Write Off Council Tax Debt
When it comes to Council Tax arrears, there are certainly some very serious consequences for failure to pay and/or to maintain pre-agreed arrangements.
Can I get my Council Tax written off?
The answer to this very much depends on your individual circumstances and whether or not your local authority will agree to write off your Council Tax in the event that you enter into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (otherwise known as an ‘IVA’). There are only certain authorities who will agree to this type of arrangement and you need to act quickly before they start to consider any type of enforcement action, which can quickly add to the overall debt.
What type of enforcement action can my local authority take against me?
Once you’ve fallen into arrears with your Council Tax (or failed to maintain an arrangement you’ve made), your local authority can very quickly look to enforce it. This can be done using a number of different methods including:
- Home visits from an authorised bailiff or debt collector
- Removal of goods for onward sale/auction
- County Court proceedings (with a view to securing a County Court Judgment)
- An Attachment of Earnings Order
- A Liability Order, which is issued by the local Magistrates Court
- Deductions from certain benefits, such as Universal Credit
It’s also important to bear in mind that any type of enforcement action will usually involve additional costs being added to your account so the amount you owe can very quickly increase.
Which local authorities will accept an IVA?
If your local authority agrees to IVA’s then you may be able to get the vast majority of your Council Tax debt written off.
At the present time, the following authorities accept IVA arrangements (although you must remember that they’re not legally obliged to so don’t be tempted to just assume they will):
- Brighton & Hove
- East Hampshire
- East Lindsey
- Newark & Sherwood
- Kings Lynn & West Norfolk
- London Borough of Redbridge
- North Kesteven
- Redcar and Cleveland
- Reigate and Banstead
- South Oxfordshire
- Surrey Heath
- West Lancs
- North East Lincolnshire
- Rhondda Cynon Taf
How can I pay my Council Tax?
Most local authorities offer an array of different ways to pay your Council Tax, for example:
- Through internet banking
- Through telephone banking
- By way of direct debit or standing order
- At your local Post Office
- At any local PayPoint areas (which are usually found in local shops or supermarkets)
If you’re unsure about how you can make payments then you should contact the Council Tax department of your local authority and ask for advice.
What will happen if I don’t pay my Council Tax?
If you don’t pay your council tax debts then your local authority will usually apply to the Magistrates Court for a Liability Order. This means that they can then ‘enforce’ the debt, using whatever means they consider necessary – for example, by deducting payments directly from your employer or instructing High Court Bailiffs to attend at your property with a view to removing goods for sale. For this reason it’s always advisable to seek advice at the soonest opportunity since this could avoid further costs being added to the overall amount.
So an IVA could mean my Council Tax is written off?
In essence, yes. However, there are certain types of debt that can’t be included in an IVA, for example:
- Mortgage repayments
- Secured loans
- Student loans
- Child maintenance payments
- Rent payments
- Utility bills (such as gas, telephone and electricity)
- Court fines
For this reason it’s important to seek professional advice before taking the decision to enter into an IVA since it might not be the best solution for you. Remember, there are certain disadvantages of entering into an IVA (which include this being recorded on your credit file) so it’s not something you should enter into lightly; or without taking advice from an insolvency expert or practitioner.
Are there other ways of lowering the cost of Council Tax?
Yes – and this is why it’s always advisable to speak with your local authority since they may be able to help. They could, for example, agree to your Council Tax being paid over 12 months, instead of 10 – or they could give you advice on certain reductions such as single person discount allowance or disability reductions etc. There are lots of different criteria which can be applied so never be afraid to ask the question. You could end up saving a substantial amount of money.
What’s the best way to best manage my Council Tax?
For any type of advice as to what you might be entitled to it’s always best to speak with your local authority – or even your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
At the end of the day, your local authority are there to help and will be best placed to discuss your individual circumstances with a view to helping you manage your Council Tax arrears over the year. If, for example, you’re on a low income then you might be entitled to receive a reduction and the best way to evidence this is to provide full details of your income and outgoings as best you can. In some cases, your local authority will want to see actual evidence of any income you receive (for example, a payslip or proof of benefit payments) so always be sure to collect as much evidence as you can to see what you might be entitled to receive.
If your debts are substantial and you feel that an IVA might be the best way forward then always be sure to seek professional advice and again, be completely transparent about both your income and outgoings so that your chosen advisor can give you the very best advice.
Unfortunately, whilst many people are tempted to simply bury their heads in the sand, this definitely isn’t the right thing to do. Remember, people are there to help – not hinder – so don’t be afraid to reach out, take advice and start doing something positive about your debts.