Council Tax and Business Rates - Recovery and Enforcement
What happens if I don’t pay my Council Tax or Business Rates
Summons and Liability Order
The Enforcement Agent and your rights
Attachment to earnings
Deductions from income support/job seekers allowance
Bankruptcy and liquidation
Committal to prison
Contact the Recovery team
When a Council Tax or Business Rate bill is issued, it will show the amounts which are required to be paid by you, and the dates when instalments must be paid by.
If you do not pay your instalments as they fall due, we will send you a Final Reminder. The Final Reminder will state that you must pay all the instalments you owe within seven days. If you do not, you will lose the right to pay by instalments and, after a further seven days, you will have to pay the total balance of your Council Tax or Business Rates immediately. This will involve the issue of a summons with additional costs of £65.00, which will be added to your account.
If you are having problems paying your instalment on time you should contact us immediately.
If you are on a low income, you may be entitled to Local Council Tax Support details of which are online including the application process.
You may not legally withhold payment of Council Tax or Business Rates if you have a grievance against the Council or wish to complain about Council services. In those circumstances you should pay your Council Tax/Business Rates as they fall due, and contact the appropriate Council Department separately about any complaint.
If you have lost your right to pay by instalments because you have not paid your Council Tax or Business Rates in accordance with your bill or reminder notices, the Council will take legal proceedings to obtain the money you owe.
The Council will make a complaint to the Magistrates’ Court applying for a summons to be issued against you for the full balance including costs of £65.00. These additional costs will be added to your account.
The full amount shown on the summons will be required to be paid by the Court Hearing date, or the Council will apply for a Liability Order to be granted against you. The Liability Order allows the Council to take further action to collect the outstanding Council Tax or Business Rates. If a Liability Order is granted, additional costs of £32.00 will be added to your account.
At the Hearing, the Council has to satisfy the Magistrates that the Council Tax was properly set, that the bill, reminder and summons were served to you correctly and that the money is still unpaid. There are only a limited number of defences in law against the issue of a Liability Order e.g.:
- The amount demanded has been properly paid
- The Council has not properly set the level of the Council Tax
- Insolvency proceedings have commenced
- The ratepayer, though rated, was not in occupation of the premises.
Financial hardship or failure to receive documents do not constitute a valid defence in law and will not prevent the application for a Liability Order. Furthermore, any matter which should be determined by a Valuation Tribunal can not be raised as a defence e.g. you have appealed against the banding of your property or you have a dispute regarding a discount or exemption.
If you contact us straight away to make an arrangement to pay, you will not have to go to Court. However, we will still request that the Magistrates’ Court grant a Liability Order, to protect the Council’s interests. Provided you keep to the terms of an agreed payment arrangement the Liability Order will not be enforced. Total costs of £93.00 will still be added to your account.
We may not agree a payment arrangement with you unless you pay by direct debit or provide us with your employment details.
The Liability Order allows the Council to take more action to recover unpaid Council Tax/Business Rates. This can include:
- Requesting information from you, which you will be legally required to provide. Failure to do so, or knowingly giving false information, is a criminal offence.
- Instructing the Enforcement Agent to take control of your goods for sale at auction in order to clear the debt.
- Instructing your employer to make deductions direct from your earnings (see attachment to earnings)
- Applying for deductions direct from Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance (see deductions from income support/job seekers allowance)
- Putting a Charging Order on your property ( see Charging Orders)
- Applying to make you bankrupt (see bankruptcy and liquidation)
- Applying for your committal to prison (see committal to prison)
The Council can use any of the above methods to recover the money owed, but only one at a time. Before committal action can be taken, Enforcement Agents must have first tried to take control of your goods.
We would prefer not to do any of these things to get back the money you owe because this will only increase the amount you owe. If you need help, or are having difficulty paying your Council Tax or Business Rates, please contact us immediately to avoid having further action taken against you.
When the Council has been granted a Liability Order at the Magistrates’ Court because of failure to pay Council Tax or Business Rates, the Enforcement Agent will be instructed to call and obtain payment. If payment is not made the Enforcement Agent may take control of goods belonging to you for sale at auction in order to clear the debt. Enforcement Agent fees, including auction and storage costs, are payable by you.
We will only use Enforcement Agents if you do not:
- Agree a special payment arrangement and keep to the arrangement
- Provide your employment details
- Provide details of state benefits from which direct deductions can be made
Extra costs will be added to your account as soon as it is passed to the Enforcement Agent. These are statutory fees
The Enforcement Agents are directly employed by the Council, and will have been certificated by the County Court as authorised to collect monies due under the Liability Order. The Enforcement Agents will only act in accordance with the Code of Practice, copies of which can be obtained from the Council Offices. The Enforcement Agents will also adhere to the National Standards for Enforcement Agents, and these are also available from the Council Offices.
What can the Enforcement Agent do?
The Enforcement Agent will try to collect the money you owe or by taking and selling your goods. They can take possession of goods with a value of up to the amount of Council Tax or Business Rates owed, including their costs. The goods will be sold at public auction.
The Enforcement Agent does not have a right to break into a property, but has a right to come into your property provided force is not used. It is a criminal offence to obstruct the Enforcement Agent in the execution of his duty.
What goods can be taken?
Only goods belonging to the person named on the Liability Order can be taken. Certain goods may be protected and can not be removed. These include:
Tools, books, vehicles and any other equipment that is necessary for your personal use for your employment, business or vocation (this does not apply where the debt relates to Business Rates);
Clothing, bedding, furniture, household equipment and provisions which are necessary for meeting the basic needs of you and your family.
Taking Control of Goods
The Enforcement Agent will not remove the goods and will allow them to stay on the property, provided you sign an agreement, which allows the goods to stay on the premises until payment is made. This is called a Controlled Goods Agreement and will list all the goods subject to the agreement. If you do not make payment as agreed, the Enforcement Agent will return and remove the goods. You do not have to be there for him to remove the goods.
What happens if the Enforcement Agent cannot collect the outstanding amount?
Where the Enforcement Agent has been unable to collect payment or take control of goods, the Council may then apply for a warrant committing you to prison for up to three months. See committal to prison.
What to do if you have a complaint
If you have a complaint against any action that the Enforcement Agent has taken you should contact the Council.
Your complaint will be fully investigated and you will receive a response within 21 days. If we have not completed our investigation by then we will let you know. If you are dissatisfied with our response, the Council has an independent complaints procedure which you will be given details of.
The Council may issue an Attachment of Earnings Order instructing your employer to make deductions from your earnings. These deductions will be made at a prescribed rate (see table below) according to your earnings and paid direct to the Council. Your employer may deduct an administration charge of £1 for each charge. You must inform us of any change in writing of any change in your employment within 14 days.
|Net earnings||Deduction rate %|
|>Under £300||0 %|
|Over £300 but under £550||3 %|
|>Over £550 but under £740||5 %|
|>Over £740 but under £900||7 %|
|>Over £900 but under £1,420||12 %|
|>Over £1,420 but under £2,020||17 %|
|>Over £2,020||17 % of £2,020 and 50 % of the remainder|
|>Net Earnings||>Deduction rate %|
|>Under £75||0 %|
|>Over £75 but under £135||3 %|
|>Over £135 but under £185||5 %|
|>Over £185 but under £225||7 %|
|>Over £225 but under £355||12 %|
|>Over £355 but under £505||17 %|
|>Over £505||17 % of £505 and 50 % of the remainder|
If you are receiving Job Seekers Allowance or Income Support the Council will apply for deductions to be made at a prescribed rate directly from your benefit. The Department of Work and Pensions will pay these deductions direct to the Council at regular intervals. The amount, which will be deducted, is currently a nominal amount.
If you owe more than £5,000 in Council Tax or Business Rates, we may start bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings against you.
The Council will first issue a Statutory Demand, which will give you 21 days to pay the amount due in full.
If you, or your company, receive a Statutory Demand, you should contact us immediately. You may also wish to consult a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
If you do not pay the amount in full within 21 days or take no further action, the Council will apply for a Bankruptcy/Insolvency Petition. You will incur substantial costs, in the region of £600-1200.
If a bankruptcy order is made against you, the Official Receiver will investigate your financial affairs, and you will have to:
- Give up your interest in any assets you own, including your home; &
- Stop using your bank or building society account, and any credit or store cards immediately;
- Provide a full list of your assets, including any insurance policies and pension schemes to the Official Receiver; and
- Disclose the fact that you are bankrupt if you want to obtain credit
If you are made bankrupt, the Official Receiver will control your affairs for the next three years.
If a liquidation order is granted against your company, this will mean:
- You will not be allowed to be a company director;
- Your company will be wound up by the official receiver;
- Your personal bank accounts could be frozen; and
- You could be forced to sell your home.
Do not ignore the statutory demand – you should give it your immediate attention
If a Liability Order has been granted by the Magistrates’ Court, the Council may make an application to the County Court for a Charging Order against any interest held by you in the property. The debt would then be discharged on the sale of the property.
Where the Enforcement Agent has been unable to gain entry to your property or levy distress, the Council may then apply for a warrant committing you to prison for up to three months. This means that you will be summonsed to the Magistrates’ Court for an enquiry into your means and circumstances. The Court will decide if your failure to pay is due to wilful refusal or culpable neglect. If you are found guilty you could face a prison sentence of up to 3 months.
The Court has the power to imprison, to make an order to pay, or to cancel debts in full or in part.
- If you receive a summons to attend Court you should immediately arrange to get legal advice or help from the Citizens Advice Bureau.
- If you are in employment or on state benefits you should contact us immediately to establish whether an attachment to your earnings or benefit can be made.
- If however you pay the amount shown on the summons in full, you will not need to attend Court.
- If you do not appear at Court, the Council will request a warrant for your immediate arrest, and you will incur additional costs as a result.
It is very important that you give this matter your immediate attention as your conduct will have a bearing on any decision that the Magistrates may make should you appear before them.
If you do not take action you may face a prison sentence of up to three months.
You can contact us:
By telephoning 01268 882298
By email to firstname.lastname@example.org
By fax on 01268 882409
In person at the Council Offices, Kiln Road,
- Monday to Thursday 8.45 am to 5:15 pm
- Friday 8.45 am to 4:45 pm