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A guide to your Council Tax

If you get into payment difficulties and cannot afford your payments, you should contact Council Tax straight away.

What happens if I do not pay?

Help and support is available... you just need to take the step in asking for it.

If you are struggling to pay your bill, please get in touch with us. Do not wait for a reminder.

  • We can offer advice and assistance on discounts or reductions you may be eligible for.
  • We can also discuss payment arrangements with you to help ease the pressure.

Have you had a letter from us, but not sure why? This list of correspondence that we send may be a help to you:

Bill

Why is it sent? The bill shows you how much Council Tax you owe for the year. This amount is broken down into instalments. It will also show the date that payment needs to be paid by. These are normally sent at the start of the financial year or, if your Council Tax bill changes, during the year. There are usually ten instalments, but you can ask to pay in twelve monthly instalments.

What should I do? Pay the instalments on or before the due date shown. If the instalment date we have given you is not convenient for you this can be changed. The dates we offer for payment are the 1st, 7th, 15th, 21st or 28th.

What if I am struggling to pay my bill? Pay as much as you can as often as you can. If you are paying less than the monthly instalment or paying after the date your instalment is due then you will receive letters from us, these are called Reminders.

First or second reminder

Why is it sent? This is sent because you have fallen behind with your payments. This usually means you have not paid an instalment by its due date or that you have paid less than the monthly instalment shown on your bill.

What should I do? If you are able to, bring your account back up to date within the specified time. If an account is brought back up to date and kept up to date, then no further letters will be sent.

What if I cannot bring my payment up to date? If you cannot bring your payments up to date, you will lose your right to pay by instalments. No further reminders will be issued and the next letter you get will be a Magistrates Court Summons. This will ask you to pay the full balance on your account. Court costs will also be added at this stage.

If you are struggling to make payments as requested on your bill, please contact us for assistance. It can be possible to agree a payment arrangement that avoids the need for the Court Summons to be issued, providing the agreement is maintained.

Final notice

Why is it sent? This is normally sent if you have had a first and second reminder, brought your account up-to-date, then fallen behind again. It can also have been sent if you agreed a payment arrangement after getting a reminder and missed a payment. This letter cancels your right to pay your bill in instalments and you will be asked to pay the remaining balance on your account in full.

What should I do? You must pay the balance in full within the specified time. If you pay the account in full you will not be sent any more letters.

What if I cannot pay in full? If you cannot pay the account in full, the next letter you get will be a Magistrates' Court Summons. When this has been issued, we cannot re-instate instalments, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Please contact us to discuss your account. We can make an arrangement that avoids the need to take further recovery action, as long as your payments are kept up with.

Magistrates Court Summons / Liability Order

Why is it sent? A Court Summons is sent to tell you that the Council is going to Court to get a Liability Order against you. At this stage costs for the Summons will be added to your account. Once the Liability Order is obtained, further costs will be added for granting of the order. This is a legal document that states how much you owe us and allows for recovery action to be taken against you to recover the balance.

What should I do? You must pay in full before the Court date that is shown on your Summons. If you pay the balance in full (including the Court costs) before the Court Date you will not be sent any more letters. Please contact us and we will cancel the Court Summons costs, if:

  • You cannot pay the balance in full, but you can pay your missed instalments;
  • and you are willing to pay your future instalments by Direct Debit.

What if I cannot do this? If you contact us, you can make an arrangement to clear your account. Any arrangement made will include the Summons costs, plus £31 costs for issuing the Liability Order. Provided that you keep to the arrangement, we will not take any further action against you.

Please note: Entry to the Magistrates' Court building is prohibited due to COVID-19. Court hearings are by appointment only and will be held via telephone.

Disputing a Liability Order

Please refer to the notes on the back of the Summons regarding defences.

There are two valid defences a court would consider before issuing a Liability Order:

  • The council has failed to issue a bill and reminder to your last known address.
  • You have paid the amount in full, including costs.

Things which are not defences against a Liability Order and Magistrates cannot consider, whether:

  • The council was right to order you to pay council tax on the dwelling concerned.
  • You should pay the tax.
  • The amount claimed is wrong.
  • You should get Council Tax Reduction.
  • Your council tax reduction has been worked out correctly.

A Liability Order allows us to take a number of different actions against you, if you do not pay. It lets us:

  • Ask for details about your job or benefits.
  • Take money directly from your wages or certain state benefits.
  • Take money from your allowance if you are an elected member of a council.
  • Use enforcement agents who can take your goods to sell to cover the amount you owe.
  • Ask for a 'charging order' to be made against your property.
  • Start bankruptcy proceedings against your property.
  • Apply for you to be sent to prison.

Some recovery actions increase the amount you owe as additional costs are added. To avoid this, please contact us and make an arrangement to pay.

In certain cases, customers may be identified as vulnerable. For more about this, please read:

Information about Bailiffs / Enforcement Agents

Bailiffs are now known as Enforcement Agents (from 6th April 2014).

Your debt can be passed to an Enforcement Agent to collect, if:

  • A Liability Order has been obtained and you fail to pay your Council Tax as specified on the order;
  • or you do not maintain your payments on any arrangement agreed with us.

Very important note: Once your debt has been passed to an Enforcement Agent you will need to deal directly with them.

If your debt is passed to an Enforcement Agent:

  • A fixed fee of £75 will be incurred and a Compliance Notice is issued inviting you to make an arrangement.
  • Failure to make a suitable arrangement will result in an Enforcement Notice being issued.
  • The letter will advise you of the agent’s intention to visit your property to take control of your goods.
  • You should contact them directly and without delay to:
    • Pay in full;
    • or discuss a payment arrangement.

If the Enforcement Agent visits your property:

  • You will incur extra fees of £235 plus 7.5% of any balance over £1,500.
  • The purpose of the visit will be to take control of your goods. They will identify things that belong to you that could be taken and sold to pay off your debt.

If you cannot pay in full:

  • You may be able to make an arrangement with the Enforcement Agent (known as a ‘Controlled Goods Agreement’).

If you fail to keep up with this arrangement and the Enforcement Agent attends your property to remove goods for sale:

  • Further fees of £110 (plus fees of 7.5% of the value of the debt exceeding £1,500) will be incurred.

It is important to maintain your payment arrangement to avoid additional fees. If you have any difficulties paying on time, contact the agent to discuss your situation, do not wait until your payments have fallen into arrears.

The Government changed the way enforcement agents operate and collect debts. These changes aim to:

  • Create an open, transparent and sustainable process.
  • Protect the vulnerable against what is often seen as aggressive bailiff methods.
  • Reduce physical doorstep activity with the enforcement agent.
  • Have fixed and clear fees.

For more on this, visit: Bailiff powers when they visit your home (GOV.UK).

Contact from the Council Tax Support Team

We are currently working in a different way to help residents with their Council Tax. You might receive contact from us if you are behind with your payments and need some extra support.

How our team will contact you

  • By phone. They will introduce themselves by name and confirm they are from the Council Tax Support team.
  • By email. This will be from the Council Tax Support email address. You can reply directly to the email with your contact details and an adviser will contact you.
  • By text. The message will show that it is has been sent by Customer Support Calderdale.

The Council Tax Support Team are here to help you.