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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Council Tax: problems paying and financial help

You may find that you can’t pay your Council Tax bill because of money problems or a sudden change in circumstances like your relationship ending. This guide explains how you can get help with your bill and what happens if you miss a Council Tax payment.

What to do if you can't pay your Council Tax bill

You should tell your council as soon as you think you will have a problem paying your Council Tax bill.

Your council may be able to reduce what you have to pay. For example, you could qualify for a Council Tax discount you didn't know about.

Your council may also reduce the amount of Council Tax you have to pay by giving you a one-off discount on your Council Tax bill. It will only do this in cases of extreme hardship, for example if you can’t pay other bills like your rent.

It's up to your council to decide if a one-off discount should be given and on what grounds.

Another option is that your council may let you spread your Council Tax payments over a longer period, for example over 12 months instead of 10 months.

Council Tax Benefit and Second Adult Rebate

There are also two benefits that can help you to pay your Council Tax bill. You may be able to claim Council Tax Benefit or Second Adult Rebate if:

  • you're on a low income
  • you live with another adult (not your partner) who's on a low income

If you get one of these benefits, you'll have some or all of your Council Tax paid for you.

What happens if you don't pay your Council Tax?

If you miss a Council Tax instalment you'll get a reminder notice giving you seven days to bring your Council Tax payments up to date. If you do not so within the time allowed, or if after a second reminder you fall behind with your payments again, you will have to pay the outstanding balance of your Council Tax bill (ie, the full amount for the rest of the year).

If the balance is not paid, the council will probably start action to recover the arrears due.

Paying missed Council Tax instalments

You can pay your Council Tax bill in person at your council's offices. Some councils let you pay over the phone or online.

You can also set up monthly payments from your bank account. The link below will take you to your local council website where you can find out more.

If you think your Council Tax bill is wrong

If you think your Council Tax bill is wrong, you should tell the council immediately. You must continue to pay the amounts set out in your original Council Tax bill until the council sends you a new bill.

Your Council Tax bill could be wrong because your details are out of date. For this reason you should tell your council as soon as possible if:

  • children or people move in or out of your home
  • your address changes
  • you move out of the area
  • your benefits, such as Jobseekers Allowance, are going to start or stop

You can contact your council by letter, phone, fax or email. Some councils let you contact them online.

If you think your bill is wrong because your Council Tax Band is too high, for example, because part of your property has been demolished, then you should contact the Valuation Office Agency, not your council.

To find out more about challenging your Council Tax band, see ‘Council Tax appeals’.

Getting advice on your Council Tax bill

There are many organisations that provide free advice if you can’t pay your bills or have debts. For example, the Citizens Advice Bureau can help you work out:

  • how much money you owe
  • what money you can afford each month to pay bills like Council Tax

You can use the links below to get advice and support on debt.

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