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What happens if you don't pay?

The majority of council tax payers pay their accounts on time each month. It is therefore important to them, and the council, that anyone who does not pay is pursued for payment quickly. This ensures arrears are kept to a minimum and that council tax is kept as low as possible for everyone.

The following information briefly explains the process that we follow if you do not pay your council tax.

Recovery of Council Tax

There are three main stages of council tax recovery. It is important that the instalments are paid when they are due:

First Reminder

If an instalment is overdue, a reminder is issued for the amount of the arrears. If payment of this amount is made within seven days, your instalments can continue. If you can't pay the amount of the arrears within seven days, you lose the right to pay by instalments and the whole balance on your Council Tax account is due to be paid. If you do not pay the whole amount a Summons for non-payment will be issued. Please be aware, a reminder is not sent every month.

Second Reminder

If you paid in full the arrears on your first reminder, but you are late paying a further instalment a second reminder will be issued. If payment of your arrears is made within seven days then you can continue with your original instalment plan. If you do not pay the arrears you will lose the right to pay by instalments and you must pay the whole balance on your Council Tax account within the next seven days or a summons for non-payment will be issued. Please be aware that you will not receive a further reminder. Only two reminders are issued in any one financial year.

Final Notice

If another instalment is missed then the whole balance on your Council Tax account becomes due. if this is not paid within seven days then a Summons for non-payment will be issued.

Summons

If you have not paid after receiving a reminder notice, or have not paid the whole amount of the final notice then you will receive a Summons for non-payment of your Council Tax.  At this point you will incur an additional charge of up to £70. If you pay the whole amount on the Summons including the costs then the case will not go before the Magistrates Court.

If payment is not made in full then whatever balance remains unpaid will go before the Magistrates Court to ask for a Liability Order to be awarded to South Derbyshire District Council.  This entitles us to take further steps to recover the money from you.

Liability Order

If the amount shown on the summons is not paid in full by the court date the Council will apply to the Magistrates Court for a liability order. An order will be granted to the Council if the Court is satisfied that the Council has followed the correct procedures in setting and requesting payment of the Council Tax.

Once granted the liability order provides the Council with the option of the following enforcement powers.  Further information is available regarding each option:

Information Request

Once a liability order has been granted by the Magistrates Court for non-payment of Council Tax, the Council are entitled to request information regarding your income.

If requested, you are required by law to provide this information and failure to provide, or providing false information is a criminal offence and if found guilty carries a substantial fine and will result in a criminal record.

Once your fully completed form has been received the Council will be able to consider its options regarding enforcing payment of the debt.

Payment Arrangements

At all stages of debt recovery we encourage our customers to contact the Debt Recovery unit and make an offer of payment.

If an Information Request form is fully completed and returned to the Council, we may consider accepting an offer of payment which clears the debt by the end of the financial year.

We can be flexible in our arrangements, in that they can be paid weekly, fortnightly or monthly and we offer the same choices of payment method as are offered with your bill.  As always our preferred method of payment is direct debit.

If an arrangement is made but not maintained we will quickly, and without further warning escalate our action to recover the debt.

Attachment of Earnings Order

Once a liability order has been granted by the Magistrates Court, the authority is entitled to demand money from your wages or salary via an Attachment of Earnings Order. This will be used if acceptable arrangements to pay have not been made or if you have not paid the outstanding balance in full.

If you are employed, we can instruct your employer to take deductions from your salary or wages and pay it directly to us in settlement of your Council Tax debt. Your employer will also be able to make a small deduction from your salary for their own administration costs.

The amounts we take will depend on how much you earn based on a percentage of your net pay every month or week, see our deductions from earnings for more information.

Your employer will continue to take payments until you have paid what you owe. By law, your employer must follow the Attachment of Earnings Order guidance and regulations and can be prosecuted and fined if they do not.

Once we issue the Attachment of Earnings Order, we will only stop proceedings once you have paid us all the council tax you owe.

Deductions from Benefits

The Council can request that the Department for Work and Pensions (the Benefits Agency) deduct a sum from certain benefits including Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support and Pension Credits. This deduction will then be paid over to the Council. The 2014/15 level of deduction is £3.65 per week.

Deductions can also be made against contribution based benefits, such as Job Seekerís Allowance (contribution based) and Employment Support Allowance (contribution based). The current level of weekly deduction is £19.11 for persons aged under 25; and £24.13 for persons aged 25 and above.

Please note these amounts are reviewed annually.

Enforcement Agency Action

After a liability order has been granted the Council can instruct Enforcement Agents to collect the debt. 

Once an account has been passed to the Enforcement Agency, all dealings must be done directly with them.

The Enforcement Agency may recover from the debtor the fees indicated in the schedule below:

SCHEDULE Regulation 4
Fees recoverable under regulation 4

Table 1
Enforcement other than under a High Court Writ

Fee StageFixed FeePercentage fee (regulation 7): percentage of sum to be recovered exceeding £1500
Compliance stage£75.000%
Enforcement stage£235.007.50%
Sale or disposal stage£110.007.50%

Compliance Stage

During the compliance stage debtors will be offered the opportunity to agree an arrangement that is achievable. Their approach is to provide supported compliance through the agreement of manageable arrangements based on income and expenditure data and an individualís propensity to meet their commitments.

Enforcement Stage

On making contact with the debtor the Enforcement Agent will seek full payment of the debt, partial payment in accordance with the debtorís individual requirements or take control of goods.

All action will be taken strictly in accordance with the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2014. All documentation will be prescribed documentation as per the regulations.

On set up of the agreement a copy will be left with the debtor, the person authorised by the debtor to complete the controlled goods agreement or the person in apparent authority at the time.

Where a vehicle is seized on a highway the enforcement agent may affix an immobilization device and provide the debtor with a minimum of 2 hours in which to pay the outstanding amount to removal of the vehicle.

Sale or Disposal Stage

The removal and sale of goods is the very last outcome and is to be avoided where possible but where payment is not made The Enforcement Agent will issue a Notice of Intention to Proceed to Sale. This notice will advise the debtor of the proposed action to include methods of payment of the debt, and any or all fees that may be incurred following the 1st attendance at the premises with the intention of removal of goods.

Goods are only removed if they belong to the debtor (whether owned solely or jointly with another person), and reasonable precautions are taken to ensure this. If it is subsequently established that the goods belong to another, they are released immediately upon receipt of proof of ownership.

The Council works in partnership with two private Enforcement Agencies, Equita and M A Julius & Co.

All Enforcement Agents, whether employed directly or through a partnership agreement with the Council must adhere to the Council's Enforcement Agency code of practice.

Insolvency Action

At any point after you have missed payment of an instalment for your Council Tax and providing you owe £700 or more, the Council can make an application to the County Court to have you made bankrupt. This action could mean you lose your assets, income or even your home. It will also severely affect your ability to obtain credit.

This action is started by the serving of a statutory demand giving you either 18 days to apply to have the demand set aside or 21 days to pay the debt in full. If you do neither of these the Council is then able to petition for your bankruptcy.

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