What to do if you can't pay

Make sure you have received any reductions that you are entitled to that could help reduce the amount of council tax that you have to pay. If you are struggling to pay your council tax, contact us straight away. Don’t let the problem get worse.

We may be able to offer you an alternative repayment scheme. Please phone 0151 443 4476.

You may alternatively call in at any of the council's One Stop Shops. You can find the address and opening times of your local One Stop Shop and other ways of contacting us here.

If you can’t afford to pay the amount requested, because your earnings are low or you are in receipt of state benefits, it may be worth your while completing an application for council tax reduction (rebate)

Reminders and final notices

If you have received a reminder or final notice because you have forgotten to pay your instalment why not set up a direct debit. Around 30,000 of our customers already use this convenient way to make their regular council tax payments.

If you can’t afford to pay the amount requested, because your earnings are low or you are in receipt of state benefits, it may be worth your while completing an application for council tax reduction (rebate)
If you are experiencing financial difficulties our financial advice pages have some useful contact points for organisations that may be able to help give you independent advice.

Reminder notice

Your latest bill will tell you how much your council tax payments are and when they are due.

If you do not pay on time we will send you a reminder notice. This will show you how much is overdue and you will need to pay this within ten days if you wish to continue to pay by instalments as shown on your bill.
If you do not pay this, or contact us, within ten days to make an arrangement, you will lose your right to pay by instalments. This means that the amount outstanding for the financial year will become due in full. A Magistrates court summons will be issued, the costs for which are £45 and an additional £15 if a liability order is obtained from the Magistrate’s court. These costs are payable by you.

Second reminder notice

If you have already been sent a reminder notice, brought your instalment payments up to date, but then fell behind again, we will send you a second reminder notice. If you do not pay this, or contact us, within ten days to make an arrangement, you will lose your right to pay by instalments. This means that the amount outstanding for the financial year will become due in full. A Magistrates court summons will be issued the costs for which are £45 and an additional £15 if a liability order is obtained from the Magistrate’s court. These costs are payable by you.

We will only send you a maximum of two statutory reminder notices in each financial year so it is important to keep your payments up to date once you have received a second reminder.

Final notice

A final notice will be sent where:

  • You have been previously been sent a second reminder notice which you have paid but your instalment payments have fallen behind again, or
  • Your account has been closed, or the date for the last instalment has passed, and there is an amount outstanding.

The total amount due must now been paid in full and you have lost your right to pay by instalments. If you do not pay in full, or contact us, within ten days you could be sent a Magistrates court summons the costs for which are £45 and an additional £15 if a liability order is obtained from the Magistrate’s court. These costs are payable by you.
 

Magistrate’s court summons

A summons will be sent to you if you have not paid your council tax as requested on your bill. The summons is issued by the Magistrate’s court and will include costs that are also now payable by you.

If your council tax bill account is in joint names, each party to the bill will receive a summons. This means that each party is jointly and severally liable for the whole amount shown on the summons and not just an equal share of it.

It is up to all the persons named on the summons to decide who should pay the debt. If payment is not received, the council can recover the full amount from any party issued with a summons.

The court hearing

The court is being asked to say that you are liable to pay the council tax and to issue a liability order against you. The Council will provide evidence to this effect and if the court is satisfied with this, it will issue the order.

You can contact the council to make a payment arrangement at any time. You do not have to attend court if you have agreed an acceptable payment arrangement with us.

There are limited valid defences against the award of a liability order for council tax. Realistically there is little chance of you successfully defending the application if your defence falls outside those listed here.

  • The property is not entered in the appropriate Valuation List
  • The council tax has not been properly set
  • The council tax has not been billed in accordance with the legislation
  • The amount demanded has been paid in full (including summons costs). Please note that provided the council has received full cleared payment then no further application will be made by the council
  • More than six years have passed since the balance became due
  • Bankruptcy proceedings have been initiated

If you do still decide to attend please note that the court cannot, at this stage, take into account why you have not paid your council tax or any personal or financial difficulties you may be having.

If you disagree with the amount you have received the summons for, or if you wish to discuss any discounts, reductions or exemptions, please phone 0151 443 4476.

You should pay what you can before the court date although if we do not receive payment in full, we will still ask the court to issue a liability order.

Your credit rating

The issue of a magistrate’s court summons for council tax will not affect your credit rating. It is a private matter between you and the council and we will not pass details onto any credit agencies.

Liability order (court order)

A liability order is a court order which provides the council further powers to recover council tax including:

  • Using Enforcement Agents, which may involve the sale of some of your property and will incur you considerable costs.
  • Obtaining information from you about your employment, earnings or benefit.
  • Deductions from your earnings, Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Pension Credit,  Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit.

You should pay what you can before the court date. A letter will be sent to you after the court date with a form called a request for financial information asking for further information. This must be completed and returned to the council including your repayment offer.

The council will let you know if your offer is not accepted but you should pay as offered in the meantime.

We may not accept your offer of payment if we consider it will take too long for you to clear the debt.

Deduction of benefits order

  • If the Magistrate’s Court grant a Liability Order for non-payment of council tax, the council can issue a deduction of benefits order if you are in receipt of Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Pension Credit, Employment Support Allowance. or Universal Credit
  • This order requires that a set amount (£3.65 per week for the period 01/04/2014 to 31/03/2015) be deducted from each payment you receive.

Attachment of earnings

  • If the Magistrate’s Court grant a Liability Order for non payment of council tax, the council can issue an attachment of earnings order. This is a legal document which is sent to your employer requiring them to take money from your wage and send it to the council to pay your council tax. They can also take an extra £1 for each deduction for their administration costs.
  • We will send a copy of the order to you as well as to your employer.
  • The amount deducted is a percentage of your net pay and details of this will be sent to you with the attachment of earnings order.
  • Overtime and sick pay is also included as net pay.
  • If you leave your current employment you must tell us immediately.

Schedule 4 – Deductions to be made under attachment of earnings order

Table A

Deductions from weekly earnings  
Net earnings Deduction rate %
Not exceeding £35  
Exceeding £35 but not exceeding £65 0
Exceeding £65 but not exceeding £90 3
Exceeding £90 but not exceeding £110 5
Exceeding £110 but not exceeding £175 7
Exceeding £175 but not exceeding £250 12
Exceeding £250 17
Exceeding £250 17% in respect of the first £250 and 50% in respect of the remainder

Table B

Deductions from monthly earnings  
Net Earnings Deduction rate %
Not exceeding £152 0
Exceeding £152 but not exceeding £260 3
Exceeding £260 but not exceeding £360 5
Exceeding £360 but not exceeding £440 7
Exceeding £440 but not exceeding £700 12
Exceeding £700 but not exceeding £1,000 17
Exceeding £1,000 17% in respect of the first £1,000 and 50% in respect of the remainder

Table C

Deductions from monthly earnings  
Net Earnings Deduction rate %
Not exceeding £5 0
Exceeding £5 but not exceeding £9 3
Exceeding £9 but not exceeding £13 5
Exceeding £13 but not exceeding £16 7
Exceeding £16 but not exceeding £25 12
Exceeding £25 but not exceeding £36 17
Exceeding £36 17% in respect of the first £36 and 50% in respect of the remainder

Enforcement agent fees 2014

The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 effective from 6 April 2014.

From the date above new regulations apply and the council can instruct an Enforcement Agent (formerly known as a bailiff) to collect the outstanding council tax debt from you if a liability order has been issued in your name. We may do this either if you have not made or kept to an agreed repayment plan or have not completed and returned the request for financial information form sent to you.

Before we ask the enforcement agent to visit you, We will have sent you details once the court have issued a liability order, of the fees which may be charged to you if an enforcement agent is instructed.

If your debt has been passed to an enforcement agent, you will incur a fixed fee of £75 upon them issuing a letter to you by post.  Any payments or offers of repayment should be made to the Enforcement Agents and not the council

If the Enforcement Agents visit you there is a fixed fee of £235 plus 7.5% for any balance due above £1,500.

The Enforcement Agent will normally ask you for payment in full, however if you cannot meet this request, the Enforcement Agent will normally make a repayment arrangement with you. The Enforcement Agent, may enter into a Controlled Goods Agreement, where the agent makes a list of your possessions that is equal in value to your debt.
If your possessions are subject to a Controlled Goods Agreement you cannot dispose or sell them without the Enforcement Agents permission.
If you do not pay as agreed and you have signed a Controlled Goods Agreement, the Enforcement Agent may enter your property, by force if necessary, to take the goods listed. You will be charged for the removal and sale of them. The fee for this is £110plus 7.5% for any balance due above £1,500.
If the Enforcement Agent believes that there are insufficient items to clear the debt, we will then consider other recovery options such as committal action, bankruptcy, imprisonment or a charging order against your property.

Bailiff fees applicable for cases referred for recovery prior to 6 April 2014

Please note the fees and actions detailed below relate to certain cases referred to an enforcement agent prior to the introduction of The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 which come into effect from 6 April 2014 onwards

We can instruct an enforcement agent (bailiff) to collect the outstanding council tax debt from you if a liability order has been issued in your name. We may do this either if you have not made or kept to an agreed repayment plan or have not completed and returned the personal information form sent to you.

Before we ask the enforcement agent to visit you, We will have sent you details once the court have issued a liability order, of the fees which may be charged to you if an enforcement agent is instructed.

The enforcement agent will normally ask you for payment in full, however if you cannot meet this request, they will normally make a repayment arrangement with you. The enforcement agent, may enter into a Walking Possession Agreement, where the agent makes a list of your possessions that is equal in value to your debt.

If your possessions are subject to a Walking Possession Agreement you cannot dispose or sell them without the enforcement agent’s permission.
If you do not pay as agreed and you have signed a Walking Possession Agreement, the enforcement agent may enter your property, by force if necessary, to take the goods listed. You will be charged for the removal and sale of them.

If the enforcement agent believes that there are insufficient items to clear the debt, we will then consider other recovery options such as committal action, bankruptcy, imprisonment or a charging order against your property.

If your debt has been passed to enforcement agent’s you may incur the following fees:

The enforcement agent visits the premises but does not gain entry:
1st visit - £24.50
2nd visit - £18.00

The enforcement agent gains entry, lists and takes 'possession' of the goods (the goods are not necessarily removed). Debt less than £100 - £24.50

Where the debt is over £100 it is calculated thus: 22.5% on the first £100 of the sum due, 4% on the next £400, 2.5% on the next 1,500, 1% on the next £8000 and 0.25% on any additional sum.

The enforcement agent makes one attendance with a vehicle and intends to remove goods (where the enforcement agent has previously gained entry, listed, taken 'possession' but not removed the goods):

  • £120 plus any other reasonable costs or fees
  • The enforcement agent removes and stores goods reasonable costs and fees.
  • The enforcement agent takes walking possession of the goods (the debtor has signed a walking possession agreement) £12.