What happens if I don’t pay on time?

The Council is committed to ensuring that Council Tax bills are kept as low as possible. Prompt collection means that the Council will spend less on sending reminders and final notices. If the cash is collected promptly the Council benefits from improved cash flow. If you have any problems paying, then please contact us. 

Your Council Tax bill shows you how much you need to pay and when your payments are due. Unless you pay by  Direct Debit  (where there is a choice of 3 payment dates) monthly instalments will be payable on the first of the month. If you pay by cheque, through the post office or through the bank, you should allow extra time for your payment to reach us. 

Reminder and Final Notices

If you do not pay instalments when they fall due, you will receive a Reminder notice telling you to bring your account up to date.

If you do not make a payment, the next notice you receive will be a Summons. This is because by paying nothing, the right to pay by monthly instalments is lost and the whole year becomes payable in advance.

If you pay the instalment shown on the Reminder, but then fail to pay the next one you will receive another Reminder notice. If you then fail to pay the next one, you will receive a Final Notice cancelling the instalment facility.

If you are having genuine difficulty in making payments, you should contact usstraight away and we will do our best to help you. 

Do not ignore the Reminder notice as if recovery action continues, this may mean you have to pay extra costs. 

Court Summons and Enforcement

Why have I received a Summons? 

If you have not made payments on time in accordance with your latest Council Tax bill, you will be issued with a Court Summons following reminders having been issued. This allows the Council to ask the Court to issue a liability order to recover outstanding Council Tax. 

What should I do now? 

You should pay the amount of Council Tax that you owe in full, including costs as shown on the Summons. If you do this before the date of the court hearing your case will not be heard and the council will not apply for a liability order.  

See how to pay your Council tax 

If you are unable to make payment in full and wish to make a special payment arrangement, please contact us at hdc-recovery@milton-keynes.gov.uk or telephone 0808 164 8610. 

We will still apply for a liability order, but if you keep to the arrangement you have made, no further action will be taken. 

Do I need to go to the court hearing?

You do not need to attend the court hearing unless you have a legal defence against the issue of a liability order. The magistrates will hear the case whether you attend or not. 

The magistrates can only listen to a valid defence against the issue of a liability order. Some common defences are:  

  • the property is not entered in the appropriate valuation list  
  • the Council Tax has not been properly set  
  • the Council Tax has not been billed in accordance with the legislation  
  • the amount demanded has been paid in full (including summons costs)  
  • more than six years have passed since the balance became due 
  • bankruptcy proceedings have been started 
  • you are not the person who is liable to pay the Council Tax that you have been summonsed for 

It is not a valid defence against the issue of a liability order, and you do not need to attend court if:  

  • you can’t afford to pay the amount owed in full  
  • you would like time to pay or have difficulty paying  
  • you want to make a payment arrangement 
  • you have applied for Council Tax Support and have not heard anything 
  • your Council Tax Support is incorrect 
  • you are appealing against a decision for Council Tax Support entitlement 
  • you have appealed to the council or the Valuation Office Agency about the amount of your Council Tax or your property band. 

If you have a valid defence and wish to attend the court hearing you MUST contact the Recovery Department first to arrange an appointment to appear. 

hdc-recovery@milton-keynes.gov.uk or telephone the Council on 0808 164 8610. 

Under the current COVID-19 restrictions you will not be allowed to enter the court building unless you have pre-booked a time slot with the Council first.  This is a safety precaution for you and other court users.

What is a liability order?

A liability order is a demand for you to pay the full amount you owe, plus costs. It gives the council greater powers to collect the money you owe using a range of actions which include: 

  • asking your employer to take regular deductions from your salary  
  • taking money directly from your Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance  
  • asking Enforcement Agents to visit your home and either collect the amount you owe, or if this is not possible, remove items belonging to you and sell them 
  • putting a charging order on your property, which means we could force sale to pay your Council Tax arrears, or the arrears will be paid out of the amount you get for any future sale  
  • applying to make you bankrupt  
  • applying to the Magistrates Court for your committal to prison. 
Payment Arrangements Following Granting of a Liability Order

After a liability order has been granted, a notice may be issued requiring you to supply financial information. You must complete and return it within 14 days.  

If you do not complete and return the form, the law states it is an offence punishable by a fine. 

The Council will not make an arrangement for payment without this information. The Council is not obliged to make arrangements to pay. However, if one is made, the maximum period will be assessed based on each person’s individual circumstances. Any arrangements would normally be to the end of the current financial year (31st March). Any arrears must be paid in addition to the current year’s council tax charge. 

If you are unable to make payment in full and wish to make a special payment arrangement, please contact us at hdc-recovery@milton-keynes.gov.uk or telephone 0808 164 8610. 

Attachment of Earnings

The Council can issue an Attachment of Earnings Order without having to go back to Court. The liability order allows the Council to do this. The amount of the deductions are set by the Government and details of the amount to be deducted are below: 

TABLE A 

DEDUCTIONS FROM WEEKLY EARNINGS 

(1) Net earnings 

(2) Deduction rate % 

Not exceeding £75 

Exceeding £75 but not exceeding £135 

Exceeding £135 but not exceeding £185 

Exceeding £185 but not exceeding £225 

Exceeding £225 but not exceeding £355 

Exceeding £355 but not exceeding £505 

Exceeding £505  

0 

3 

5 

7 

12 

17 

17 in respect of the first £505 and 50 in respect of the remainder 

TABLE B 

DEDUCTIONS FROM MONTHLY EARNINGS 

(1) Net earnings 

(2) Deduction rate % 

Not exceeding £300 

Exceeding £300 but not exceeding £550 

Exceeding £550 but not exceeding £740 

Exceeding £740 but not exceeding £900 

Exceeding £900 but not exceeding £1,420 

Exceeding £1,420 but not exceeding £2,020 

Exceeding £2,020 

0 

3 

5 

7 

12 

17 

17 in respect of the first £2,020 and 50 in respect of the remainder 

 TABLE C 

DEDUCTIONS BASED ON DAILY EARNINGS 

(1) Net earnings 

(2) Deduction rate % 

Not exceeding £11 

Exceeding £11 but not exceeding £20 

Exceeding £20 but not exceeding £27 

Exceeding £27 but not exceeding £33 

Exceeding £33 but not exceeding £52 

Exceeding £52 but not exceeding £72 

Exceeding £72  

0 

3 

5 

7 

12 

17 

17 in respect of the first £72 and 50 in respect of the remainder 

Attachment of Benefit

The Council can apply for deductions to be made from someone’s Universal Credit, Income Support, Jobseekers’ Allowance or Pension Credit.

Enforcement Agents

Enforcement Agents are employed to collect payment or remove goods for sale where appropriate. If the Council instructs the Enforcement Agent, it will cost you significant charges. Contacting them early is important to minimise these charges. 

ENFORCEMENT AGENTS CHARGES 

Compliance Stage – £75.00 

Fee is incurred by the debtor when the Council instructs the Enforcement Agents to collect your outstanding debt. 

Enforcement Stage – £235.00 

Fee is incurred by the debtor upon the first visit by the Enforcement Agent. 

Sale/Disposal Stage – £110.00 

Fee is incurred by the debtor upon a further visit with the intention to remove goods for Sale. 

Please note an additional fee of 7.5% will be charged on any balance over £1500.00. 

If you have been contacted by an Enforcement Agent, you will need to deal with them directly. You can find their contact details on our Useful Contacts page.  

Committal to prison

The Council wishes to avoid committal wherever possible, but has a strict policy of taking such proceedings where no other form of recovery is appropriate. In the first instance the Council will apply for a Summons for you to attend Court. This action will lead to substantial costs being added to your debt. 

You must attend this hearing. If you do not attend, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. 

At the hearing, the Council will apply for you to be committed to prison for non-payment. 

You will undergo an enquiry as to your means. If the Magistrates’ find you guilty of either Culpable Neglect (you did not pay and it is deemed to be your fault) or Wilful Refusal (you intentionally chose not to pay) they can choose to commit you to prison or to suspend committal on an order for payments. The maximum sentence for each Liability Order is 3 months imprisonment. It is strongly recommended that you take legal advice in advance of the hearing. 

Bankruptcy

If a liability order has been granted and the total owed to the Council is over £1500, the Council can petition for your bankruptcy. 

Should you be made bankrupt your personal finances will be handed over to a Trustee who will administer your estate. 

Your assets can include any interest in any property you own, personal pension, endowments and savings plans. 

It will inhibit your ability to obtain credit. The costs of obtaining a Bankruptcy Order and the subsequent actions of a Trustee can amount to several thousands of pounds. 

These costs would be deducted from the proceeds of your liquidated assets. 

A Bankruptcy Order can still be made even if you refuse to acknowledge the proceedings. You should therefore ensure that you do acknowledge any such proceedings and contact the Council immediately.

Charging Order

If a Liability Order has been granted and the total indebtedness to the Council is over £1,000 is outstanding under liability order(s) and the Council Tax payer has a legal interest in the property, we may apply to the County Court for a charging order on the property. 

The effect of a charging order is that if the property or other legal interest is sold the amount of the charging order is paid out of the proceeds. 

Where can I get further help? - Debt Advice

If you are having difficulty paying your Council Tax at any time, please contact us for advice as soon as possible at hdc-recovery@milton-keynes.gov.ukor telephone 0808 164 8610. 

The following links can also provide free help and advice; 

https://www.lgss-revs-bens.com/horsham/council-tax  

https://www.lgss-revs-bens.com/horsham/benefits  

You can also seek independent financial advice by contacting; 

StepChange 

StepChange Debt Charity is a registered charity that offers free, private, debt advice and help. 

The StepChange website 

Phone: 0800 138 1111 

The Money Advice Service 

Call for free and impartial money advice. 

The Money Advice Service website 

Phone: 0800 138 7777 

Citizen Advice Bureau 

Your local bureau can help with a range of issues. These include debt problems and advice if you are facing redundancy. 

The Citizen Advice Bureau website 

Phone: 0344 477 1171 

National Debtline 

National Debtline is a charity. Free and independent advice over the phone and online. 

The National Debtline Website 

Phone: 0808 808 4000