One of the most common debts incurred by households across the UK is Council Tax – and many ask whether it’s possible to get Council Tax debt simply written off. As might be expected, the answer to this very much depends on numerous factors which include:
- Who the local authority (Council) is
- Whether the debtor decides to enter into an IVA
An IVA is an abbreviation for an ‘Individual Voluntary Arrangement’. They’re often used by debtors who owe numerous debts (for example, loan repayments or Council Tax) and basically enable all outstanding amounts to be consolidated into just one payment. There are, however, some exceptions as to what can be included in an IVA but when it comes to Council Tax arrears, these most certainly can – hence the reason why they’re often quite popular.
Once agreed and set up by a suitably qualified person, an IVA enables monthly repayments to be made to all creditors and usually means that only a set percentage of debts are actually repaid (the remaining balance being written off by mutual consent).
In order to enter into an IVA, 75% of the creditors must agree to it and once it’s been entered into then they’re no longer able to pursue a debtor for recovery of the outstanding amount(s) – for example, via correspondence, home visits or telephone calls. This is a major reason why many debtors choose to enter into an IVA although they certainly shouldn’t be entered into lightly since there are substantial costs involved and certain disadvantages – such as the details being recorded on the Personal Insolvency Register which is available to view online by members of the public.
What happens about Council tax arrears?
The recovery process for Council tax arrears naturally varies between each local authority but anyone struggling to meet their repayments are well advised to get in touch with their local authority sooner rather than later. All authorities across the UK are usually able to offer repayments on a monthly basis (i.e. over 12 months instead of the 10 which households are billed for) and can even offer certain reductions – for example, for anyone on a low income, in receipt of benefits or living alone.
If a payment is missed then most authorities will issue a reminder notice, permitting a period of 7 days within which to make payment. However, should payment not be made during this time then they are entitled to charge for the whole year’s Council tax in full and retract any offer of repayment over a set period of time. Thereafter, only two reminders are issued during any financial year (i.e. 1st April to 31st March of each year). Beyond that, the Council are entitled to commence proceedings for recovery of any outstanding amount and can ask the local Magistrates Court to make a Liability Order.
How can I pay my Council Tax?
Council Tax can be paid in a variety of different ways and usually, on the best terms to suit each individual household. Most local authorities will give full details of how to pay on their website and methods typically include some (or all) of the following:
- By paying at a local office (whether that be the main Council building or an alternative place, such as a local ‘one stop shop’, nominated PayPoint or Post Office)
- Via direct debit or standing order
- Over the internet
- By telephone banking
What sort of action can a local authority take in respect of Council Tax?
If Council tax remains unpaid then the Liability Order will be issued by the local Magistrates Court and this enables the authority to commence enforcement action. Prior to enforcing a Liability Order the Court will provide details of the Court hearing and representations can certainly be made in person during this hearing. However, there tend to be relatively few exceptions to the rule when it comes to the statutory requirement of paying Council Tax and most Magistrate Courts will simply order in favour of the local authority – whether that be by way of instalments or otherwise.
Thereafter, enforcement techniques typically include some (or even all) of the following:
- Deductions being made from certain benefits (for example, Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowances, Pension Credit and so on).
- Bailiffs being instructed to attend at a debtor’s home. These can either be County Court Bailiffs or High Court Bailiffs (depending on the amount owed). For debts under £600.00 then the County Court Bailiffs can enforce the Order, whereas anything above that amount has to be ‘transferred up’ and submitted to the High Court Bailiffs for recovery action. Each local authority tend to have their preferred provider. Either way, both the County Court or High Court Bailiffs can then enter a debtor’s property and remove goods for sale to the total amount of the outstanding liability, including any further costs, such as Court fees, bailiff fees and legal/solicitor costs. These tend to be quite substantial so any type of enforcement action along these lines is certainly best avoided.
- Deductions being made from an employer through an ‘Attachment of Earnings Order’. This means that payments will be made straight to the local authority from a debtor’s salary and of course, will also notify their employer that they’ve got into debt.
Which local authorities will accept IVA’s?
Whilst each local authority retains the right to object to an IVA, the following authorities will usually vote in favour of one, which ultimately means that they’ll get some of the debt paid back to them:
- Bolsover District Council
- Brighton and Hove
- East Hampshire
- East Lindsey
- Kings Lynn & West Norfolk
- London Borough of Redbridge
- Newark & Sherwood
- North Kesteven
- North East Lancs
- Redcar and Cleveland
- Reigate & Banstead
- Rhondda Cynon Taf
- South Oxfordshire
- Surrey Heath
- West Lancs
Where can I get more advice from?
If you want to discuss your own Council Tax arrears then you can contact us for an informal chat and we’ll certainly help in any way that we can.