Tackling your debts

How to deal with council tax arrears - Part 1

Posted 18 September 2015

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More and more people are dealing with council tax arrears. If this is you then find out what you need to say to the council and how you can pay it back.

None of us wants to get into arrears with our bills, but it sometimes happens. So, what should you do if you’re already in arrears and can’t see a time when you’ll be able to pay what you owe?

Don’t ignore it

The first and most important thing to remember if you fall into arrears with your council tax, is don’t panic, everything is solvable. The second is don’t ignore it. Don’t underestimate the importance of this bill – it is a priority and can’t be ignored. Doing so could well end up in an attachment of earnings, bailiffs calling at your home, or in the worst case scenario, a visit to the court.

What you should be doing is finding out what help is available to you and that’s where we can help. We have dedicated advisors who can help you talk through your current position and what options you may have available to you.

Work out how much you owe and how much you can pay

If you’re not sure how much you currently owe, have a look at the latest letter you’ve received from your council, it’ll detail what they say you owe them. The first thing you may want to check is that you owe what they say you owe. You can do this by checking off the payments you’ve made against the payments they say they’ve received.

If it’s all correct, you now need to think about whether there’s any way you can meet the payment by making changes in the way that you use money. A good first step in this process is to put a budget in place. This will give you a good idea of what you’ve got coming in and going our each month and whether an increase in payments is really possible 

You could also try to see whether you could either raise some of the money owing by selling something, although we’d only really suggest this if you have no other options, or you have lots of things you really can do without. You could also think about whether earning more is an option you could use temporarily, for example taking on extra hours at work, if it’s possible. .

Either way, work out for definite how much you owe and can afford to pay towards the debt and then you can approach the council with a proposal for payment. 

Get in touch with the council 

As a general rule, it’s a bad idea to ignore creditors, including your council, as they’re likely to think that you don’t intend to pay the debt and may start court action.

So call them as soon as you can to explain why you’ve not been making payments and what you intend to do about it. When you speak to them it’s really important that you explain the money problems you’re having, and why if you’re comfortable doing so, and that you’re looking for any way to pay them what you owe.

Explain that you’ve looked at your finances and that you can afford to pay them £x amount each month (or however often they want the payment.) There’s no guarantee that they will accept this of course, but they’re more likely to make allowances if they know you’re putting the maximum amount you can towards what you owe. They may ask you to fill in one of their own budget forms to conform what you’re saying and, if you’re asked to do this, you should do so as soon as you can.  It’s probably best to give your local council tax office a call, just because it’s quicker than writing. But, you should  make sure that you note down who you spoke to, at what time and ask for what you agreed to  be confirmed in writing,  at the very least by email.  

That’ll do for now, in part two we’ll continue with how what you should do if the council refuse your offer of payment.






by Christine Walsh

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