Council Tax - what happens after court?
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Council Tax - what happens after court?

This page tells you about a number of actions we can take once a court hearing has taken place and we have obtained a Liability Order.

Financial Information Forms

If you receive a Financial Information Form from us, you must complete it fully, including your work details, and send it back to us within 14 days. If you do not return it, only complete some of the details or give false information, you can be fined up to £1,000 and get a criminal record. If you cannot complete it in time or need time to gather all the information needed, please contact us on 0113 376 0362, e-mail or visit one of our One Stop Centres.

If you do not return the form, we can either use bailiffs to collect your debts, or send you a summons for not returning the form. You would have to pay the bailiffs’ fees, or run the risk of getting a criminal record.

Attachments of Benefits and Attachment of Earnings Orders

Once we have obtained a Liability Order, we do not need your permission to set up an 'Attachment', which means we can arrange for money to be taken from your benefit or your pay. We will not cancel these attachments once they are set up unless you can prove you are having severe financial difficulties.

Severe Financial Difficulties

If you believe this applies to you, you must bring original documents proving all your income and outgoings to a council One Stop Centre (see 'Where I Live” at the top of this page and input your postcode to find locations and opening hours). The documents must include: bank statements, bills and mortgage statements if you have a mortgage.

You then need to show us that after you have paid for essential things, the attachment(s) will mean that you cannot make ends meet. We can only take account of essential spending, not spending on things you could manage without, like satellite TV. We may then agree to cancel an attachment(s). However, you will still have to pay your Council Tax, and we will have to agree how you are going to do that. (See the related page “Serious Debt Problems and Debt Advice for help with managing debts and your financial situation)

External Debt Recovery Agents and Bailiffs

We may employ external debt recovery agents or Bailiffs to collect your debt. See the related page “Bailiffs” for information on this.


If you owe Council Tax of £5000 or more, we may decide to take bankruptcy action against you.

The consequences of bankruptcy can be severe. Your credit rating will be affected, your assets will be seized and you could lose your home. This will add considerable legal costs to your bill. Typically, a debt can increase by tens of thousands of pounds when an insolvency practitioner or trustee is appointed. This will happen if the matter is continually ignored.

If we do decide to take bankruptcy action against you, we will write to you first giving details of your debts and explaining how bankruptcy will affect you. If you receive a letter like this from us, please contact us straight away to make an arrangement to pay. For more detailed information about bankruptcy, visit the Insolvency Service's website - see the external links section.

Charging Orders

If you owe at least £1000 for Council Tax, we can place a 'Charging Order' on your property. If we decide to do this, we will first write to you giving details of your debt and explaining how a Charging Order would affect you. Please contact us without delay at this stage to make an arrangement to pay. If we do not hear from you or receive full payment, we will apply to the County Court to place a Charging Order on your property. This means that, when the property is sold, the charge must be paid before any money can be paid over to you. We will ask the court to include our legal costs, which can be very expensive. It is in your own interests to pay all the Council Tax outstanding before we apply to court for a Charging Order.

Committal to Prison

If the bailiffs have not been able to collect your Council Tax debt and we have tried all other suitable actions to obtain payment, Council Tax law allows us to apply to the Magistrates' Court for a warrant to send you to prison (a 'Warrant of Commitment'). If you are summonsed to appear at court and you do not attend the hearing, we can ask the Magistrates to issue a warrant for your immediate arrest.

The court must hold a means enquiry with you present. This is to find out whether you can, or could, afford to pay the debt but chose to spend the money elsewhere. If the court doesn't think you have, or had, a valid reason for not paying, it can send you to prison for up to three months.​​​​​​

Click to expandWhat is an attachment of benefits?

We can make deductions of approximately £3.60 (single claimants) or £5.65 (couple claimants) per week for Council Tax from any of the following benefits Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment & Support Allowance or Pension credits. The deductions will continue until the Council Tax you owe is paid in full, or you stop receiving benefits. If you stop receiving benefits and the debt is still unpaid, you need to contact us to make an arrangement to pay straight away.

Click to expandWhat is an Attachment of Earnings Order?

Your employer will deduct a set percentage from your wage to pay your Council Tax until it is paid in full. Neither your employer nor the council decides the amount to be deducted - it depends on how much you earn. In all cases, the more you earn, the more will be deducted. The rate of deductions is set by central government.

Click to expandWhat happens if I’ve lost or ignored my letter about bankruptcy action?

If we do not hear from you or receive full payment we will send you a 'Statutory Demand'. This is a very important document which you must not ignore. You should take legal advice if necessary or contact us.

If you do not act in line with the Statutory Demand within 21 days, we will serve you with a 'Bankruptcy Petition'. This will be followed by a hearing at the County Court. At that hearing, we will ask for our legal costs to be payable by you.

A Bankruptcy Order can still be made even if you fail to acknowledge the proceedings or refuse to agree to them. The legal costs and the costs of employing an Insolvency Practitioner are expensive and are often more than the Council Tax debt. If we write to you about bankruptcy, it is in your own interests to either pay in full, or agree a payment arrangement with us and keep to it exactly.

Click to expandIf I receive a Charging Order on my property, can you force me to sell it?

The County Court can give us permission to force a sale of your property so that your unpaid Council Tax and costs can be paid. However, we would not normally ask for this. We would much prefer to receive your payment rather than ask for a Charging Order owing to the high legal costs, which are usually passed on to you. We will only apply for a Charging Order if we have tried other ways of getting payment from you but have not been successful.

Click to expandWhen a warrant to send me to prison has been issued, can imprisonment be delayed in certain circumstances?

The Magistrates may decide to delay imprisonment on certain conditions - for example they may order you to pay the debt over a certain time period. If you don't pay as instructed, you may be ordered to attend another hearing to explain why you haven't paid. If you don't attend that hearing, we could ask the Magistrates to issue a warrant for your immediate arrest. They could decide to send you straight to prison or order you to pay the debt over a certain period of time. In cases of extreme financial hardship, the court can also cancel all or part of the debt. The costs of committal proceedings can be high and could add hundreds of pounds to your existing Council Tax debt.

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