An attachment of earnings order is one method of enforcing a debt, and it can be used by your local authority to recover council tax debt. 

If you want to know more about this method of enforcement, we have details, links and plenty of information to support you – right here!

We know these topics can be tricky, which is why we have explained the full process in simple language. Start here to know more and seek further help from a charity

What is an attachment of earnings order?

An attachment of earnings is used as a way to enforce a debt repayment. The court tells the employer to send a percentage of their employee’s wages (the debtor’s wage) to the court to repay a debt. The court will then send the funds to the party that is owed the money back. 

This will continue until the full amount is paid back. 

As it is a method to enforce the money owed, it is only used after enforcement action has been allowed by a judge. The local authority could apply to find out if you have an income before taking this route, known as a statement of means. You will be sent a form to fill out in this situation. The form needs to be returned in eight days. Not filling in the form is an offence. 

Before it goes this far, the debtor will have opportunities to repay what is owed or come to an affordable arrangement. 

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Is an attachment of earnings a CCJ?

An attachment of earnings is not the same as a CCJ. A CCJ is a legal decision, whereas an attachment of earnings is a way to enforce the decision. 

They are both part of a process to recover a debt. 

An alternative way to recover the money is to use bailiffs. 

What is a council tax attachment of earnings?

If you have a council tax debt and were told to repay what’s owed – in these cases via a liability order rather than a CCJ – the council can use an attachment of earnings to take back the money you owe. 

This is just one way to enforce council tax debt, along with bailiffs, charging orders and even making you bankrupt. 

It is possible for your employer to take additional deductions, namely £1 each month as an admin cost during the process. These admin fees will stop once you have repaid in full.

You can be issued with two attachment orders at one time to cover two council tax arrears. If you have more than one year of debt, a larger amount of money can be deducted than normal. 

What happens when you get an attachment of earnings order?

When you are subject to an attachment of earnings because of council tax debt, the amount you have to repay will be set at a fixed amount of your income above the protected rate. 

This is different to other debts where you will have to submit a statement of means form. 

What is the protected earnings rate?

The protected rate is a minimum amount of money after tax that you must receive for essential living expenses. You will need this to buy groceries, cover bills and other essentials.

If your wage goes below this amount, no order can be issued. 

If you change employment or stop work, you must tell the council within good time. 

Can you stop the order?

It is still possible to stop the enforcement action if you have received a liability order. You will need to be able to agree to a full repayment or repayment plan within good time. 

Tell the local authority this is what you want to happen quickly. 

Once it is active, you cannot stop it. 

Council tax attachment of earnings appeal

Can you appeal an attachment of earnings? 

It is unlikely that an attachment of earnings will have been made wrongfully in your name. A lot of work goes beforehand that administration mistakes are highly unlikely, but it is still possible.

If you think there is a mistake, contact the council first and get support and advice from a charity.  

There are lots of places to turn when you need help!

How much will be deducted from my pay?

The deduction that will be taken by your company is calculated as a proportion of your weekly or monthly pay. 

For example, if you earn between £185 and £225 per week after tax is paid, you will be deducted 7% of your wage. This means you would repay between £12.95 and £15.75 per week.

If you earn <£75 or <£300 per week or monthly respectively, you will not pay anything. 

If you have agreed to a DMP for other debts, you may need to update your financial circumstances with the provider so you only repay what you can afford. 

Council tax attachment of earnings calculator

Your local authority website may offer a special calculator or tables so you can work out what your employer deductions will be. 

If you want to know how much will be paid from your income, use one of these calculators. 

You don’t have to use your local authority’s website to find them. If it’s not there, try another site or a charity instead.  

For example, the West Northamptonshire Council has a helpful breakdown of how your weekly deductions are calculated, right here!

Or you could contact the local authority directly to find out what deduction will apply to your circumstances.  

When will my employer start deductions?

Your company will begin to take a payment from your wage and send it to the county court as soon as possible. 

You should expect to see the payment being taken on the first payslip after the order has been applied. 

You should keep your slips sent by your employer as evidence of payment, and remember that it is possible for your company to take a £1 admin fee each time. 

They are not obligated to apply the £1 fee.

Will deductions take into account overtime payment?

If you decide to work overtime to increase the amount you are paid each month, your company will have to take more from your salary as your income has increased.

However, this can be one way to clear the full debt back quicker. 

How much is left to repay on my order?

You can find out the amount left to repay back on the order from your company directly. Give them a call or speak with HR staff for information. 

Or you can work it out yourself by adding the amount you have paid back – as listed on the wage slips you received – and then deducting this amount from the full amount of the tax debt. 

Can I ask my company not to take the money?

Once an attachment of earnings has been applied, the debt must be paid back through your salary. 

Your company has to action these deductions.   

Can my employer make deductions from redundancy payments?

No, any redundancy remuneration you are sent at the end of a job is not subject to an attachment of earnings and is 100% yours to keep.

Can deductions be made from maternity payments?

An attachment of earnings cannot be used to take money from statutory maternity. 

However, it can be used to deduct from any contractual maternity payments received. 

Can my employer make deductions from sick pay?

If you are off work due to poor health and receive sick pay from your company each week or month, this will be treated as your income and subject to debt enforcement as per the attachment of earnings. 

Most people will be paid less than their full standard income when receiving sick pay. 

Therefore, they could pay less towards their debt during this time, and some people won’t have to repay anything back. 

Can you be sacked for having an attachment of earnings?

Most people cannot be sacked because of an attachment of earnings. 

However, some people working in professional financial jobs may face employment trouble.

Get related advice and help!

If you have been sent a letter about anything discussed above, you can get help from a charity. 

They will provide help with any form you need to fill in, explain confusing terms and provide support without judgement. 

One of the best around is Step Change.

And if you have more questions, you’ll probably find clear answers on our other guides

About the author

Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson is a financial services expert, with over 10 years’ experience in the industry, including 6 years in FCA regulated companies. Read more
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