What happens if you don’t pay

All council tax instalments are due on the 1st of each month. If you do not pay an instalment when it is due, we will send you a reminder notice to advise you of the amount you need to pay to bring your account up to date.

If you bring your payments up to date within seven days, you can continue paying by instalments. However, if you don’t bring your instalments up to date, you will need to pay the full balance and we could take court action to enforce payment of the debt.

Second and final reminder notices

If you bring you payments up to date but then miss an instalment, you will be sent either a second reminder notice or a final notice. If you then don’t bring you payments up to date, you will need to pay the full balance on your account and we could take court action to enforce payment of the debt.

We will issues no more than two reminders. If you are late with any further payments during the year, you will automatically lose your right to pay by instalments. If that happens, you will need to pay the full balance on your account and we can take court action to enforce payment of the debt.

You can still contact us to discuss an arrangement for payment, even when the full balance has become payable on your account. However, we may insist on continuing with the court action.

What happens if you receive a court summons

We will serve a summons at least 14 days before the court hearing. The costs for issuing a summons are £62.50 which you will need to pay in full.

If you pay the amount in full, including the costs, before the court hearing, we will withdraw the proceedings and won’t take any further action against you.

If you are unable to pay the full amount immediately you should contact us immediately to discuss a payment arrangement. 

Please note – at this stage we will continue with the application for a Liability Order and you will incur the additional costs however, as long as you make the payments as agreed, we won’t take any enforcement action on the Liability Order.

Information for benefit applicants

If you have applied for benefits and are waiting for confirmation of the award we will not take action on the Liability Order until your benefit has been calculated – you will then have the opportunity to make and maintain a suitable payment arrangement.

If you have submitted a benefits application and are waiting for it to be calculated we will exclude you from our automatically produced summons complaint lists.

If we know you have applied for benefits and your completed application is in the process of being calculated, we will exclude you from the automatically produced summons complaint lists.

If you have applied for benefits, either before or after the issue of a summons then, assuming the details are complete, we will calculate your claim and inform you of the net balance within 48 hours of you bringing this to our attention. You will then have the option of either paying in full before the court hearing (including summons costs) or making a payment arrangement which extends beyond the hearing date. This is based on the understanding that we will apply for a Liability Order and additional costs.

If you were to attend court in answer to the summons and state that you had applied for benefits and were waiting to be informed, the application for a Liability Order and additional costs would still be made. An assurance will be given to the court that the matter will be looked into after the hearing and if it is found that an application has been received, no action will be taken on the Liability Order until any benefit has been calculated. You will then be informed and given the opportunity to make and maintain a satisfactory arrangement

Liability Orders

If a Liability Order is granted, you will have to pay additional costs of £45, resulting in total costs of £107.50 being added to your account.

If you do not make an arrangement for payment or fail to keep to an arrangement once it has been agreed, we will take action to enforce payment of the debt without further notice.

If you fail to return the means enquiry form included in your liability order notice then we may prosecute you for this offence.

If a Liability Order is granted, it will allow us to collect the outstanding amount from you by:

  • taking payment from your wages – an attachment of earnings order will be sent to your employer and a copy to you. Deductions are made from your net earnings.
  • taking payment from your benefits – we can ask for deductions to be taken direct from your jobseeker’s allowance, income support, pension credit or employment and support allowance
  • removing goods from your home – we can collect the outstanding debt by sending enforcement agents to your home to remove goods to the value of the debt and costs incurred. The enforcement agent will give you the opportunity to make a satisfactory arrangement for payment before considering removing your goods.

If enforcement agents are instructed, you will incur costs in accordance with the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 – the fixed fees are:

                                         initial action/contact – £75

                                         further Enforcement – £235

                                        *levy Fee (if applicable) – 7.5 per cent of balance

 *fee will only apply if the debt exceeds £1,500

We will send you a warning letter at least 14 days before a Enforcement Agents visit, including full details for the costs which can be incurred. If you arrange payment immediately after receiving this letter you can avoid paying these costs.

If appropriate, we may also consider taking the following steps to enforce payment of the debt:

  • putting a charge on a property you own – a charging order secures a charge against your property for the amount owed and this is paid off when the property’s sold. We may enforce the sale of your property if you fail to make an adequate arrangement to pay off your arrears.
  • applying for your bankruptcy – you could lose any possessions of value and, if you’re a homeowner, the interest in your home.

Further action

If the enforcement agent is unable to recover the debt and another way of enforcing payment is not appropriate, we will make an application to the Magistrates’ Court for your commitment to prison.

Even at this late stage, you can still contact us to agree an arrangement for payment.

The commencement of committal proceedings can result in additional costs in excess of £100 and the Magistrates can send you to prison for up to three months.

At whichever stage of the enforcement process you make contact to make an arrangement for payment, wherever possible we will try to ensure that you have the financial means to keep to that arrangement. This will mean that, in order to help you, we may sometimes need to ask for full details of your income and outgoings.

There may also be occasions when we will advise you to seek help from one of the voluntary organisations who specialise in debt counselling.

Contact us - Council tax

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0345 302 2313
(Text phone users add 18001 before dialing)

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South Oxfordshire District Council
Po Box 872
Erith
DA8 1UN