Dealing with Council Tax Debt in Scotland

Written by Karen Bryan

scotland-council-tax-homeAccording to recent research, we Scots have the highest level of Council Tax arrears in the UK. And it’s a growing problem. The number of people seeking debt advice because of Council Tax arrears has risen by over 350% in the last five years alone.

So, if you have Council Tax debt, the first thing to say is that you are not alone. The important thing is to get advice and get it now. If you leave it too late or ignore the problem, you run the risk of your wages being arrested or your bank accounts frozen. Organisations such as Council Tax Advisors offer free, independent advice about Council Tax debt. They can also help sort out the problem on your behalf, no matter how serious your situation.

How Do Councils Deal with Council Tax Debt?

There is a very clear legal process for dealing with Council Tax debt that Councils must follow. Here is a summary of the procedure.

Reminder letters about Council Tax debt

The first time you miss a monthly Council Tax payment you will receive a reminder letter from your Council to let you know. The letter will tell you how much you owe. If you do not pay the amount you owe within seven days, you lose your right to pay in instalments. At this point, you must pay the rest of the year’s bill in one lump sum.

The second time you miss a Council Tax payment in the same year, you will receive another reminder. Like the first time, if you do not pay the amount you owe within seven days, you lose your right to pay in instalments and must pay the rest of the year’s bill in one lump sum.

If you miss a Council Tax payment for a third time in the same year, you will automatically lose your right to pay in instalments.

If you miss a payment for any reason, it can be helpful to seek independent debt advice. Independent debt advisors such as Council Tax Advisors can provide free and impartial advice about how to sort out the problem.

Final Notices about Council Tax debt

You will receive a Final Notice about Council Tax in three situations. If you do not pay your first or second missed payment within seven days of receiving the reminder letter. Or if you miss your third payment.

A Final Notice will state that you have 14 days to pay the entire amount that is outstanding for the rest of the year.

Some Councils will still accept payment by instalments even after they have sent a Final Notice. However, you need to contact your Council to see if you can arrange this.

Arranging payment by instalments is something that can be managed by an independent debt advisor working on your behalf. They will understand the options open to you and help take away some of the stress of the situation. If you need free advice, Council Tax Advisors is a good place to start.

Summary Warrants for Council Tax debt

A Summary Warrant is a certificate from the Sheriff Court stating the amount of Council Tax you owe. Your Council will apply to the Sheriff Court for it if you do not pay the Council Tax debt you owe within 14 days of receiving a Final Notice (or if you haven’t been in touch to arrange payment by instalments by then).

You will receive the Summary Warrant through the post. It will include details of the amount you owe, plus a 10% penalty. It will also tell you the details of the Sheriff Officer you need to contact to arrange to pay the amount you owe.

Sheriff Officers are private companies that Councils employ to collect Council Tax debt on their behalf. One of the biggest companies is Scott & C0, but there are many others that your Council may use.

What Powers do Sheriff Officers Have to Collect Council Tax Debt?

Sheriff Officers can arrange a repayment plan with you on behalf of your Council. If you get income support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or pension credit, you can ask for payments to be made directly from your benefit.

If you receive a Summary Warrant, you have 14 days to get in touch with the Sheriff Officer and start to put the repayment plan in place. If you would like help with this, contact Council Tax Advisors who can negotiate on your behalf free of charge.

If you do not come to a repayment arrangement with the Sheriff Officers, they can ask you for information such as the name and address of your employer, your National Insurance number, your bank account details or the name and address of anyone else who is liable to pay your Council Tax with you. You must provide the information they request within 14 days or you may be fined.

At this point, your Council will also obtain a charge for payment, which usually lasts for 14 days. If you have not repaid your Council Tax arrears before then, the Sheriff Officers have the power to take the money you owe.

They can do this by:

  • stopping your earnings
  • freezing your bank accounts
  • taking money from your bank accounts
  • removing belongings from your home and selling them

To avoid getting to this point, it is important to take action as early as you can. But even if you are at this point, it is not too late. Whatever your situation, independent debt advisors Council Tax Advisors’ free service helps you put in place a plan to deal with your Council Tax debt. So if you are having problems with Council Tax debt, take action and contact them today.