Coping with council tax debts

October 10, 2014

Council tax has to be paid by everyone living within a particular area of Scotland or the UK in order to fund local services. Amounts owed by particular households are calculated on an annual basis and are then generally due to be paid on a monthly basis until settled in full.

Owing council tax isn’t generally a cause for financial concern but if you are struggling to settle other debts, or make ends meet, then it can be tough to keep up with payments.

What to do if you can’t pay your council tax

If you are unable to pay your council tax bills for any reason then it’s important to call your local council and to explain the situation you’re in. There’s a good chance that you can reach an arrangement with your council’s finance department to spread the payments of money you owe over an extended period of time.

If you continuously fail to meet your council tax obligations and you rack up arrears over a period of months without explanation then it’s likely that you will be obliged to pay the amount you owe for the entire year upfront rather than in instalments. Where requests for these payments go unheeded, your council can ask a Magistrates’ Court for a Liability Order against you which demands that you settle your debts and pay costs for the processes involved.

What else can happen?

There is scope for councils to retrieve any money you owe them straight from your wages if you continually ignore a court order taken out against you. Or, if you’re on any form of benefits, then you could find that the amounts you receive are reduced in order to see your council tax arrears reduced.

In extreme cases, your local council can instruct bailiffs to seize assets you own in order to cover the debts you owe as council tax arrears. And, if this doesn’t succeed as a means of settling your arrears, then a Magistrates’ Court can apply for a warrant to send you to prison for up to three months.

What debt solutions are available if you can’t pay your council tax bills?

If your council tax bills have become a serious financial headache and you can’t afford to pay off the money you owe then there are solutions available to help you resolve the problems you’re facing. The first thing to do is contact your council and try to reach an agreement with them about when you will be able to pay what you owe.

Unlike commercial lenders, your local council has no direct interest in seeing extra charges levelled against you and having additional amounts added to the debts you have outstanding. All your council wants to see is the money you’re obliged to pay settled in full. So there’s a good chance they will be open to any sensible suggestions or plan of action you can put together that enables the matter to be settled, either immediately or over time.

Getting advice

It’s also very important to get advice from experts on issues around council tax arrears or any other form of personal debt that you’re struggling to deal with. This is particularly true if your inability to pay your tax bills is reflective of much broader financial problems and if you could benefit from entering a Trust Deed or a Debt Arrangement Scheme.

Scotland Debt Solutions provides expect advice and guidance on a full range of personal finance problems and we can help you find relief from creditors however challenging your circumstances are.

John Baird

Insolvency Adviser

Tel: 0800 063 9250

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