If you’re lucky enough to be a home owner in the UK, then you’ll no doubt know that you’re required to pay council tax – which is calculated based on the value of your home, along with the number of people that occupy it. Your tax can be paid upfront, or can be spread over a 10 or 12-month period.
How much you’ll pay depends on which ‘band’ you are in, with Band A being the cheapest and band H or I being the most expensive. Your council tax rates may change if you have your house revalued and it falls within another band, or if you choose to rebuild or convert your home by adding or removing bedrooms, again, this may affect how much you need to pay.
Whether or not you work from home can also have an effect, so be sure to do your research if any of this currently applies to you. But where does this money go? It is used to pay for services and infrastructure, by local councils and authorities.
As this money is so important to local areas, you are unlikely to have council tax debt written off, however, there are some options available. For example, if you meet certain criteria, you may be entitled to a reduction – but we’ll have more on this later.
If you’re currently looking for help with council tax debt, you’ve come to the right place and you may actually be eligible for a discount or reduction. For example, if you have a low income, you could see your payments decreased or have the full amount paid by your local authority – but the amount your bill will be reduced by will depend on where you live, your household income, whether or not your children live with you and whether or not other adults live with you.
If you live on your own, you’re automatically entitled to a 25% single person discount – and it’s worth noting that if you’re living with a student, an apprentice or somebody that is ‘severely mentally impaired’, you could still be eligible for the discount. You are also entitled to a discount if you’re above pension age, or if your house has been modified to accommodate somebody with a disability.
If you feel that you could be eligible for help with council tax debt in the form of a discount or reduction, applying is pretty straight forward. You can do so be heading to the website of your local council and follow the instructions they give you. You’ll need a valid national insurance number to apply and you may be asked to provide evidence to support your application.
Once your application is complete, the local authority has 14 days in which to process this, they’ll then need to notify you via letter with their decision. If you disagree with their decision, you might be able to appeal to a Valuation Tribunal for one of three reasons: if you think the local authority has miscalculated how much of a reduction you are entitled to, or you think they haven’t properly applied the rules of the CTR scheme or if they haven’t responded to the letter you sent disagreeing with their decision within a two-month period.
There are a few circumstances which would make someone exempt from paying, or give them a discount on the total amount. Certain properties or people can qualify depending on their situation. Property groups which are exempt include:
Certain people can get a 25% discount as well if they are classed as an adult and meet these criteria:
There are also certain other exceptions and discounts available for people with disabilities and low incomes.
It’s a common misconception that when it comes to paying back your debts, payday loads, credit cards and bank loans take priority over council tax arrears. However, this tax is classed as a priority bill, making it generally pretty difficult to reduce your arrears and local authorities generally will want them repaid within a year.
If you do find yourself in council tax arrears, authorities tend to act pretty quickly. If you’re more than 14 days late, you’ll be sent a reminder letter and no further action will be taken and you can continue to pay in installments, if you pay within 7 days of receiving the letter.
However, if you don’t make the payment, you may be asked to pay the entire tax amount for the remainder of the year – again, you’ll be given 7 days to do this. If you still don’t settle your payments, court action may be taken against you, which could result in enforcement agents, or payments being taken directly from your wages.
In extreme circumstances, the debt can be secured against your home if you owe more than £1,000, or you could be made bankrupt if more than £5,000 is owed.
If you’ve found yourself in a situation where you can’t afford your council tax, there are options out there to help you out. The first thing you need to do is contact your local council as soon as possible, as it may be a simple case of just restructuring your payment plan, to take a bit of financial pressure off yourself. As mentioned previously, you may be eligible for a discount, so be sure to do your homework and be sure to claim and exemptions or discounts that you may be entitled to.
If it’s abundantly clear that you can’t pay your council tax debts as well as any other debt you may have, then it may be time to consider a debt management plan, debt consolidation or even insolvency.
Obviously, this should be seen as a last resort, but insolvency can often be a positive thing for your finances in the long run, as it essentially means you can get a clean slate and start rebuilding your credit rating at the end of the 3 or 5-year period.
It’s important that you seek council tax debt advice, before making any rash decisions regarding your arrears and repayments. As we stated earlier, acting quickly is imperative, especially if you have been issued with a letter from your local authority following a missed payment.
Your local council should be able to tell you everything you need to know, however debt advice is also available from a number of other outlets, with the Citizens Advice Bureau being one of them.