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Council Tax Debt

The majority of people coming to us with debt problems have some level of council tax arrears either from the current or from previous years. We are generally able to include this in an affordable formal payment plan.

Ways to pay your Council Tax bill

It can vary from council to council. The original legislation declared it to be paid over 10 months. Now there are options such as over 12 months, or weekly over the counter at your local council offices. If you are a council tenant, you can pay weekly at your local housing office.

What happens if I miss a Council Tax payment?

  1. If you miss a payment, your Council will send a reminder notice giving 7 days to pay.
  2. If you don’t pay within 7 days, you’ll be asked to pay the whole year’s bill instead.
  3. Presuming you have caught up the first missed payment, you will be sent a second notice if you miss another payment. You’ll only get a maximum of 2 reminder notices for a given year’s bill.
  4. Your council will send you a final notice saying you must pay the whole year’s bill if you miss a payment for the third time.


Every year, over 1 million bailiff referrals are made for payment of Council Tax Debt.

Do not ignore a council tax demand

If the arrears reaches a Magistrates Court, they can decide to issue a liability order or even a committal to prison order.

Prison is only considered in extreme cases of refusal to pay and fraudulent behaviour; and for a maximum of 3 months.

Council tax arrears and Court action

The Magistrates liability order will state how you are formally required to make up the arrears. You will still need to make your current council tax payments in addition to this. If the terms of the order are not complied with, you may face further enforcement action such as:

Bankruptcy & Council Tax Arrears

You will still be liable for your present and future council tax.

Any council tax arrears due at the date you became bankrupt are included in the bankruptcy. The council will not be able to enforce this debt once you are bankrupt.

Also, if before you were bankrupt, you lost the right to pay your council tax by instalments because you did not make the payments on time, you will have become liable to pay the whole year’s council tax.  This debt too will be included in the bankruptcy. You will not be liable for any payments towards council tax for the rest of the financial year, as long as you remain bankrupt.

IVAs & Council Tax Arrears

The current year’s council tax liability is included in your income and expenditure statement as an essential outgoing, as are any catch-up payments for that year that you have agreed with your local council.

Arrears for a previous year are an unsecured debt and can be included. The exception to this is when bailiffs have already gained access to your home, in which case it is usually too late.[show-iva-cta]