Council Tax Arrears
If you live in Scotland and you’re struggling with council tax debts, first of all; you’re not alone. A 2018 StepChange report highlighted the problem of council tax arrears showing that over 30% of people contacting the debt charity were struggling with keeping up with their council tax obligations.
According to the same report, individuals with council tax arrears owe an average of £999 on this debt alone. Not only this, but those struggling to pay their council tax are also more likely to be in a budget deficit – meaning they have more money going out than they have coming in.
For over 25 years, we’ve helped thousands of people across Scotland with their council tax arrears; not only enabling them to lead a debt-free future but also maintain a roof over their heads. Here, we discuss council tax debts and what your next steps should be if you have fallen behind.
What happens when you cannot pay your Council Tax?
Council Tax is not an optional payment; it is mandatory and due monthly or in one lump sum at the start of the year. If you fall behind with payments, you can quickly find yourself under pressure from your local council and, as time goes by, your debt will be passed onto sheriff officers who can make life feel increasingly uncomfortable.
Can I be sent to jail for not paying Council Tax?
It is vitally important that you make paying your council tax a priority when budgeting for the month. In extreme cases you can be sent to prison for not paying your council tax without good reason in Scotland. It must be noted that this sort of action is extremely rare, however, you are advised to sort out any problems you have in paying as soon as possible.
What steps are taken if you do not pay your Council Tax on time?
If you are struggling with mounting council tax debt in Scotland, you’re likely to receive a ‘reminder’ letter which is effectively your ‘first strike’. It is a warning from the council that you’ve missed a payment and at this stage, your credit rating could already be affected.
What follows the reminder letter is known as a ‘final notice’ which is a serious action taken by the council. At this stage, you will no longer be entitled to pay in instalments and payment in full, plus outstanding debts, will be demanded up front. Losing your right to pay in monthly instalments is when things can become even more problematic. The council will demand that you pay the entire remaining amount of council tax for the financial year (April-March) in one lump sum payment. If you are struggling to keep up with your monthly payments, then being faced with one huge bill of several hundred pounds is likely to push you further into financial difficulty.
You may be able to come to an agreement with the council but it’s important to call them and explain the situation you’re in. It can be possible to reach an arrangement with the council’s finance department to spread the payments of money you owe over an extended period of time but this is at their discretion. The very worst thing you can do at this stage is ignore the problems you are facing. It is only by opening up communication channels with the council that you can hope to reach an agreement over a reasonable and affordable repayment plan.
If you continually fall behind with your council tax, the council will ultimately pass your case onto local sheriff officers (also known as bailiffs in other parts of the UK). Sheriff Officers have the right to repossess items from your property to and enforce court orders against you.
At this stage, things can get very complex and very damaging for you personally. It goes without saying that you should aim to contact us for help and advice before this stage, but even if your situation has got to the point where you are facing sheriff officer action at present, there are still ways we can help you.
Contact our experienced team in confidence today and we can provide free independent advice based on your individual circumstances.