I can't pay my Council Tax

What happens if I don't pay my Council Tax?

If you find yourself in financial difficulty, the best thing to do is contact us straight away. We can assess your circumstances and work out the best way to help you. If you don't contact us, you might end up owing more money, in charges and penalties.

Missing one payment

If you miss a monthly payment or do not respond to a bill, we will send you a reminder notice, and give you seven days to pay. If you don't pay within seven days, or make any effort to contact us, you might have to pay the whole year's Council Tax at once.

Missing two payments

If you miss a second payment, we will send you a second reminder. You will only get a maximum of two reminder notices in a financial year. A financial year runs from April 1 to March 31 of the next year.

If you continue not to respond to us, or make a payment, we will send you a final notice. This says that if you miss a payment for a third time, you must pay the whole year's Council Tax.

Missing three payments

If you miss a third payment, and you get a final notice, you have to pay your whole year's Council Tax within seven days of being required to do so. If you don't, we can take legal action to get the Council Tax you owe.

Legal demands for payment

We can ask a magistrate for a liability order. This is a legal demand for payment. Our costs for arranging this will be added to the money you owe. You can go to court and give your reasons for not paying.

If you get a liability order, you can speak to Citizens Advice about your options.

If you still don't pay

We can get your employer to pay your unpaid Council Tax straight from your wages.

We can also apply to take money from the following benefits:

  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit

If this means you won't have enough money to pay other bills you can ask us if you can make smaller payments, although we don't have to agree.


if there's no other way to recover your debt, we can use bailiffs to seize your belongings to cover the value of your Council Tax debt. We will tell you how much you owe before the bailiff visits you. The bailiffs' costs will be added to the total amount you owe.

If we do have to use bailiffs, we have a Local Code of Practice to protect you. It helps to make sure that the bailiffs are respectful at all times. 


If you don't pay the money you owe, and the bailiffs can't recover enough property to cover it, we can take you to court. The court will consider whether you can:

  • afford to pay the bill
  • have a valid reason not to pay

You can be sent to prison for up to 3 months if the court decides you refused to pay your Council Tax without good reason.

If the court decides you have something to pay back, you might be able to arrange to pay your debt over time.