Council Tax Recovery FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

I am experiencing severe financial difficulty what can I do?

Do you start recovery action immediately?

What should I do if I receive a reminder?

How many reminders will I receive each year?

What can I do if I receive a Final Notice?

Does the Council have to prove that bills and notices are received?

Do I have to pay the instalments shown on my bill even if I have a query about the charge, Council Tax Support, discounts/exemptions or I have an appeal outstanding?

What happens if I receive a Summons?

Do I have to attend Court?

What is a Liability Order?

What powers do the Council have after being granted a Liability Order?

Where does the court hearing take place and how can I contact the court?

What happens if the Council have to commence bankruptcy proceedings?

What happens if the Council has to commence committal proceedings?

What happens if I do not turn up for the committal hearing?

What happens at the actual committal hearing?
 


I am experiencing severe financial difficulty what can I do?

Recovery action will usually continue to protect the Council's interests. If we cannot help you we will probably advise you to approach the West Somerset Advice Bureau who offer a free debt counselling service. Their address is Market House Lane, Minehead, Somerset TA24 5NW, Telephone 01643 704624 or website www.westsomersetadvice.org.uk. They will assess your problems and make proposals for payment to all the people you owe money to.

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Do you start recovery action immediately?

Legally, recovery action can commence seven days after an instalment is overdue, but, in practice, a little more leeway is given.

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What should I do if I receive a reminder?

Please bring your account up to date and keep it up to date. If you are struggling to do this contact us immediately for help and advice.

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How many reminders will I receive each year?

If you pay an instalment or something on account you will only ever receive a maximum of two reminders in any tax year. It is a common misconception that reminders are sent every month.

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What can I do if I receive a Final Notice?

Usually, if you pay all of the outstanding balance and contact us we will allow you to go back to paying monthly instalments. Alternatively, to avoid the issue of a Summons you can request to pay via Direct Debit.

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Does the Council have to prove that bills and notices are received?

Legally, they are considered to have been received unless you can prove they have not. If you could prove that they have not been received you would have a defence against recovery action but it is not sufficient to simply assert they have not. We only have to send notices to your last known address and if you do not tell us you have moved it is not a defence to later claim that notices were sent to an old address. It is not sufficient to tell other Council departments.

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Do I have to pay the instalments shown on my bill even if I have a query about the charge, Council Tax Support, discounts/exemptions or I have an appeal outstanding?

If you have a query you should contact us immediately but until your query is answered and a revised bill is sent it is a legal requirement that you must pay as originally billed. If a later amendment results in an overpayment it will be returned to you.

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What happens if I receive a Summons?

Once a summons has been sent, special arrangements will only be made at our discretion and only if information is supplied about your employer and earnings. If no contact is made or the arrangement is broken, an Attachment of Earnings (AOE) may be set up or the matter may be passed to enforcement agents.

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Do I have to attend Court?

No - unless you wish to contest your liability or the court costs. If you cannot attend but still wish to contact the court their details are covered in another FAQ. If you wish to make an arrangement you can telephone us. If you are thinking of contesting the matter at Court, please note the defences are extremely limited and please read the Important information on Summons and Liability Order document and if you think you have a legal defence you should contact us well before the hearing. In most cases we will be able to resolve your query and avoid the need to attend court. If you do not have a legal defence we suggest you consider carefully before giving up your time to attend court.

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What is a Liability Order?

A Liability Order is a decision made by the Magistrates at a court hearing that confirms you have not paid the balance shown on the Councils Liability Order listing. The Magistrates will sign this list if they are satisfied that all the Council Tax unpaid amounts listed are due, and at this point the Council also requests the additional court costs. The Liability Order does NOT affect your credit rating but it does this gives the Council additional recovery powers.

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What powers do the Council have after being granted a Liability Order?

Please read the Important information on Summons and Liability Order document

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Where does the court hearing take place and how can I contact the court?

The courts address is Somerset Magistrates Court, St Johns Road, Taunton, Somerset. TA1 4AX

You can telephone 01823 257084 their opening hours are 9:00am to 16:30pm Monday to Friday.

You can email them av-taunton.mc@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk.

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What happens if the Council have to commence bankruptcy proceedings?

Unfortunately, if you have assets and your unpaid balance exceeds £5,000 and all other recovery options have been exhausted, the Council’s only option left is to take this action. Prior to full bankruptcy a Statutory Demand is issued from the Councils solicitor allowing you 21 days to pay in full. If the amount remains unpaid, full bankruptcy proceedings will commence and then you will incur the substantial costs associated with bankruptcy. Please note bankruptcy is a very serious matter and you could lose your home.

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What happens if the Council has to commence committal proceedings?

You will have received letters from both the Council and the enforcement agents warning you of the possibility of committal proceedings. Many Committal cases are heard each year in front of the Magistrates and this is a very serious matter that can result in a 90 day prison sentence as detailed in this press release. If these proceedings go ahead you will be sent a Committal Summons detailing the balance, costs applied and time and location of the hearing.

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What happens if I do not turn up for the committal hearing?

If you have a valid reason for non-attendance for example you are ill, as long as a sick note is sent to the court your case will be adjourned and you will be written to informing you of the new time and date. However, if you simply do not turn up, a Warrant for your arrest will be requested by the Council.

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What happens at the actual committal hearing?

At the hearing, the Magistrates have to decide whether you have deliberately refused to pay or have always overlooked paying. Their final decision is based on this.

Our representative provides evidence to the Magistrates and reads a statement to them confirming that a Liability Order has been granted, and that the enforcement agents have been unsuccessful in taking control of goods. You will be asked why the Council Tax is still not paid, and if you are going to offer any payments. A court official will then ask you questions about your income and outgoings. This is called a means enquiry. It helps the court decide whether you are able to pay and, if so, what you can afford to pay.

You may be asked direct questions by the Magistrates and by the Councils representative. You will also have the chance to ask questions.

The Magistrates then leave the courtroom to make their decision. There are several decisions they can make:

  • Court order with suspended sentence

You will be ordered to pay a set amount, for example £100 a month, and told that if you do not keep up the payments you will go to prison for a set amount of time (up to 3 months).

  • Court order without a suspended sentence

You will be ordered to pay a set amount. If you do not keep up the payments, you will be ordered to come to court again to explain why you have not paid. The Magistrates will then decide what to do next.

  • Write off all or some of the debt

The Magistrates can write off all or some of the Council Tax you owe, if they feel your situation deserves this. If only some of the debt is written off, the Magistrates may make a court order for the rest.

  • Take no action

The Magistrates may decide that no further action is appropriate. Cases are sometimes dismissed for an attachment of earnings or benefit to be set up.

  • Adjournment

If more information or evidence is needed before a decision can be made, a case can be postponed until a later date.

  • Committal to prison

The Magistrates can decide to send you to prison for up to three months.

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