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What happens if you don't or can't pay your council tax?

If you don't pay your Council Tax by the due date on your bill, recovery action will begin

Reminders, summonses, and legal action

If you miss an instalment, you will receive a reminder. The reminder will ask you to bring the account up to date within 7 days. If you fail to pay, you lose the right to pay by instalment and a summons will be issued to you. A summons attracts costs to your account. A summons asks for the full balance plus the costs. This needs to be settled before the court hearing date stated on the summons.

If you pay the balance and do not pay the costs, legal action will continue.

If you wish to discuss an arrangement before the court date please contact the Council. This will be considered on the understanding that legal action will continue. We will still attend the hearing to request the Magistrates grant a Liability Order, to secure the debt for the Council.

The Liability Order gives the Council powers to recover the amount you owe by attaching to your earnings or benefits, obtaining a charging order, instructing an Enforcement Agent to collect the amount outstanding, commencing bankruptcy or committal proceedings.

Details of recovery proceedings

Attachment of Earnings Order

  • Deducting money directly from your wages is called an Attachment of Earnings Order
  • The order is sent to your employer who will take deductions from your wages. We will send you a copy of the Order
  • The deduction amount is a percentage of your wage. The higher your wage, the higher the deduction
  • You can stop deductions by paying the full outstanding amount and telling us you have done so, so we can instruct your employer to stop deductions

Attachment to Benefits

  • We can deduct money directly from your benefits
  • Once we have established which benefit you are in receipt of we send the order to the DWP to take deductions directly from your benefits
  • The deduction will be for a fixed amount
  • You can stop deductions by paying the full outstanding amount and telling us you have done so, so we can instruct the DWP to stop deductions

Enforcement Agents (formerly bailiffs)

  • You will be advised shortly after the court hearing that Enforcement Agents may be instructed. If you fail to take action the amount will be passed to the Enforcement Agents after 14 days
  • Enforcement Agents add costs as soon as they are instructed by us to collect the debt
  • Once the debt has been sent to the Enforcement Agents you will need to direct your enquiries regarding settling the debt to them
  • The Enforcement Agents will give you the opportunity to pay the outstanding amount and their costs by way of arrangement
  • Further costs are added if the Enforcement Agent needs to visit your home and if they remove your goods

Charging Order

  • A Charging Order can be applied for if you own your own home
  • Costs will be incurred if the County Court grant the Order
  • An Order for sale application could be made which will incur further costs and could result in you losing your home


  • If you owe more than £750 in Council Tax (£5,000 from October 2015) we can apply to make you bankrupt
  • You will incur fees, lose possessions of value and potentially your home should you own it

Committal to Prison

  • If we have exhausted all avenues of recovery we will consider asking the Magistrates Court for your Committal to Prison
  • You can be sent to prison for up to 3 months if the court decides you don't have a good reason to not pay your Council Tax and you refuse to do so. You will incur further costs

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