Paying Your Council Tax Bill and Arrears Action
You will normally receive your annual council tax bill in March. It will tell you the amount you have to pay and how that amount has been calculated. The bill will also show your instalments and their due dates. Normally you will be offered ten instalments, although that number will be reduced if the bill is issued after the end of April. In most cases the payment free months are Feb and March but consult your newest bill for your instalments that are due.
For cash payers council tax instalments are due on the 7th of each month from April. Direct debit payers can choose from the 1st, 5th, 15th or 25th of the month.
If you wish to pay by direct debit please contact us on 01553 616200.
What if the bill is wrong?
If you think the bill is wrong in any way you should tell us immediately. You must continue to pay the amounts set out in your original bill until you are sent a revised bill. We aim to deal with your query within a week.
What if the amount I have to pay changes during the year?
If the amount of council tax you have to pay changes during the year, you will be sent a revised bill. This will tell you what the new amount for the year is, and what instalments you now have to pay.
What if I have trouble paying the bill?
As soon as you realise you have a problem paying your bill you should talk to us as you may be entitled to a reduction in your bill, for example, through council tax benefit. Do not ignore the bill completely, if you do not pay it we will take recovery action, which could increase considerably the amount you have to pay.
What if I don't pay?
If you miss a council tax instalment you may be issued with a reminder notice at any time after the due date and such a notice will request payment of any instalments due plus any instalments due within a further 7 days of the notice date.
If you have already been issued with one reminder notice, in any one financial year, which has been paid, and you again fail to maintain your instalments you may be issued with a second reminder notice.
If you have already been issued with a second reminder notice and again fail to maintain your instalments, you may be issued with a final notice. Such a notice will demand full payment of the amount due to the end of the financial year.
Failure to comply with a reminder, second reminder or a final notice will result in a summons being issued to you to pay the full amount on your account immediately. If this happens, you will be charged £75.00 costs for the issue of the summons.
Why have I been summonsed?
We have not received the amount on your bill and reminder letter(s).
Do I have to attend the Magistrates' Court on the date shown?
No, unless you dispute that the sum shown on your summons is due from you, it is not necessary for you to attend the Hearing. You have a legal right if you wish to do so but the court will not consider any proposals for payment. The purpose of the Hearing is to consider the actual liability for payment of the council tax and not the ability to pay. If you do attend the Hearing, please bring the summons with you.
What happens if I pay the full sum before the date I am due to appear in court?
The court proceedings can be stopped by payment in full, including the amount of the summons costs. We must receive payment before the Hearing. If the costs are not paid we will still apply for a liability order for the outstanding amount.
What do I do if I cannot afford to make payment in full?
If you cannot pay in full now, you should contact Revenues Services at once giving full details of your proposals for payment. The Hearing will still take place and a liability order applied for. However, in appropriate cases, further recovery action may be withheld if alternative payment arrangements can be agreed. Costs may still be incurred and any payment arrangement will be for the total amount including all applicable costs.
What powers does a liability order give the Council?
If the court grants a liability order, 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 methods of recovery are:
Attachment of earnings orders
We can order your employer to recover the amount direct from your wages or salary and pay it straight to us. 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 us.
Deductions from income support or job seekers allowance
If you are receiving income support, we may be able to apply for deductions from your benefit.
We 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 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
- Take close possession of your goods by staying on the premises until payment is made or the goods are removed for sale
- Can remove the goods with a view to their sale
Other options for enforcement action include bankruptcy proceedings, and, for a debt of £1000 or more, a charging order whereby the authority may apply to a county court for a charge on the debtor's property.
What if I am still unable to pay?
We may apply to the magistrates' court for a warrant committing you to prison. We will only take this step when other efforts have failed and when we have 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 fix a term of imprisonment and postpone the warrant on certain conditions, normally relating to payment of the debt over a period of time.
Telephone: 01553 616200
Finance & Resources Department
Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk
PO Box 26
Last updated: 12 March 2013