Enforcement and recovery of Council Tax

If you are sent a summons, you should pay the outstanding amount in full including any costs, or agree a payment arrangement before the hearing date. To make a payment arrangement, please view Council Tax Summons.

If you don't pay the full outstanding amount before a summons hearing date, the council will request a liability order from the Magistrates Court. If granted, the Liability Order gives the Council powers to recover the debt.

We will send you a letter to advise if the Liability Order was obtained. The letter will tell you what happens next. A form will be enclosed with the letter for you to complete and return to us. When we receive the form, we will try to make a payment arrangement with you based on your circumstances.

If you don't return the form or an agreement cannot be reached, we will use one of the following methods to recover the outstanding amount.

Bailiffs (Enforcement Agents)

Your outstanding amount will be passed to bailiffs to recover on our behalf. You will need to discuss your debt directly with the bailiffs. If you try to speak to the Council about it, you will usually be referred back to the bailiff company.

You should be aware that bailiffs:

  • have the right to peaceful entry to your home
  • can't force entry unless they have signed a Control of Goods Agreement
  • have the power to remove certain goods to clear the debt, if you are not able to pay the debt in full
  • can't remove goods belonging to your landlord.  You will need to provide proof of ownership if you are a tenant
  • will charge you for recovery costs. For details see Enforcement Agents charges (PDF)

You can also view information on: Bailiff powers when they visit your home

Vulnerable Council Tax payers

A person may be considered vulnerable if they:

  • understand the proceedings, but there are extenuating circumstances, for example a recent bereavement 
  • have a physical or mental disability or difficulty understanding English If so, we will seek to refer them to appropriate support, for example the Citizens Advice Bureau 

For further information on vulnerability, please see Council Tax Collection and Recovery Policy statement

We may consider taking the debt back from Bailiffs if we have evidence of vulnerability. To send proof, please use the Evidence Upload Form.

What happens if the bailiff can't collect the money?

The bailiff will return your case back to the council if:

  • they couldn't collect the debt; and
  • there were insufficient goods to sell to clear the debt

In such cases, the council may  make a further application to the Magistrates Court for you to attend a means enquiry.  At the means enquiry the council will seek your committal to prison.  At the means enquiry, you'll have to show good reasons why you have not paid your Council Tax.

The Magistrates may:

  • make a court order for payment on such terms as they decide
  • order the council to cancel all, or part of the Council Tax owed
  • issue a warrant for your arrest if you fail to attend the hearing
  • send you to prison or give a conditional suspended sentence

If the Magistrates Court decides that your failure to pay was due to either wilful refusal or culpable neglect, they may order your committal to prison.

Attachment to earnings

The Council can send an order to your employer to make deductions from your wages. The amount deducted is a percentage set by the Government and will depend on the amount you earn.

Attachment to benefits

The Council can request the Department for Work and Pensions to make a deduction from:

  • Universal Credit
  • Income Support
  • Job Seekers Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credits

Bankruptcy and liquidation

Insolvency proceedings may begin under the Insolvency Act 1986 if you owe more than £750. Proceedings may be against an individual or a limited company.

Charging orders

If you owe over £1000 and own a property, the council may apply for a charging order to enforce the sale of the property to clear the amount owed. 

Committal to prison

If your Council Tax remains outstanding after bailiffs have tried to recover the outstanding amount, the council may apply to the Magistrates' Court for your committal to prison.  If the court decides the outstanding amount is due to wilful refusal or culpable neglect, they may commit you to prison for up to 3 months. The court may decide to postpone the period of imprisonment on certain conditions, normally relating to payment of the debt over a period of time.

Council Tax collection and recovery policy

Our Council Tax recovery policy explains our approach to recovering unpaid tax. It includes information on the following topics:

  • Our approach to collecting council tax
  • How we may enforce payment
  • Enforcement action
  • Committal proceedings
  • Vulnerable groups

For further information, see the Council Tax collection and recovery policy.