What happens if I don't pay my Council Tax?

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If you do not pay your Council Tax on time, you will be issued the following:


Council Tax must be paid in accordance with the instructions on the bill to avoid recovery. When one instalment is missed, a reminder will be issued. If this is not brought up to date, a Summons is issued. If it is brought up to date -and kept up to date - no further action will be taken.

Second reminder

If Council Tax is brought up to date but subsequent instalments are defaulted upon, a second reminder is issued. If this is not brought up to date, a summons is issued. If it is brought up to date - and kept up to date - no further action will be taken.

Final notice

If Council Tax is brought up to date but subsequent instalments are defaulted upon, a final notice is issued. The final notice allows seven days to pay the balance due for the year in full (it is not enough once a final notice has been issued just to bring the instalments up to date).

If this is not paid in full within seven days, a summons is issued.

Any summons issued will incur costs of £50.00.

If the council proves to the satisfaction of the court that these sums are due from you, the court must issue a liability order for the sum outstanding. The council will apply for costs of £25 to cover the cost of recovery action to be taken. This is in addition to the £50.00 for the issue of the summons.

Please note that paying within the month will not always avoid recovery, it is important to make payment on the date shown on the bill.

The easiest way to remember to pay your Council Tax on time is to pay by direct debit, whereby the council remembers for you.

You can sign up for direct debit over the phone by calling Local Taxation on 01723 232378.

Direct debit gives you the opportunity to pay on the 1st, 15th or 25th of the month, and to spread your payments over 10 or 12 months.

Council Tax summons

If you have received a reminder, but your Council Tax remains unpaid, we will take further recovery action to obtain the monies due. This is done through the Magistrates Court and you will be sent a summons which will tell you how much money you owe and when the hearing will be.

You will be charged costs for the issue of the summons.

Following on from changes imposed due to COVID-19 restrictions, Liability Order hearings are currently conducted remotely via an audio connection. The Magistrates Court have confirmed that hearings will continue in this format for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it is not possible to attend the hearing in person and entry to the Magistrates’ Court building is prohibited.

If you are thinking about disputing a liability order (instead of paying by instalments or doing nothing) you should read the notes on challenging a Council Tax Liability Order.  It will tell you what the council must prove to the court, and what defences you have.  Then, if you still want to dispute the liability order you must:

Contact the council on 01723 232378 at least seven days prior to the court hearing and have a discussion with us to explain your dispute.  If you can’t agree, you will be given a time to attend court by way of a telephone hearing. You will need to make yourself available for this telephone hearing for the full period of time we give you. If you are not available and fail to answer the call when the court telephones you the court may grant the liability order against you in your absence.

If you can't pay the amount in full, please contact Local Taxation by telephone on 01723 232378 or by email local.taxation@scarborough.gov.uk. It is unlikely that the summons will be withdrawn but we can agree a payment plan with you.

If we prove to the satisfaction of the court that these sums are due from you, the court must issue a liability Order for the sum outstanding. This can be done even if you are not present, we will apply for costs of £25.00 to cover the cost of recovery action to be taken. This is in addition to the £50.00 for the issue of the summons.

If the amount shown as outstanding on the summons is paid in full to us the day before the Court Hearing, we will still apply for costs of £50.00 for the issue of the summons but will not apply for the additional £25.00 costs.

The liability order gives the council legal powers to recover the money you owe.

These powers are:

To request information: The person subject to the liability order must supply information regarding their employment and income details. It is a criminal offence not to supply this information once requested and currently the fine that can be imposed by the magistrates is £500, or to give false information for which the magistrates can currently impose a fine of £1000.

To attach earnings: The council can order your employer to take money from your wages or salary. This is then sent to the council to pay your debt. Your employer can charge you £1.00 each time a deduction is made. Your employer must inform you each time an amount is deducted. It is an offence for your employer not to comply with the order;

Attachment of earnings calculator

The council can instruct the Department for Works and Pensions to make deductions from the following benefits:

  • Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Income Support (IS)
  • Employment Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Pension Credit Guaranteed Credit (PCGC)

The Department for Works and Pensions will pay the deduction over to the council on a monthly basis until the debt is cleared.

Charging Order: The council can apply to the county court for a legal charge to be put on your property for the amount due. The council will automatically receive the money plus costs when the property is sold;

Bankruptcy/Insolvency: Bankruptcy is essentially a declaration to your creditors that you cannot afford to repay your debt.

If you or your company owe more than £750 in Council Tax and/or business rates, and you have been summonsed, we may start bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings against you.

If we take this action, we will pass your account to our solicitors who will send you a statutory demand. A statutory demand gives you 21 days to pay us the full amount.

If you receive a statutory demand, you should contact our solicitors immediately.

If you do not settle the statutory demand, we will present a petition for bankruptcy or liquidation to the county court.

Enforcement agents

If the council does not receive payment in full, or if a suitable payment arrangement is not agreed, the Council will instruct one of its enforcement agents to collect the debt. The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 S.I 2013/1894 came into force on 6th April 2014. Under these regulations the old bailiff levy process is replaced by taking control of goods (TCOG) – a process started by the enforcement agent company serving a mandatory Notice of Enforcement (Compliance Stage letter). In addition, there is a new fee structure which the enforcement agent will charge.

Scarborough Borough Council employs national firms of accredited enforcement agents who are authorised to act on its behalf to collect Council Tax debts following the issue of a Liability Order. Our main enforcement agents are:

  • Rossendales
  • Jacobs
  • Bristow and Sutor

New fee structure

You can download all our fees here

Committal to prison: If the council has tried all other options they may request that the magistrates issue a summons for you to appear before them to explain why you have not paid your debt and to enquire into your means.

If the court are satisfied that you have had the means to pay the debt and that you have either wilfully refused to pay the debt or that you have been culpably negligent in not paying the debt you may be imprisoned for a period not exceeding three months for each debt. The court may decide to postpone the imprisonment upon the payment of an agreed amount until the debt is paid. The court has the power to remit the debt or part of the debt if it sees fit.