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5 How can I deal with my Council Tax arrears?

Council tax arrears should be dealt with promptly. If you don’t come to an arrangement to pay, your council can take enforcement action against you. This could include, for example:


  •  getting an amount deducted from wages or certain benefits;
  • sending bailiffs;
  • applying for a legal charge on any property that you own; or
  • making you bankrupt. 

If all else fails, your council can ask the magistrates’ court to consider sending you to prison for non-payment.

Checking the bill
You could take the following actions to check the amount you owe is correct and possibly reduce the arrears:

  • Claim any council tax benefit which you are entitled to. You may be able to get this backdated.
  • Claim any exemptions, reductions or discounts which you are entitled to. For example, if you are the only adult in your property, you are normally entitled to a 25% reduction on your bill.

Dealing with bailiffs
If your council has passed the debt on to bailiffs then you may still be able to negotiate with the council. They may agree to stop the bailiffs’ action and accept a repayment plan. If they do, you will avoid having to pay bailiffs’ fees.

You may also be able to negotiate a repayment plan with the bailiffs themselves.  However, bailiffs will normally want repayment over quite a short period.  Private bailiffs can be very difficult to deal with and it is usually best not to let them into your home.  They are not allowed to force entry unless you have let them in on a previous visit.

If you are having problems negotiating an affordable payment arrangement with your council or bailiffs, you could ask to see any Code of Practice or Recovery Policy with which they should comply.

Going to court
As a last resort, your council can ask the magistrates’ court to consider sending you to prison for non-payment.  The court may decide instead to either

  • set a rate of repayment;
  • write off part or all of the debt, depending on your circumstances;
  • adjourn; or
  • make no order.

If you are required to attend a committal hearing we recommend you seek specialist advice.

If you need help dealing with council tax arrears or any other aspect of debt, we recommend that you speak to one of our debt advisers on 0845 345 4 345 for specialist advice. Telephone specialist advice is only available if you qualify for legal aid.

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