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How to get help with your Council Tax in Scotland

Posted 29 April 2013

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There are a number of organisations that may be able to help you if you're struggling with your Council Tax bill in Scotland. This guide explains how Council Tax in Scotland is changing in April 2013 - and how you can get help if you need it.

If you don't pay your Council Tax bill and/or arrears in Scotland, eventually a sheriff officer may be able to take money from your earnings, freeze or take money from your bank account, or take belongings from your home. So it's important to keep up with your payments and get help quickly if you find yourself unable to pay your Council Tax bills or arrears. Luckily, there is help available for those who need it. Here are a few things you should try if you're struggling with your Council Tax.

Contact your local council

As soon as you think you might have a problem paying your Council Tax bill, get in touch with your local council to see how they could help. There should be contact details on your Council Tax bills. Your local council may be able to help by spreading your payments over twelve months instead of ten.

If you're really struggling to pay, they might be able to offer you a one-off discount.

Get government help

The UK Government is abolishing the existing Council Tax Benefit in April 2013, but you'll probably be relieved to hear that nothing should actually be changing in Scotland - from your point of view, anyway.

The UK Government has left it up to individual councils to decide how they will help people who can't pay their Council Tax, and reduced the money it gives to local councils for Council Tax by 10%.

The Scottish Government has pledged to 'make up the difference' for all 558,000 Scottish Council Tax Benefit claimants in 2013/14. This will include people who are on low income, the unemployed, pensioners, disabled people unable to work, carers and those who receive tax credits.

So if you're struggling to pay your Council Tax, get in touch and see what help is available.

You can ask for payment to be made to your Council Tax arrears straight from your income support, jobseeker's allowance or pension credit benefits if you receive them.

Check if you're eligible for a discount or exemption

Some Scottish people are eligible for a discount on their Council Tax bill. You may be eligible for a discount if:

• You live alone, or the person you live with is away from home in hospital, prison or a residential care home
• You live with people who are exempt from paying Council Tax
• You own a purpose-built holiday home, like a mobile home or chalet.

You may be exempt from paying Council Tax if:

• Your property is empty for up to twelve months due to major structural repairs or alterations
• Your home is empty and unfurnished
• You're away from your property for various reasons, including being in care or prison
• You are a full-time student living in a house with other full-time students
• You're under 18
• You're severely mentally impaired.

There are a number of other reasons why you might be eligible for a discount on or exemption from Council Tax in Scotland. You should contact your council if you think you might be eligible, but you should continue paying your Council Tax until you've heard confirmation that you can stop.

Seek professional debt advice

If you're struggling with your Council Tax bills because you have problem debts, like personal loans and credit cards, it's important that you seek expert debt advice as soon as possible.

For example, at Debt Advisory Centre Scotland, we can look over your circumstances with you and help you decide how you should tackle your debts. We may recommend a debt solution that could reduce your monthly debt repayments to a level you can actually afford.

This should create room in your budget for you to deal with all your important monthly costs - including your Council Tax, as well as other bills, mortgage, food, etc.

Fill out the debt solution finder below and you'll get a call from one of our professional debt advisers, who can tell you about your options and explain all the pros and cons, so you can make the right decision.

by Sarah Symons

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