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At a glance: Things you can do if you get behind with council tax payments.
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This summary is not relevant in England and Wales
For a version of this summary that covers England and Wales, please click here.

What is council tax?

You pay council tax based on the value of your home and the number of adults living in it. You can be liable for council tax if you do not live in the property. This may be because you own a property that no-one lives in, or it is a house of multiple occupation (HMO). 

Why is it important to keep up with council tax?

The council has strong powers to make you pay council tax debt. You should pay council tax before paying non-priority debts.

Can I reduce my council tax bill?

These are some ways you may be able to pay less Council Tax: 

  • Council Tax Reduction 
    If you are on a low income, you may get Council Tax Reduction. This can reduce the amount of council tax that you need to pay.
  • Disability reduction 
    If someone living in the house is disabled you may get a reduction.   
  • Discounts 

You may get a discount if you are the only adult in the property. Or if you share your house with people who are not counted for council tax purposes. This includes full-time students and some apprentices.  

  • Second Adult Rebate 
    You may get the Second Adult Rebate. The rules for this are complicated. Check whether you are eligible with your local council. 

Contact your council if you are having problems paying council tax. Tell them if you have applied to reduce the debt. They may not take any action until your claim is dealt with. 

What happens if I owe council tax?

If you get behind with payments, the council may apply to the sheriff court for a summary warrant. This is a court order that says how much council tax you owe. 

If you do not pay the amount stated on the summary warrant, they can ask you for information. This includes details about your employer and earnings.  

If you haven’t been given time to pay by the court, the council can use diligence (enforcement action) against you. Before they can use most types of diligence, the council must send you a charge for payment. This asks you to pay the amount shown in the summary warrant within a certain time period. 

The councily can also use diligence if you were granted time to pay by the court but have missed two payments and a third is due. 

You can make an offer of payment to the council before they use diligence. This could stop the diligence from happening.  

Making an offer

Work out how much you can afford to pay each month. You can use our Digital Advice Tool to work out your budget. Send your offer and budget to the council as soon as possible. If they refuse your offer start making your payments straight away anyway. This will show the council that you can afford your offer.  

What happens if the council use diligence?

There are several types of diligence that a council can use, such as sheriff officers to try to take your goods, taking money from your wages or certain benefits and freezing your bank account. There are things you can do if the council uses diligence against you. Contact us for advice. 

The council can also ask the court to make you bankrupt if you owe at least £5,000. 

Learn more about this topic

If you want to learn more about this topic, you can read our in-depth guide.

Read in-depth-guide

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