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Summary warrants, time to pay and charge pay in Scotland

Sharon McDougall - Updated - 17th May 2024 - 3 minutes to read

If you fall behind with certain financial liabilities in Scotland, such as council tax or income tax, there are certain procedures available to your creditors that allow them to collect the monies quickly.

Summary warrant is one such procedure, used mainly by HMRC and local authorities in Scotland. This process allows them to apply to the court to obtain payment, but because no court hearing is required, the process is ‘fast-tracked.’

What are summary warrants?

A summary warrant is similar in nature to a court order, and allows further actions to be taken against a debtor should the monies not be recovered.

It should include the amount due, plus the details of who to contact for payment – generally the Sheriff Officers rather than your creditor. A 10% charge will also have been added to the debt for judicial expenses.

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What happens if you're issued a charge for payment?

As part of the summary warrant procedure, you will receive a charge for payment from the Sheriff Officers. This gives you 14 days in which to pay the amount owing, or arrange a repayment schedule.

Failure to respond to a charge for payment could result in the diligence processes mentioned below.

These diligence actions form a separate process to summary warrant, but at various stages you may be faced with:

  • Attachment of earnings
  • Money attachment
  • The removal of goods for sale at auction

Your local authority is also entitled to obtain your employment and bank account details in the event that any of the above actions are taken.

What is a time to pay direction?

Your options when served with a summary warrant and charge for payment include paying in full, disputing the debt, or negotiating an extended repayment schedule. Potentially, you could be forced into sequestration (bankruptcy) by your creditor.

So how can you negotiate for more time? You can apply for a time to pay direction, but this means that you have to admit the existence of the debt. You can opt for payment by a deferred lump sum, or by regular instalments.

Whichever option you choose, you will need to calculate how much you can afford to pay. This is a critical part of the process, as you do not want to overstretch yourself financially, or risk the amount offered being rejected because it is not enough.

Other information will be required, including your income and expenditure, and whether you have any other debts. You then need to return the form to the Sheriff Officer by the date stated, and you should also send a copy to your creditor to keep them abreast of the situation and indicate your willingness to pay what is owed.

If a time to pay direction is granted

Should you be granted extra time to pay, you will be protected from further creditor action as long as you adhere to the terms. If you miss two payments, the third default will effectively nullify the arrangement and you may be open to creditor enforcement action.

If a time to pay direction is not granted

Should your application be unsuccessful, this gives your creditor the right to take one or more of the diligence measures mentioned above.

If you are struggling to make payments to HMRC or have council tax arrears, we can offer professional advice and support. Scotland Debt Solutions have offices throughout Scotland, and can arrange a same-day meeting that is free of charge.

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Sharon McDougall


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