Can You Go to Jail for Council Tax Arrears?
You cannot be imprisoned for Council Tax arrears in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
However, in England, you can be imprisoned for up to 3 months if you keep refusing to pay the money you owe. Keep in mind that this is extremely rare and it will only happen if the court feels that you can afford to make the payments but you’re deliberately refusing to do so.
Can Bailiffs Force Entry for Council Tax Debt?
Bailiffs can only enter your home if they have been inside previously and you’ve made a controlled goods agreement with them.
A controlled goods agreement states that bailiffs have the right to seize your goods and sell them off if you fail to make your payments towards your debt.
Please note that even though bailiffs have some extra-legal powers, they also have to abide by a strict set of rules. Being aware of these rules can help you immensely when dealing with aggressive bailiffs or just any bailiffs in general.
If you need help with bailiffs, you can read my post about how to deal with them if they’re attempting to contact you for council tax arrears.
How Long Can You be Chased for Council Tax Debt?
Just like most other types of debt, the limitation period on council tax in arrears is also six years.
This means that if your council does not contact you in regards to your debt for six years and you have not made any acknowledgement or payments towards it for six years, then it will become unenforceable.
While this is most certainly the case, it’s highly unlikely that your local council will let this happen.
They will most likely always inquire and contact you if you have unpaid council tax. If you refuse to pay council tax then your council will most likely pursue court action and get a liability order. This will stop your council tax arrears from ever becoming unenforceable.
You can read my post about how long you can be chased for council tax arrears and what options you have if you feel your debt has indeed become unenforceable.
What is a Council Tax Band?
Your Council Tax bill is charged to you in “bands”. Bands are determined by what the value of your house was in 1991.
Houses that are more expensive have a higher band whereas cheaper homes have a lower band.
Band A is the cheapest and Bands H or I are the most expensive. The band of your house will be mentioned on your council tax bill.
If you feel that your house has been put in the wrong band, you can contact your local council and inform them of this. This way you could get it changed to a lower band and potentially save money by getting a lower council tax bill.
However, you should keep in mind that this isn’t always guaranteed and there’s a chance that your house could even be moved to a higher band.
Can My Council Tax be Reduced or Written Off if I’m on Benefits or have a Low Income?
You can definitely qualify for a council tax payments reduction if you have a low income or are on benefits.
Different local councils have different criteria that determine who qualifies and who doesn’t.
You are entitled to a 25% single person discount if you’re living on your own. There are some people that don’t count so if you’re living with a full-time student or someone who is severely mentally impaired, you can still qualify for the discount.
If you’re above pension age (65), you can also qualify for an extra reduction in your council tax bill.
You can also have the bill reduced by one band if you have someone in your house who is disabled and the property has been adapted.
What Should I Do if I Think My Council Tax Bill is Wrong?
If you feel you are being treated unfairly or if there has been some mistake with the calculation of your council tax bill, you should first contact your local council. Make a complaint and tell them why you think you’re being treated unfairly.
Give them a maximum of 12 weeks to comply with your request. If you are unsatisfied with their reply or if they don’t reply to you at all, then you can opt to seek debt advice from a registered charity such as StepChange.
They will tell you what your options are and help you navigate through whatever option you choose as well.
Most likely, any registered charity you go to will tell you to complain to an authoritative body.
If you’re in England, this authoritative body will be the Local Government Ombudsman.
Struggling with council tax arrears can be a tough position to be in since they are priority debts that have severe consequences if you don’t pay them.
However, you must keep in mind that as long as you’re cooperative with your local authorities and assure them that you’re doing all you can to pay your taxes, they will provide you with affordable options.