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Can You Go to Prison for Debt? Quick Answer

can you go to prison for debt

For free and impartial money advice and guidance, visit MoneyHelper, to help you make the most of your money.

When considering the worst that debt can bring to a person, people start looking into whether bad debts can take them to prison or not.

It’s important to know that not being able to pay your debts is not a criminal offence. The only thing that can be a reason for you to be sent to prison is committing a crime.

So, what is the ultimate conclusion?

Well in some cases debt can indirectly become a reason for you to be sent to prison. 

I will talk you through all the circumstances that can send you to prison for the non payment of debts, as well as related debt solutions.

can you go to jail for not paying taxes uk

Being in Debt – How Bad Can it Actually Get?

Debts aren’t always bad. What makes it a problem is when people are indebted to an extent that they can’t pay it back.

To learn if your debt is too severe, there’s a particular calculation method employed that gives you a percentage which helps you know your financial position better.

This percentage is called DTI or debt-to-income ratio and is exactly what it sounds like.

Whether you earn only enough for survival or have a really good paying job, the DTI percentage can be used to know how bad your debt is.

So, in other words, it’s free debt advice for you.

It’s important to know that generally, a DTI higher than 36% is considered bad. 

This debt calculator is a good way to know if you are indebted to a safe extent or not, but it doesn’t accurately determine whether your debts are going to ruin your financial stability or not.

Can You Go to Prison for CCJ?

No, a CCJ is not a criminal offence and nothing but a criminal offence can send people to prison.

A CCJ or a County Court Judgment is issued to you when someone took you to the court and won a court case against you.

In other words, a CCJ is a decision made by the judge that asks you to pay someone a certain owed amount.

You cannot simply be sent to prison for not paying back an owed amount to a claimant.

Even if the claimant held you accountable for the amount falsely, take the CCJ very seriously. 

You need to take the correct action to avoid any further legal notices. Try to get the CCJ removed by validating your ground as early as possible.

In case you are unable to do so, you will have to pay the money according to the plan formulated by the claimant.

Even if you fail to pay them their money, you won’t be sent to jail and it won’t be a criminal offence – but it surely will have a negative impact on your credit report.

So, When it Comes to Debt, What Can You Go to Jail For?

When it comes to debts from companies like your employer or your bank, or from third parties, you cannot be sent to jail for the failure of being able to pay them back.

It’s not a criminal offence.

However, what is a criminal offence is not paying your council tax or criminal fines.

Council Tax

Council taxes are referred to as priority billing and need to be paid without any drag.

In case of failure to pay council taxes, a person goes into council tax arrears.

Arrears mean that you owe money to your council.

There is no way around this situation than by just paying them the priority debt. 

This isn’t any more convenient than paying on time as it puts more financial pressure on you through court costs, bailiff fees, etc.

So, ultimately, can you go to prison for not paying council tax?


If you don’t pay the debt as well, you can be taken to jail as it is considered a criminal offence.

Criminal Fines

If you have been charged with criminal fines, there isn’t a way for you to avoid them.

You have to either pay the fines, or face serious consequences, like going to jail.

Similar to council taxes, if you do not pay your criminal fines, your fines become heavier with the added court costs, bailiff fees, etc.

So, if you want to avoid extra fees and debts, along with the fear of being sent to prison, you should pay your criminal fines within the allotted period of time.

Because there is no other debt advice respective to this situation.

Deliberately Disobeying Court Orders

Whether it is not paying back your priority debts or criminal fines, disobeying court orders will take you to jail.

The non payment of council tax sentencing guidelines – or criminal fines – doesn’t directly take you to jail. But continuously disregarding the financial conduct authority makes prison an authorised and regulated decision for you.

When you are disrespecting court order by not taking them seriously, the consequences are of course too harsh.

So, even in cases such as non payment of council taxes of criminal fines, jail is the very last option in consideration.

The case is initially tried to be sorted through other methods. For example, one way to resolve the situation would be by deducting the amount directly from your income.

However, if this doesn’t work out, then it means that you are not taking the court’s authority 

seriously and are thus sent to jail.

prison debt


What happens to my bills if I go to prison?

Nothing happens to your bills if you go to prison.

When you are imprisoned, all your monthly subscriptions, your credit cards, etc., keep billing you as before. 

If they’re not cancelled by someone else, you come out of prison with huge debts regulated by the financial authorities.

How long can I be chased for a debt in the UK?

Your creditor can chase you – for most types of debt – for only for six years. 

After this period, you no longer owe the debt.

Can I get rid of debt collectors?

The only way you could get rid of debt collectors is buy paying them the amount you owe.

However, if you were wrongfully indebted for a loan you didn’t take, ask them to validate the loan.

Once they fail to do so, your debt is removed from the credit report.

Can creditors take money directly from my income?

The only time your creditors can take money directly from your income is when you owe debt money to your employer, or the same bank or credit card company as your current or saving account.

Other types of debt don’t allow the creditor to take money from your income.

A Quick Recap

Debt rarely becomes a reason for you to be sent to jail.

This is because it isn’t a crime to be unable to pay off your debt.

However, certain debt related circumstances are considered criminal offences and can thus send you to prison.

So, the best debt advice is to avoid putting yourself through such situations and in case you are in there, respect court orders as the ultimate authority and clear your dues as soon as possible.

As long as you are doing as the court of law says, you are safe.


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