overpaying. If you are, you can claim for refunds of extra monies paid. Beware however, your property may have been placed in a lower tax band which will be raised if found to be the case. This rise in tax band will result in your council tax rising.

  • You pay council tax if you are 18 or over, owning or renting your own home.

    The bill is based on 2 adults living at the property. If you are an adult who lives on their own or no one else in your home is over 18, you can get 25% off your bill.

  • You are not counted as an adult, and therefore do not have to pay council tax, if:

    • You are under 18
    • You are on an apprentice scheme
    • You are in full time education or are a full time university student
    • You are a student nurse
    • You are a live in carer who doesn’t live with their partner or child.
  • If you are disabled, you should get a reduction on your council tax.

    There is a disabled band reduction scheme which takes into account disabled people and their families living in a house bigger than the amount of people living in it. You will have to prove why the extra space is needed and that the disabled person lives there to qualify for this scheme. You can find out more about this on the Gov.UK website.

  • If you have a furnished second home or a holiday home, the tax rate will be reduced to 50% for that property only.

    If you have an empty home, you will have to pay the full tax rate on it. However, some councils may give you a discount in some circumstances e.g. empty home on the market due to family bereavement.

  • There are also certain changes to your house or local area that may affect your tax band. These includes:

    • Demolishing part of your property and don’t rebuild it
    • Altering your property by building onto it, therefore adding value
    • Splitting one property into multiple flats or turning a block of flats into one house.
    • Starting or stopping working from home
    • Changes and improvements to local area

You should be aware of the above criteria and how it could affect your council bill. You may end up saving yourself some money if you fit one of the above criteria and you were not already aware of it.

Are there any alternatives to this?

If you are struggling with paying your council tax, there is a strong possibility you will be struggling with your other household bills too. If this is the case, there are ways of dealing with this without necessarily losing your home. We can help you deal with your debts and put together a plan within an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) to suit you.

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