Council tax FAQs

In this section, you may find answers to your some of your queries.

I think my council tax band is incorrect.

If you feel your council tax banding is incorrect, please visit this page: challenge council tax band.

I have not received my new council tax bill.

Council tax bills for the financial year starting on April 1st, are posted by mid-March to ensure sufficient notice is provided for the first instalment, payable on April 1st.

A copy of this bill can be provided on request if you have not received it or you can sign up to self service to see your council tax bill online.

Who is responsible for the payment of council tax?

The first category of person which applies from the list below is liable for payment of council tax:

  1. A resident owner (owner occupier).
  2. A resident with a leasehold interest in the property.
  3. A resident who has a tenancy to occupy the property.
  4. A resident who has a licence to occupy the property.
  5. A resident to which none of the above applies.
  6. If none of the above, the non-resident owner of the property.

Why have my instalment amounts/ payments increased?

If your annual bill has increased from the previous year, this will be due to an annual increase. 

Otherwise, your circumstances may have changed which has increased your charge; such as a change in your council tax support; a member of the household may no longer be disregarded; or you have missed previous payments and the number of instalments have reduced to clear the balance by the end of the financial year.

Details of these increases are shown on your bill.  

I have received my bill but my council tax support/ discount has not been applied.

If you have a low income and have received council tax support - but it does not appear on your current bill, please contact our benefits team on 01902 696668 to check the status of this.

If you have previously received a discount that does not appear on your current bill, please contact the revenues team on 01902 696664.

Why have the charges increased on my empty property?

The premium charged on properties that have been empty for over two years is 100% above the normal charge. 

For properties that have been empty for five years or more, the premium has increased to 200% above the normal charge from April 1st, 2020. This is to encourage property owners to bring the properties into use. 

Do I have to pay council tax for an annexe?

Please visit our annexes page for more information.

Can I change my payment method, instalment plan, bank details on an existing direct debit, or set up a new direct debit?

You can set up a direct debit online.

You can change your bank account details on your current direct debit by first cancelling the direct debit with your bank, then completing a direct debit online form.

If you want to change to any other method of payment or change your instalment date, you need to call us on 01902 696664 or email

I'm struggling to pay my council tax, what can I do? 

Please visit our struggling to pay page for more information on how we can help you.

I have received a summons, do I need to attend court?

You do NOT need to attend court if you have already contacted us and agreed a payment arrangement. 

The purpose of the hearing is to decide whether or not you owe the money demanded, and not to look at your personal finances.

You have the right to attend the court and offer evidence if you are NOT liable for the council tax charges, but you only really need to attend if you have a legal defence to put to the magistrate as to why you feel that you are NOT liable to pay the amount due. 

What is my defence?

  • There are only two defences for not paying your council tax:

    • You have already paid the amount shown on the summons.
    • We haven’t demanded the council tax in the way the law says we have to:
      • We have to pass a resolution setting the council tax and it has to be published.
      • We have to prove we sent you a bill. We don’t have to prove you received the bill.    

What isn’t a defence?

It’s not a valid defence if you’re not paying your council tax because:

  • You have appealed against your council tax band. You have to pay the amount on your bill until your appeal is heard.
  • You believe you’re not the person who has to pay the council tax, or that council tax doesn’t apply to your property, or that you are entitled to a discount. In these cases, you should contact us, but once we have considered your request, if you still do not agree you can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal Services. You remain liable to pay in the meantime.
  • If you don’t have a valid defence, the court will grant a Liability Order.


Challenging the liability to pay Council Tax

The 'freeman on the land' movement – sometimes written as 'freeman-on-the-land', 'FOTL', the 'freemen of the land', the 'freemen movement', or 'freemen' – and similar groups often believe people are bound only by the contracts and laws to which they have consented.

Contract law, and rights claimed under common law, are not the same as laws relating to council tax. Being a 'freeman' does not exempt anyone from paying council tax.

You don't have a 'choice' as to whether you are liable for council tax.

Liability for council tax

Council tax pays for the services in your area. Without this, we could not provide essential services or help those in need.

In the UK, liability for council tax is determined by the Local Government Finance Act 1992. This statute, and other legal regulations, set out our rights to demand council tax to fund services and who is liable to pay. This law and its regulations were created by a democratically elected parliament of the UK and have received the assent of the Crown.

Your liability for council tax is not dependent on, and does not require, your consent or the existence of a contractual relationship with us.

Any such assertion to the contrary is incorrect and there is no legal basis upon which to make this argument. The following references also have no legal basis:

  • a person not having consented to pay council tax
  • there not being a contractual relationship between the council and the resident
  • lawful rebellion
  • Article 61 of the Magna Carta
  • the Coronation Oath Act 1688
  • the 'People's peace'
  • legal fictions, 'straw men' and 'I, X of the family Y'
  • Common Law Court of Great Britain
  • International Common Law courts
  • maritime or admiralty law
  • Uniform commercial code

Withholding payments of council tax

Anyone who withholds payment will have recovery action taken against them.

In extreme cases this could lead to committal proceedings, or even a prison sentence, as in the Manchester Magistrates' court vs McKenzie (2015) case, where an individual who attempted to use similar 'freeman on the land' defences in court ended up in prison for 40 days.

If you have any concerns over the charging of council tax, you should seek proper legal advice. Do not rely on internet sources or forum statements, which may be incorrect or misleading.

Challenge or appeal your liability

For information on appealing a council tax bill, go to GOV.UK: appeal a council tax bill or fine.

Your council tax bill will tell you the valuation band your property has been given. Your property valuation band is decided by the UK Valuation Office Agency (VOA) – South Staffordshire Council cannot change your valuation band.

If you think your valuation is wrong, you can challenge your band – go to GOV.UK: challenge your council tax band.

You must continue to pay your council tax until the result of the appeal is decided.

Making an appeal does not allow you to withhold payment of your council tax.


The law that covers council tax is on the government's Legislation website, including:

Acts of parliaments are 'statutes' which set out the law. If you have questions about other acts of parliament or laws, you should ask a legal professional, not the council.

Some people believe using an archaic (very old) law means they don't have to pay council tax. There are many misleading articles and templates on the internet about the legality of council tax. You should seek proper legal advice before using them, or considering any defence against your council tax liability, based on contract, consent, and common law.

We reserve the right not to respond to enquiries that focus on hypothetical arguments with no basis in statute, which use our resources at the expense of other taxpayers. This includes letters and notices served on any council officers with the same reasoning.

If we receive correspondence alleging you are not liable for council tax either because you are a freeman of the land, you are not contractually bound to pay council tax, or any similar reasons with no legal basis:

  • you will receive a response from our Revenues and Benefits department – this department issues council tax bills and handles the collection of council tax
  • our Legal department will review the correspondence and issue a response – no further responses will be issued to any correspondence that have no legal basis
  • if you send correspondence to any other department or officer within the council, your correspondence will be sent to the correct department

Requests for a response from the chief executive or any other officer will be ignored. You will only receive a response from the right council department, as stated above.

Common 'freeman' challenges and request

The council has a responsibility to bill and collect council tax, but this does not mean it introduces a 'fiduciary' relationship – that is, a legal or ethical relationship of trust.

Below are some of common challenges and requests, along with our responses to them.

Challenge or request Response
I'm a Freeman of the Land and am not liable. Being a Freeman of the Land does not mean someone can choose which laws they adhere to and which to ignore.
Provide an autographed lawful contract with you, with both of our autographs. Some people consider council tax is a contract and, as such, requires a legal contract and signatures indicating an agreement. Council tax is determined by statute – a contract is not required. Any reference to the Companies Act, Contracts Act, Bills of Exchange Act or other acts regarding companies or contracts is irrelevant.
Provide evidence that I've agreed with you that you can lawfully collect an alleged debt from me. As above, this is inconsequential as there hasn't been an exchange of contracts or agreement. Neither of these are required by law for the levy and recovery of council tax.
Provide evidence that I'm lawfully obliged to pay council tax. The hierarchy of who is considered the liable party is contained in the Local Government Finance Act 1992 c14 Part 1, Chapter 1, Sections 6 to 9. Individual agreement is not necessary.
Provide evidence that you have the lawful and contractual authority to use the legal fictional name of "XXX" for the purposes of making money. Whether a name is legal or fictional is irrelevant for the purposes of council tax. Council tax is charged to, and is payable by, whoever is the liable party. This is determined by reference to the Local Government Finance Act 1992 and The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992.
Provide confirmation the debt exists lawfully. The issue of a council tax Demand Notice (the bill) creates the debt. A signature or agreement from a resident is not necessary for council tax. It is a tax, not a contract.
Provide documents containing a wet ink signature. A signature is not necessary for the billing of council tax, and no wet ink signature is mandatory on a court summons. Summonses no longer require a signature of any sort, including electronic ones.
Provide a VAT invoice. Council tax is deemed outside the scope of VAT and we are unable to provide a VAT invoice. 
State whether you are a company or a corporation. South Staffordshire Council is a local authority within the public sector. We do not have a company number.

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