Problems Paying Council Tax?
We know that the current situation is a difficult time and understand that this may have affected people in many different ways.
If you are having difficulty making payments or are falling behind with your instalments please contact us straight away. We will do all we can to help you.
If you’re having difficulty paying we may be able to come up with a payment plan you can afford. If you don't let us know that you are having problems making regular payments, you may incur further costs and charges which will have to be paid. For an alternative payment arrangement to be considered, complete an Income and Expenditure form.
The sooner you get in touch with us the more help and advice we will be able to offer.
- Check to see if you are entitled to any discounts or exemptions
- If you currently pay over ten months, you can request to extend your council tax payment plan so that instalments end in March
- If you are having difficulty and need support because you are on a reduced income, you should apply for Universal Credit
- At the same time you should apply for Council Tax Support. Find out if you may qualify by using our online calculator. Apply for the Support using our online form.
- If you have not already done so, you can obtain free debt advice from the Money Advice Service
You can also contact the Council to discuss your Council Tax account or call 01622 602003 as soon as possible.
If you don’t pay you will be sent a reminder. If you pay within seven days of the reminder your Council Tax bill will continue as normal, but if you don’t pay after the reminder you may get a summons and extra costs will be payable.
Before you get a Summons
If you have already received a summons, please go to the ‘When you've had a summons’ category.
We will try to accept an offer that is realistic based on your means. If you have received your annual bill, a reminder or a final notice and are unable to clear your bill within the current financial year, please complete and return an Income and Expenditure form along with a payment proposal. You also need to include three months bank statements, or evidence that you have sought financial help and are working through a financial plan in order to help you with your current financial circumstances.
If you don’t pay Council Tax after we have sent you a reminder and/or a final notice, then we will ask the Magistrates Court to issue a summons.
As soon as the summons is issued, a cost of £60 is added to your account. The summons will tell you the time, place and date of the hearing where the magistrates will decide whether they should issue a liability order against you. The summons will tell you the amount owed, the period it is for, and the costs you have to pay.
If you pay the amount shown on the summons in full, including the £60 costs, before the hearing, your case will not go to court. If you don’t pay the full amount on the summons, and the magistrates decide to issue a liability order against you, then an extra £50 costs could be added to your account.
Do I have to go to Court?
No. The magistrates will hear all the cases listed on the court list whether people attend or not.
Can I dispute the summons?
If you think the summons is wrong, it is very important you contact us before the court hearing. It may be possible to fix the issue, rather than wait until the court hearing when it may not be possible to resolve on the day.
What is a Liability Order?
A liability order gives us more power for collecting the debt owed. The liability order will be issued if the amount shown on the summons has not been paid in full by the court hearing. The magistrates can also award costs against you, which you will have to pay. The costs are currently £110.00 (£60.00 for the issue of the summons and £50.00 for the granting of the liability order).
Is a Liability Order always granted/awarded?
A liability order will normally be granted except where there is a valid defence against the issue of the liability order. The valid defences are:
- The Council Tax has not been properly set
- The property is not in the Valuation List
- The total amount of the summons has been paid in full – and a receipt is available and shown
- Bills and reminders have not been sent (this is not the same as not being received)
- You're exempt from paying Council Tax
- You're not the person who is liable to pay the Council Tax that you have been summonsed for (this does not include minor mistakes like spelling of name or title)
- Bankruptcy, winding up proceedings have commenced or an Administration Order/Debt Relief Order has been made and the Council Tax debt is included
- The application for a liability order was made more than six years after the first demand was issued
Should I contact you if I have a valid defence?
To save the courts time, if any of the above apply to you (or you think they may apply), contact us before the court hearing as it might be possible to resolve your query and therefore you will not have to attend court.
Please note the following are not valid defences against the issue of a liability order:
- You have money problems and can’t afford to pay or you think Council Tax is unfair
- You have applied for Council Tax support, a discount or an exemption and you have not heard anything yet
- You think the Council Tax band for the property is wrong you have appealed to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA)
- You should still pay the amounts shown on the notices sent to you
The Magistrates will not take your financial situation into account when making their decision, or hear an argument unless it is a valid defence. We will take your financial situation into account when discussing how you are going to repay this debt. This is why it is important to contact us immediately when you get the summons.
What happens when a liability Order is granted/awarded?
A Liability Order gives us more powers to recover money owed, and lets us take further action, including;
- Requesting personal financial information which may include carrying out a search with a credit agency for information
- Instructing enforcement agents (previously named bailiffs) to visit your home to recover the debt - they will send you a Notice of Enforcement which will include a financial statement form, asking for full payment or an acceptable payment arrangement. At this point you will incur fees of £75.00. However, if a personal visit to your home is required in an effort to get payment then additional fees of £235.00 will be incurred
- Contacting your employer to have money taken directly from your earnings
- Contacting the DWP to have money taken directly from your benefits. This is not possible with benefits such as Incapacity Benefit, but can be deducted from ESA, JSA, Income Support, Universal Credit and Guaranteed Credit
- Applying for a charging order on your property with Land Registry (sale could be forced to pay your Council Tax arrears - this will incur further costs)
- Applying to make you bankrupt (this will incur further costs)
- Applying to the Magistrates Court for your committal to prison
It is important to get in touch with us as soon as you get a summons. This is especially important if you think we have got something wrong or you have difficulties in paying. If you do we can check any queries you have and make any changes to your account should they be needed. We can also discuss the best way to collect what is owed, but you must be aware the final decision is made by us.
If we can agree an arrangement for payment, we will still ask the magistrates to issue a liability order, but if you keep to the arrangement no further recovery action will be taken. When setting up an arrangement, you will be sent a special payment arrangement letter detailing your instalments and the due dates.
These arrangements are strictly monitored, and if you don’t keep to it, the debt will automatically be forwarded to our enforcement agents and further costs may be incurred. If you don't get in touch we have to decide what to do as we are unable to discuss the situation with you. We would prefer to help you to pay in a way that suits both of us, and not have to take decisions without knowing your full and individual circumstances.
When you've had a summons
We will try to accept an offer that is realistic based on your means. If you have received a summons or notice of Liability Order you will need to complete and return an Income and Expenditure form, along with three months bank statements and an offer of payment.
If our Recovery Team need to ask you for further evidence or information to support your offer of payment, they will contact you directly.
You can send us your completed form and bank statements online.
Enforcement Agents (Bailiffs)
Bailiffs are now called Enforcement Agents. On 6 April 2014 new rules were introduced that state what they can charge when recovering money from you. The total fees that an agent can charge is £310, which includes a:
- £75 Compliance fee, charged on receipt of a Liability Order from us and
- £235 Enforcement fee, charged when the agent visits your property for the first time
This is in addition to the money owed to us.
You should try to make a payment plan with the agent. This will include the £75 Compliance fee which will be taken with the first payment. If you don't respond to the letter from the agent, or fail to stick to the payment plan the agent could return later to remove and sell your goods.
The agent can take your goods from the highway or on premises where they have the power to enter. They don't need a warrant to enter a premise to search for goods, if they believe that it's where you normally live, trade or run a business from.
If the agent calls and you fail to make contact, or if you don’t have enough goods which can be removed, they will return the liability order to us for further enforcement action.
Attachment of Earnings
If a Liability Order has been signed it gives us permission to take a percentage of your earnings directly from your employer.
If all other options fail, a summons may be issued for you to attend Maidstone Magistrates’ Court for a committal hearing.
If the outcome of this hearing considers you should have paid your Council Tax, a warrant of commitment may be issued, which will mean you have to go to prison for up to three months. Again, this will mean you have to pay extra costs.