What happens if I don't pay my Council Tax?
You usually pay your Council Tax bill in instalments over 10 months.
If you fall behind with your payments or you are paying later than the dates shown on your bill we will send you a reminder, giving you 7 days to bring your account up to date.
You should allow 3 days for payments at a Post Office to be credited to your Council Tax account.
If you bring your account up to date and fall behind again we will send you a second reminder. No further reminders are issued if you have already had a second reminder.
If you are unable to bring your account up to date you will lose the right to pay in instalments and the full year's Council Tax becomes due.
The next stage is to issue you with a summons. When the summons is issued to you you are liable to additional costs of £80.50. We will ask the Magistrates' Court for a 'Liability Order'. This is a demand for you to pay the full amount you owe.
You have the right to attend the court and offer evidence as to why you are not liable for the debt. Even if you decide not to attend court, you should speak to us. We will try to come to a reasonable arrangement with you for payment but we cannot do that unless you contact us.
At this stage Surrey Heath Borough Council can use its discretion to agree special payment arrangements should personal circumstances restrict payment of the debt in full. Please be aware that any arrangement made after a Summons has been issued will be agreed mutually using Surrey Heath Borough Council’s financial information form.
If you choose to go to the court hearing, the Magistrates will ask if you have a valid defence which will stop a liability order being granted. The examples of valid defences are:
- the amount has not been demanded in accordance with the regulations for example, the Council failed to follow the correct time periods in serving bills and reminders; or
- the amount has been paid; or
- you are not liable for the amount on the summons.
On 4 May 2021 the Government launched the Breathing Space scheme to help people in debt to better manage their finances. Breathing Space can give individuals with problem debt the opportunity to legal protections from their creditors in order to seek advice and guidance on their debts.
The consequences of ignoring a Liability Order
If the court makes a Liability Order against you, the Council can take enforcement action against you in order to recover the debt. This will usually mean either deductions from wages and benefits or the use of enforcement agents, although bankruptcy and charging orders are other options.
Deduction from wages
We can order your employer to deduct a regular amount from your wages toward your unpaid Council Tax.
If you are unable to make an arrangement to pay your arrears, or do not contact the council, the council may decide to issue an Attachment of Earnings Order for your employer to take money directly from your wages or salary. The council does take pro-active steps to identify council tax debtors employers. A copy of the order will be sent to you and your employer confirming the Liability Order details and the total debt to be repaid, once the order is in place. Your payroll department will then set up payments to be made to the council on a daily, weekly or monthly basis in accordance with how you are paid, until the debt is settled. Once set up, an attachment will not be cancelled until the debt is paid in full or you cease employment.
The amount of money deducted depends on your net pay. This is your wages, salary (including any fees, bonus, commission or overtime pay) or any statutory sick pay, after the deduction of income tax, primary Class 1 national insurance contributions, superannuation contributions and any deduction with a higher priority. The tables below provide an indication of the percentage of your pay that will be deducted. These percentages are non-negotiable as they are set by central government, not the council.
The table below shows the amount to be deducted from weekly earnings:
|Net Earnings||Deduction Rate|
|below £75||no deduction can be made|
|£75 to £135||3%|
|£135 to £185||5%|
|£185 to £225||7%|
|£225 to £355||12%|
|£355 to £505||17%|
|above £505||17% for the first £505 and 50% for the remainder|
The table below shows the amount to be deducted from monthly earnings.
|Net Earnings||Deduction Rate|
|below £300||no deduction can be made|
|£300 to £550||3%|
|£550 to £740||5%|
|£740 to £900||7%|
|£900 to £1,420||12%|
|£1,420 to £2,020||17%|
|above £2,020||17% for the first £2,020 and 50% for the remainder|
Deduction from benefits
We may be able to apply for deductions if you are receiving Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, or Income Support.
We can send enforcement agents to your home to take control of goods to sell. The money raised goes towards paying your debt plus the recovery costs. The enforcement agent will send you a letter before their first visit stating
how much you owe and requiring payment within 7 days.
You can contact the enforcement agent and offer to come to an agreement on payment. It is important to do this as soon as your receive their letter to minimise fees that will be added to your bill.
The Council employs the following Enforcement Agents:
2 Southlands Road
Bromley, Kent, BR2 9QP
Tel: 020 8290 0866
Bristow & Sutor
Worcestershire, B98 0FL
Tel: 0330 390 2010
When a debt is passed to an enforcement agent the additional fees payable are;
- Compliance Stage (from date of receipt of instruction by enforcement agent until before first visit) - £75
- Enforcement Stage (from date of first visit) - £235 (plus 7.5% of amount above £1,500, if the debt is above £1,500)
- Sale Stage - £110 (plus 7.5% of amount above £1,500, if the debt is above £1,500) plus the debtor has
to pay storage, auctioneer's and other fees.
If we have tried using enforcement agents but your Council Tax still is not paid in full, we may apply to the Magistrates Court for a warrant.
Before issuing a warrant of commitment the court must hold a means enquiry with you present. A warrant will only be issued if the court is satisfied that the failure to pay is the result of wilful refusal or culpable neglect. The maximum period of imprisonment is three months.
The court may decide to postpone the period of imprisonment on certain conditions, normally relating to payment of the debt over a period of time. The court also has the power to remit all or part of the debt.
Alternatively you can write or e-mail to:
Surrey Heath Borough Council
Surrey Heath House
Knoll Road, Camberley, Surrey GU15 3HD