Tackling your debts

Attachment of Earnings (AoE) for Council Tax Arrears Part 1

Posted 24 September 2015

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Read our guide to understand how an Attachment of Earnings could affect you and your council tax arrears.

Council tax is the charge you pay to your local authority for various important local services, such as schools, collecting your rubbish and street lighting. Most of us have to pay this tax, but for some it’s become a struggle to keep up with the payments. According to Citizen’s Advice, the number of people having trouble with this payment has soared, making it the number one debt problem dealt with by them in recent times.  

They also point out that council tax arrears are not just a problem for people out of work, but for in-work households as well, and that for most people this is not the only debt that they are having to deal with. Some households are finding that council tax is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, making the difference between being able to afford their debt repayments and defaulting.

With more and more people having trouble paying, and ending up in the council’s debt recovery system, we thought this two-part series would be helpful to explore how the council use an AoE to reclaim your council tax arrears.

What is an Attachment of Earnings?

When you fall behind with your council tax payments, the local council has a number of recovery methods they can use. One of the methods used when others have failed, is an AoE. These work by deducting a percentage of your wages every time you’re paid, which is taken before you receive your pay and paid directly towards your debt.

In order to do this, the council has to get a liability order against you from a Magistrates court in order to enforce the debt. The issuing of a liability order means that the court has looked at the evidence the council presented to them regarding non-payment of your council tax, and they agree that you do owe the money and that the council can takes steps to make you to pay what you owe.

If you don’t believe that you owe the amounts the council says you do, then it’s possible for you to attend the court hearing and explain why you do not owe the money.

When any case is brought before the courts there is a legal cost, and there is a possibility that the court costs can be added to what you owe. If this happens, it will be clearly detailed on the documentation you receive regarding your liability order.

How does it work?

If the court decides that an AoE is appropriate, the Magistrate will order your employer to deduct a certain amount of money from your wages each time you’re paid. The money will leave your pay before it reaches you, and be sent to pay off your council tax arrears, until the debt is paid in full. Employers are also entitled to charge a £1 admin fee each time they are asked to do complete administration for the AoE.

How much would they take?

Don’t worry, this is worked out carefully, so as to make sure that you don’t end up with no money each month. You may be asked to fill in a budget form, so that the council can see how much comes into and goes out of your account each month. And the payment amount the council will take will not be allowed to take you below the Protected Earnings rate. This is worked out by the court, they’ll look at how much you need to live on, and then decide on the amount that can be deducted from what you’ve earned over this point.

Because of this process, the amount taken depends on your specific circumstances and it is possible that you may not earn enough for them to deduct anything at all.

That’s enough for now. Check back next time for part two. And, if you feel you need some help with council tax arrears, and you don’t feel confident speaking to the council yourself, why not contact us using one of the methods on the left of the page.  

by Christine Walsh

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