«WHO PAYS THE BILL? 1. Who has to pay the council tax? 3 2. Are the residents always liable? 4 3. Does only one person have to pay in each dwelling? 5 ...»
26. What if I don’t pay?
If you miss a council tax instalment you will get a reminder notice giving you seven days to bring your council tax payments up to date. If you do not do so within the time allowed, or if after a second reminder you fall behind with your payments again, you will have to pay the outstanding balance of your council tax bill (ie. the full amount for the rest of the year). If the balance is not paid, the council will probably start recovery action.
27. What action can the council take?
The council can apply to the magistrates’ court for a liability order. You will be sent a summons telling you when the court will consider the application and the amount the council is seeking to recover. This will be both the outstanding amount of council tax plus the cost to the council of making the application. You have the right to attend the court and offer evidence as to why the order should not be made.
Even if you decide not to attend court, you should speak to the council or, if you prefer, your local Citizens Advice Bureau. The council will try to come to a reasonable arrangement with you for payment but they cannot do that unless you contact them. If you make an arrangement and stick to it, you will avoid any further recovery costs.
28. What powers does the liability order give the council?
If a liability order is granted by the court, the council can demand certain information from you about your employment and earnings to help them decide how to recover the debt. You are legally required to give the council this information and it may help you pay the bill.
The main options for recovery are as follows:
Attachment of earnings orders The council can order your employer to recover the amount direct from your wages or salary and pay it straight to the council. The amount will be a set proportion of your pay after certain other deductions (such as income tax and national insurance) – your employer may also deduct a further £1 towards their costs in making each deduction and sending it to the council.
Deductions from benefits If you are receiving Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support or Pension Credit the council may be able to apply for deductions.
Distress The council can employ bailiffs to recover the debt – this process is known as the levy of distress. The charges involved are set out in legislation – they can be quite considerable and you will be held liable for them. It is advisable to avoid matters reaching this stage if you can.
If you are unable to pay the outstanding debt in full the
bailiff has three options:
• he can agree a walking possession agreement with you. Your goods will not be removed so long as you meet the payment arrangements agreed with the bailiff;
• he can take close possession of your goods by staying on the premises until payment is made or the goods are removed for sale;
• or he can remove the goods with a view to their sale.
Other options for enforcement action include bankruptcy proceedings for debts of £750 or more and charging orders for debts of £1,000 or more. Under both routes your property may finally be sold in order to pay off the debt and recover additional costs incurred, which may be substantial.
29. What if I still do not pay?
The council may apply to the magistrates’ court for a warrant committing you to prison. The council will only take this step when other efforts have failed and when it has already unsuccessfully tried to levy distress.
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.
30. What if I think my bill is wrong?
You may appeal against any decision your council has taken. However, you should continue to pay your original council tax bill whilst your appeal is outstanding.
31. What can I appeal against?
You can appeal if you think:
• your home should be an exempt dwelling;
• the amount of the bill is incorrect, for example if you think a discount should apply or if the council has not reduced the bill for a disability.
You should first write to your council giving reasons for your complaint. The council has two months to make a decision. If you disagree with the council’s decision, or it has not acted within the two months, you can appeal to a Valuation Tribunal.
32. How do I appeal?
Before making an appeal you must first make representations to your council.
STAGE 1: Representations You must first write to your council (the one which sent your bill or notification of exemption), to make your representations known. You should state who you are and where you live. You should say which decision you are unhappy with and why you are unhappy with it. The council may ask for further information.
The council has two months in which to consider your representations. You will not have to attend a hearing at this stage. If the council rejects your arguments, or it acts on your complaint but you are still not satisfied, or at the end of two months you have not heard from your council, you will be able to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal. You must do this within two months of the date when the council notified you of its decision, or if you hear nothing, within four months of the date when you wrote to the council with your representations.
STAGE 2: Appeal to a Valuation Tribunal Your council can give you the address of your local Tribunal or you can obtain this from the Valuation Tribunal website.
The Tribunal will ask you to make your appeal in writing, stating which decision you are appealing against, why you disagree with it, or, as the case may be, that the council did not reach a decision. If you and the other parties agree, your case may be dealt with by an exchange of written representations. Otherwise, the Tribunal will get in touch with you to make arrangements for a hearing and will send you a leaflet explaining its procedures in detail. Hearings usually last no more than a day. A Tribunal hearing will not cost you anything unless you choose to employ a solicitor or other person to present your case.
If the Tribunal decides in your favour, your council will revise your bill and adjust your payments, if necessary.
33. When can a penalty be imposed on me?
Councils have powers to impose penalties where a person is required by law to provide information (for example, to enable councils to work out who should pay council tax) and either fails to do so, or supplies information which the person knows is false.
34. What if I disagree with a penalty?
If you disagree with a penalty imposed on you, you may first wish to discuss it with your council. Alternatively, you may appeal direct to the Valuation Tribunal. You will normally have two months in which to appeal after a penalty is imposed. Your council should provide you with information about how to appeal and the date by which any appeal should be made. If you do appeal, you do not have to pay your penalty until your appeal is decided.
FURTHER INFORMATIONA booklet explaining how properties in England are valued and how you can appeal against your valuation is available free from DCLG Publications, PO Box 236, Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS23 7NB;
Tel: 0870 1226236; Text Phone: 0870 1207405;
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or electronically on the DCLG website.
A booklet explaining Council Tax Benefit is available from post offices, Jobcentre Plus or social security offices.
If you have further questions, you should contact your local council or Citizens’ Advice Bureau or you can write to the Council Tax Policy Team at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU. or e-mail the Council Tax Policy Team at email@example.com
The following websites may also be useful:
www.communities.gov.uk - the Department for Communities and Local Government’s website has more information about local councils, including funding.
www.voa.gov.uk – you can check the council tax band of your property on this site www.valuation-tribunals.gov.uk – you can find out more about appeals on this site.
Published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
© Crown copyright 2006. Amended and reprinted in the UK October 2006 on paper comprising 75% post consumer waste and 25% ECF pulp.
Product code 95LGP350A