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Pay Council Tax Arrears

This page explains how to pay Council Tax arrears. Those who are struggling to pay Council Tax debts can also get help from their local council.

YOUR RIGHTS: The council can take action to get any money you owe.

But, you have certain rights if you are struggling with Council Tax arrears. So what should you do if you find it difficult to repay your debts?

The National Debtline advocates prioritising some bills or arrears ahead of others. Paying Council Tax arrears is one of the important debts to clear first.

You should contact your council without delay if you struggle to pay your Council Tax or get behind with your monthly payments.

Your council can set up an extended payment method. They may spread payments over 12 months instead of the usual 10 installments. That helps to reduce the amount you pay on each monthly bill.

Authorities may offer a one-off Council Tax discount to those who still cannot pay what they owe. In some cases you may also be eligible to get:

What Happens If You Miss Council Tax Payment?

If you miss a Council Tax payment they will send you a reminder notice. The notice gives you 7 days to pay off the arrears. Failing to pay within those 7 days means you must pay the Council Tax for the whole year instead.

Your council will send a second reminder notice if you miss another Council Tax payment. But, they send no more than 2 reminder notices during each tax year.

Missing a payment for the third time means they will send you a final notice. Receiving a final notice means you must then pay the whole year’s Council Tax amount in full.

The council can take legal action to get the Council Tax you owe if you fail to pay your whole year’s Council Tax within seven (7) days.

‘Liability Order’ Legal Demand for Payment

If you owe unpaid Council Tax they can ask a magistrate for a ‘liability order’. A liability order is a legal demand for Council Tax payment.

Your council can also add legal costs to the money you owe them. This may include extra fees for hiring a lawyer or a bailiff. You can go to the court and give them your reasons for not being able to pay the debt.

Note: Your local council or Citizens Advice bureau can offer you more advice about your options if you get a liability order.

What If You Still Cannot Pay?

In some cases your council can instruct your employer to pay your unpaid Council Tax directly from your salary.

Your council can also apply to take Council Tax arrears from the following benefits:

This could mean that you have difficulty paying other bills. In this case you can ask your council to accept smaller payments from you. Your council will usually try to help and make an arrangement with you. But they do not have to agree to these concessionary arrangements.

Enforcement Agents (Bailiffs)

Your council has the legal right to send bailiffs to seize your property. As a rule they only use enforcement agents when there is no other way to recover the money you owe. Your council will inform you how much you owe before they send the bailiffs to visit you.

Note: The cost for bailiffs or enforcement agents can get added to the total amount you owe the council.

Council Tax Court Proceedings

What if bailiffs cannot recover enough personal property to cover your Council Tax debt? In this case your council can take you to court if you fail to pay the money you owe. The court then considers whether you:

  • Can afford to pay the Council Tax bill.
  • Have a valid reason for not paying the debt.

The court may determine that you have an amount to pay back. They may also offer some leniency in the payment method. For example they may offer you make an arrangement to pay your debt over a longer period of time.

The court can send you to prison for up to 3 months if they decide you do not have a good reason to not pay your Council Tax arrears and you refuse to pay it.

Paying Off Arrears for Council Tax in the United Kingdom