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What if I can’t pay council tax debt?

There can be serious consequences if you can’t pay your council tax arrears, this is why they are treated as a priority debt. Around a quarter of local authority comes in England, Scotland and Wales are made up of council tax, however the amount paid is based on factors such as age, income, tenants living with you and the value your home.

Local authorities often act quickly if council tax payments are missed as they are given extra legal power to collect them. As a result of this, Bailiffs (or Sheriffs in Scotland) could be visiting your property. This is why council tax arrears are treated as a priority debt.

How is council tax paid?

You will receive an annual bill in March once a year stating how much needs to be paid. You can however spread the cost of your bill by paying weekly, or monthly instalments. Although council tax bills often show payments over 10 months, if asked, your local authority must let you pay over a 12 month period. Usually, the ‘liable’ person is responsible to pay the council tax. If a person is below 18 years of age then they are not classed as liable and so don’t have the responsibility of paying. If you are a couple living together then you are both jointly liable. This applies whether the couple is married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership.

What are council tax bands?

Local councils set the amount of council tax you love need to pay based on your council tax band. They are calculated by looking at the value of your property at a certain time. April 1991 in England and Scotland, and April 2003 in Wales. Northern Ireland kept the old system of domestic rates and in 2007 changed to a modified system. The council tax band system was not adopted in Northern Ireland and so domestic rates are still set individually.

Council Tax reduction and relief?

You may qualify for council tax relief, which is a way to reduce your council tax bill if:

  • If you live on your own, you’re entitled to a 25% ‘single person discount’. Also, some people are not counted when working out council tax. If you live with an apprentice, a full time student or a person who is significantly mentally impaired you may still qualify for a 25% discount.
  • You may qualify for a reduction of your council tax if you’re on a low income. This is where your council tax bill is reduced based on your financial income. Local authorities have different thresholds for who qualifies.
  • You will get an extra council tax reduction if you are above pension age
  • You may also qualify to have your council tax reduced by one band if somebody in your household is disabled and the property has been adapted.

You will need to ensure that you let your local authority know if your circumstances change so they can send you an updated bill.

Arrears or missed payments?

You will be sent a reminder letter if you are more than 14 days late paying a council tax payment. If you make the payment within 7 days of the reminder letter then you can keep paying your council tax in instalments. However, if you fail to do this you can be asked by your local authority to pay the whole council tax for the rest of the year. You are then given seven days to pay the whole amount before the local authorities can take you to court. Depending on your location, the court process differs.

Council Tax bill wrong?

Is your Council Tax bill wrong? You should always contact your local authority first if you are having any problems regarding council tax. If you feel that you have been unfairly treated or your council tax bill is wrong then you can make a payment.

Your local authority needs to be given 8 weeks to reply to your complaint. However, if you are still unhappy with the reply when they do you should give one of the following independent organisations a complaint who can investigate further and give you more help regarding your complaint.

England – Local Government Ombudsman
Scotland – Scottish Public Service Ombudsman
Wales – Public Service Ombudsman for Wales

Don’t lose yourself to debt. Feel like you again.