If you get into payment difficulties and you cannot afford your payments you should contact Council Tax team as soon as possible.

We may be able to help you by making a different payment arrangement.

Listed below are the different stages in the recovery process and an explanation of what each stage means for you as a Council Tax payer:

1. Bill / demand notice

Why is it sent? The bill will show how much Council Tax you owe for the year, the amount of each instalment and the due date. They are normally sent at the start of the financial year, or if your Council Tax bill alters during the year. Council Tax is normally payable over ten instalments. However, Council Tax payers can request to pay in twelve monthly instalments.

What should I do? Pay the instalments before the due dates as the payment is due on your account by the instalment date.

What if I cannot pay as billed? Pay as much as possible as regularly as possible. If you are paying less than the due amount or paying after the due date then you will receive further notices. You should contact us to discuss your account if you know you have fallen behind with your payments. You can email council.tax@swdevon.gov.uk - please quote your council tax account number in the subject line.


2. First or second reminder

Why is it sent? This is sent because our records show that you have fallen behind with your payments. This usually means you have not paid an instalment on time or that you paid less than you should have done.

What should I do? You should bring your account back up to date within the specified time. If an account is brought back up to date and kept up to date, no further letters will be sent.

What if I cannot do this? If you do not bring your payments up to date you will lose your right to pay by instalments. No further reminders will be issued and the next document you receive will be a court summons for the full balance on your account. Court costs will be incurred at this stage.

If you are unable to pay as required you must contact the Council Tax team immediately. It may be possible to agree an arrangement which avoids the need to take further recovery action as long as payments are maintained.


3. Final notice

Why is it sent? This is normally if you have had a first and second reminder, brought your account up-to-date, then fallen behind again. This letter will not be asking for the instalments that have been missed. This letter will cancel your right to pay by instalments. You will be asked to pay the remaining balance on your account in full.

What should I do? You must pay the balance on your account in full within the specified time. If you pay the account in full you will not be sent any more letters.

What if I cannot do this? If you do not pay the account in full you will be sent a Magistrates' Court Summons . If you cannot pay in full, you should pay as much as you can, regularly. The Council Tax team will not re-instate instalments, unless there are exceptional circumstances. You should contact us to discuss your account. We may be able to make an arrangement that avoids the need to take further recovery action. This is as long as payments are kept up with. You can email council.tax@swdevon.gov.uk - please quote your council tax account number in the subject line.


4. Magistrates Court Summons

Why is it sent? It is to tell you that the Council is going to Court to get a Liability Order against you. This is because you are in arrears. It is a legal document that states how much you owe us. It also gives us the power to send your account to the Enforcement Agents. Costs will be added to accounts for the Summons being sent.

What should I do? You must pay the instalments that are showing on the back of the court summons. Alternatively you can pay in full before the Court date.

A Liability Order allows us to take the following action against people who do not pay their Council Tax. It allows us to:

  • demand information about your job or benefits;
  • take money from your wages;
  • take money from certain state benefits;
  • take money from your allowance if you are an elected member of a council;
  • use enforcement agents who may take your goods to sell to cover the amount you owe;
  • ask for a 'charging order' to be made against your property;
  • start bankruptcy proceedings against your property;
  • apply for you to be sent to prison.
  • Some recovery actions increase the amount you owe by adding costs.

Changes to enforcement 2014

Bailiffs are now known as Enforcement Agents (from 6 April 2014). The Government changed the way Enforcement Agents operate and collect debts. These changes aim to:

  • create an open, transparent and sustainable process;
  • protect the vulnerable against what is often seen as aggressive bailiff methods;
  • reduce physical door step activity with the Enforcement Agent;
  • and have fixed and clear fees.

For more on this, visit Bailiff powers when they visit your home.