What is Council Tax?
Council tax is a domestic property tax paid to your local authority. The money goes towards funding local services including bin collections, the fire service and street cleaning. Based on valuation bands, council tax is paid by anyone that is over 18 who rents or owns a home.
How is Council Tax paid?
The council normally sends payment orders in March and normally owners or renters are asked to pay in 10 or 12 instalments from the following month in April. If you speak to your local authority then they may be willing to accept weekly or fortnightly payments. You may also be able to get a council tax discount if you pay the bill in full straight away. Contact your local authority’s council tax department to find out more.
Council Tax Exemptions
Some individuals and properties are exempt from paying council tax. Exemptions include properties containing:
- Full-time students
- Below the age of 18
- Living in Armed forces accommodation
- Severely mentally impaired
- On a low income or claim benefits
Certain buildings are also exempt. These include:
- Repossessed properties
- Properties left empty by somebody who has to receive personal care in a hospital or care home.
- Properties left by somebody who is now in prison.
If you believe that you qualify for any of the above exemptions then you should contact your local council’s tax team.
Council Tax Discounts
In some circumstances, council tax may not be payable in full as a discount may be allowed. This includes properties where:
- Only one adult is living in the property (25 per cent discount).
- The property needs or is undergoing major or structural repair/alteration.
- The property is empty.
Contact your council if any of the above circumstances apply.
Problems paying your Council Tax
If you are having difficulty paying your council tax, a council tax repayment plan may be the answer. If you are struggling with other personal debts aside from council tax payments then you may want to consider a more comprehensive debt management solution.
If council tax debts are beginning to pile up and you don’t come to an agreement with the authority in question, then the council can apply to the local Magistrates Court for a liability order.
This is a court order that requires you to pay the whole amount owed for that year, rather than just the missed arrears.
If you are struggling with council tax debt and/or any other personal debt contact us today. We can offer free debt help and advice and may be able to tailor a personal debt solution to your situation.
If you fail to pay council tax in full or don’t keep to a repayment agreement then the council can summon you to the Magistrate’s Court. You will have to cover the costs of the summons.
The only way to avoid a Court summons is settling the outstanding debt in full as well as covering the cost of the summons.
At this stage you may still be able to negotiate a payment plan with monthly payments that you can afford. But it is likely that a liability order will still be issued to secure your debt.
The council ultimately wants to collect the money to fund local services, so any attempt you make to pay should be received favourably. We can help you set up and negotiate a payment plan that will suit you and the council.
If you attend your Court date then you will have an opportunity to explain the non-payment and offer a defence.
If you do have a legitimate reason for non-payment then you will be treated more favourably by the Court, but you will still be expected to pay in most circumstances. Attending court to offer a defence can help stop your case being referred to a bailiff.
The two valid defences that may be open to you are:
- Another person or company is liable for the tax debt.
- Your instalments have been received by the due dates.
A liability order from a Magistrate’s Court can result in enforcement action being taken against you to recover unpaid council tax debt. The local authority will be able to recover debt directly from your salary or income benefits like:
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit
This may result in you being unable to pay basic bills. If this is the case then you can complain to the council and request to make smaller payments over time. The council does not have to agree but may try and accommodate you.
One way the council may try and enforce a liability order is by sending bailiffs (or enforcement agents) to your address to recover belongings that may be used to pay off all or part of a debt. You will receive some advance warning and there may still be a chance of arranging an affordable payment plan at this point.
If you fail to negotiate with the council before bailiffs get involved then you will be liable to pay the bailiff’s costs as well.
You can be sent to prison for up to 3 months if the Court decides you don’t have a good reason not to pay your Council Tax and you refuse to do so.
Bailiff’s knocking at the door can be a scary prospect. Find out more about dealing with bailiffs and speak to our friendly personal debt advisers, in confidence, about missed council tax payments.