Council Tax – Pay or Don’t Pay?

For residents of the UK it’s a frustrating tax on society. The tax that means our bins are collected and public services are funded. Yet, it’s a lot of money every month to spend, per household. The council tax was instated during the Margaret Thatcher Government and has remained ever since.

Council tax is what’s described as a priority expenditure. This means, it MUST be paid. Generally, it goes, pay for your rent/ mortgage, gas/ electricity, food then council tax. If you don’t pay your council tax you can quickly find debt problems arrive at your door.

Avoid Council Tax Debt

I never experienced council tax debt during my worst debt spell. When I became unemployed I contacted the council and explained my situation, it meant that because I was on jobseekers allowance, I got council tax relief too. This meant I wasn’t eligible to pay council tax while I was unemployed.

Yet there are millions of people in arrears with their local council. It’s a problem a young girl I helped, was having. I spoke to her about her payday loan debts and ways she could resolve these. She was adamant that she had no other debts until we discussed her council tax.

“It’s not really a debt though, is it?” she said

It’s a common misunderstanding to think that the local council is not a commercial organisation. It may be funded by tax payers money, but they are all about increasing revenue in order to pay for services.

“Yes, council tax arrears are a debt”, I responded.

I went onto explain that the council was one of the most demanding of all creditors. Firstly, they will send round a bailiff to get their money, or to come to a payment plan. If this doesn’t work, the bailiff will either go to court to get  a possession order and lift your goods, to the value of the debt. They can’t take essentials, like a bed or fridge, but they can take TVs or cars.

The bailiff or council can also go to court in order to arrest your wages. This means they can take a percentage of your top line directly from your salary. This will also mean that your employer will find out about the debt.

The colour drained from her face and she was in shock by the importance of paying council tax. It’s not an expenditure to be taken lightly. The bailiffs weren’t involved yet, so it’s important to keep it that way.

Council Tax Bailiffs

The council don’t waste time speaking to people and trying to remain friendly. They refer the debt to a bailiff. The bailiff is charged with getting the debt back. They can use all legal powers to make you pay money towards the debt. The trick is to know how to deal with council tax bailiffs.

If you can afford to repay the debt, but don’t want to, then frankly, tough. Pay the money or risk court action and additional fees and charges.

Should you be one of the hundreds of thousands of people who can’t pay their council tax debt, then you may be afraid of the repercussions. Don’t be. The best thing to do is to speak to the bailiff.

The bailiff is guaranteed to do a number of things. Firstly, expect them to ask for the full amount of the debt. This is the council tax bailiff weeding out who can and can’t pay the debt. Even if you say you can’t afford it, they will still demand full payment. It can seem stressful but stick with the process. The bailiff wants to get to the bottom of what you can afford. If you own a car or other asset then the bailiff can take this, the best option is to speak to them to try and convince them not to take your items. If the bailiff decides to get a possession order for your goods then there is little you can do.

Tips For Dealing With Bailiffs

Our top 5 tips for dealing with bailiffs are:

1. Don’t ignore them: The easiest option is to put your head in the sand and pretend the bailiff doesn’t exist. They do! Seek help and speak to the bailiff before the problem escalates.

2. Don’t leave your door / windows open: Bailiffs are legally allowed to enter a premises which is unlocked. This means entry through an unlocked door or window is permitted.

3. Be prepared to negotiate: The bailiff will want to negotiate. At first they will often threaten you with jail if you don’t pay in full and this is to check if you seriously can’t afford the repayments. Once this stage is over the bailiff will set a repayment plan but it may be higher than you can afford. Stick to your affordable level – some bailiffs even take £1 per week just to get something back.

4. Persevere: Be persistent. You may not get your agreed plan immediately, but being persistent will usually mean you get your plan.

5. Stick to payment plan: Once you agree a payment plan with a bailiff you must stick to the agreement. If you fail to make payment then the bailiff will take your items or go to court immediately. You will rarely get a chance at a second payment plan.

Debt problems to council tax should be avoided at all costs, but if you’re having money worries seek help and advice from a registered debt charity. The charities often give people support and advice which can help with bailiff and council tax debt problems.

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John The Bankruptcy Guy

As an ex-bankrupt, John has experienced the highs and lows of credit. It's with this knowledge that he writes Debt Advice Resource - to help others avoid, or navigate out of, the pitfalls of debt.

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