Coping with council tax debts

May 20, 2019

Council tax is a charge levied on residential property and payable to the local council. While some properties are exempt from paying council tax, most households must factor this bill into their monthly budget.

Households will be given a yearly charge which can then be broken down into a series of monthly instalments throughout the year. Council tax can be one of the highest monthly outgoings for a household, but it is vital that this is paid as and when it falls due.

Council tax is regarded as a priority debt meaning every effort should be made to ensure households have enough money to pay this amount each month. Falling behind on your council tax obligations is an extremely serious situation. Ignoring the problem will only make it worse, and the council will not hesitate to take recovery action if you refuse to cooperate with them.


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

If you are unable to pay your council tax bill 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 amount 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 the council will ask you 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 repay your council tax arrears.

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 important to seek advice from a debt specialist particularly if your inability to pay your council tax is reflective of much broader financial problems. There are a range of debt solutions available which could help you get back on your feet and ease your financial woes. The experts at Scotland Debt Solutions can help you understand the debt help processes available in Scotland including Trust Deeds and Debt Arrangement Schemes.

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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