What happens if I don’t pay my Council Tax bill?
Frequently asked questions and answers about how we collect unpaid Council Tax.
Please pay the outstanding amount immediately. If you bring your payments up to date after you have received a reminder or second reminder notice, you may continue with your monthly instalments. All future payments must be made on time or further notices will be issued. If you have received a final notice, you will have lost the right to pay by instalments and the full balance for the remainder of the financial year will need to be paid.
If you do not bring yourself up to date you risk having a court summons issued for the full amount. This will involve substantial additional costs being added to your bill.
If you have made a payment in the last few days, or you disagree with the amount outstanding, please contact the Council Tax Liability and Billing Team using the phone number on this page.
It is important that you contact us if you are in arrears with your Council Tax account. This gives us a chance to work together to clear the debt. Arrangements can be made for you to pay weekly, fortnightly or monthly. If you are not sure how much you can afford please complete our online income and expenditure form:
You have received a summons because we have sent you a reminder notice or a final notice and you have not brought your account up to date. The notice warned that if you did not keep your payments up to date we would start recovery proceedings through the magistrates court. The summons was issued when your account was not up to date. The cost for issuing a summons is £55.
If you pay the full amount you owe before the court hearing then no further action will be required. The full amount includes the cost for issuing the summons.
If you cannot pay in full, please contact us immediately and we will make an arrangement for you to pay. This will not stop the matter going to court and there may be further costs – once the liability order is obtained at the hearing you will incur additional costs of £10.
You do not have to attend court unless you disagree that you owe the debt. If you wish to attend court to object to a liability order being applied, then you should get legal advice from a solicitor well before the date of the hearing to see if you have a valid defence.
An arrangement can still be made on the amount outstanding. To do this, complete the income and expenditure form.
Alternatively, you can call the Debt Management Section on 0300 3030164 to make your proposal of payment.
We will consider your proposals and put an arrangement in place. The court hearing will still take place, and a liability order will be applied for. However, we may withhold further recovery action if you have already made an arrangement to pay the debt and you are paying as agreed.
Independent debt advice is available from the following organisations:
For help with budgeting and managing your money please use the Money Advice Service online budget planner.
Yes. Late or non-payment results in extra work for both the council and the court. We add these costs to the amount that you owe.
A Council Tax summons is £55 – plus £10 for the liability order.
A committal summons is £240 plus £75 for a warrant of arrest.
Compliance stage – £75 – triggered when the debt is received by the enforcement agent.
Attachment of earnings – Your employer is allowed to charge you £1 every time they deduct money from your wages to pay to us (see liability order, below). If your employer decides to make the charge, the £1 is kept by them to cover their administration costs. It is not passed to us.
No. It is not necessary for you to attend the hearing unless you dispute that you are liable for the Council Tax. You have the legal right to attend if you wish, but the court will not consider any proposals for payment at the hearing.
If, for any reason, you believe you are not liable for the amount shown on the summons then you should ring us using the contact details on this page well before the court hearing date. This may save you and the court a lot of time and inconvenience.
If you wish to attend court to object to a liability order being applied, then you should get legal advice from a solicitor well before the date of the hearing to see if you have a valid defence. We advise you to bring your summons to court.
Couples who are married or living together as husband and wife, or in a civil partnership, will usually be held jointly and severally liable. This means any one person may be asked for the full amount payable. Joint owners or tenants will also usually be jointly and severally liable. However, a summons will be issued to each person, in their sole name.
If, for any reason, you believe you are not liable for the Council Tax shown on the summons then you should ring us using the contact details on this page well before the court hearing date. This may save you and the court a lot of time and inconvenience.
If full payment is made to the council, including costs, before the court hearing date that is the end of the matter.
In accordance with the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992, if the magistrates decide that the amount demanded is due, and that you have not paid the full amount, then the Court will grant the council a liability order.
If you attend the hearing, you may be interviewed beforehand by a council employee to determine a payment plan or assist you regarding Council Tax and Council Tax support.
A ‘liability order’ gives the council the following powers to collect any outstanding debt:
Request for information
The council can request that you provide information as to your current employment status, where you work, how many hours, and your works pay reference number. If you do not work you should provide details of any benefits the household receives. You should also make an offer of repayment to the council if you are sent this form. Failure to provide this information when requested to do so or failure to provide the correct information is an offence which could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.
Attachment of earnings or benefits
The council can instruct your employer to deduct money from your wages, or the Department for Work and Pensions to deduct money from your benefits (if you receive Pension Credit, Pension Savings Credit, Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance). The amount of deduction is fixed by law.
Instruct enforcement agents (previously bailiffs) to collect sums outstanding
If an attachment of earnings (or an attachment of benefit) cannot be made, and no satisfactory arrangement for payment has been made, the account may be passed to one of the council’s enforcement agents for collection.
Find out more about our enforcement agents (previously bailiffs) on our enforcement agents page.
If you own your property, a charge may be put on it which enables the debt to be claimed from the proceeds of the sale. However, if we are unable to agree repayments, the council could commence order for sale proceedings to evict you from your house and then sell your property to repay the debt.
We have the provision to make you bankrupt if you continue to fail to pay your arrears.
Committal to prison
If we are unable to collect the outstanding debt by other means, you will be summoned back to court to explain to the magistrates the reasons why you have failed to pay the debt. The magistrates may then order you to pay a regular amount to the council. If you do not pay, you will be taken back to court and could be sent to prison for up to 90 days.
The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/613 as amended), state that we may include additional costs reasonably incurred.
For more information about this legislation and other legislation relating to Council Tax please visit the Government’s legislation website.
For an explanation of how we calculate the summons cost, please view the summons cost spread sheet in the related documents section of this page.
The figure is determined by a realistic estimate of the work dedicated to the application of a liability order, the calculation of this can be viewed on the summons cost spreadsheet in the document downloads section of this page. North Lincolnshire Council also makes comparisons with other local councils and the national average to confirm that the councils resulting costs are reasonable with regards to the level of summons costs applied by other authorities.
In June 2013, the department of communities and local government published ‘guidance to local councils on good practice in the collection of Council Tax arrears’. This guidance states that ‘in the interests of transparency, local authorities should be able to provide a breakdown, on request, showing how these costs are calculated’. In accordance with this we have provided an annual breakdown of how our summons costs are calculated in the related documents section of this page.
The calculation is based on activity levels of work undertaken to collect the tax, a review of costs is undertaken regularly and if any change to the level of costs is required then a report is submitted to elected members of the council with the recommended changes to the level of costs.
If you wish to attend court to object to a liability order being applied, then you should get legal advice from a solicitor well before the date of the court hearing to see if you have a valid defence. Please be aware that the solicitor may charge you for their time and advice.
If you are on a low income you may be entitled to help paying your Council Tax bill. You could be entitled to help from the Council Tax Support Scheme.
Having enough money to pay your bills can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. If you are finding it hard to pay your account we can help you. Call us as soon as possible on 0300 303 0164 and we will work with you to come up with a payment plan.
Our officers will never judge you or make you feel bad about your situation. We will always be happy to talk to you about your account and will work with you to find ways to manage your account, even if you think you have no spare money to offer against your debt.
By dealing with your debt, it will help you to feel less stressed and anxious, and more in control.
Struggling with money and poor mental wellbeing is often linked. Feeling low can make managing money tough. Worrying about it can make you feel even worse. When speaking to us, if you are feeling very low or suicidal, our officers may suggest referring you to the Samaritans. We have a referral system in place to ensure that you can get the help and support that you need. You can talk to the Samaritans any time you like, in your own way, and off the record – about whatever is affecting you. Their phone number is 116123.
- Information, advice and guidance
- How do I pay my Council Tax?
- How much Council Tax do I pay?
- The Council Tax Support scheme
- Enforcement Agents – collecting Council Tax and Business Rate debts
- Enforcement Agents – fee structure
- Citizen’s Advice Bureau
- Information on dealing with urgent debt
- Money Advice Service
- Money Advice Service online budget planner
- Legislation.gov website
- What’s on in North Lincolnshire
- Latest news
- Other council services
The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 held at the Legislation.gov website
2019-20 Summons/Court Costs Calculation [PDF, 23Kb]
2018-19 Summons/Court Costs Calculation [PDF, 24Kb]
Monday to Friday: 9am to 4.30pm