What happens if I don't pay my council tax?

Find out what may happen if you do not pay your council tax.


An annual bill is sent to every council tax payer in March, which tells you how much you need to pay. 

A standard payment schedule will be for 10 monthly instalments, due on the first of each month from April to January.

If you would like to change your due date or extend payments over 12 months, please contact us.

You need to pay your bill on, or before, the dates shown on your annual bill. 

If you're struggling to pay your council tax, please contact us as soon as possible and we might be able to help you. Call us on 01902 696664 or email us at taxation@sstaffs.gov.uk

If you don't pay enough, pay late, or miss an instalment completely, you will get a reminder notice which should be paid as soon as possible.

If you are late paying future instalments, you may get a second reminder notice for your payment.

However, a further reminder will be a FINAL reminder which will withdraw your right to pay by instalment and the outstanding balance should be paid in full.

Payment arrangement

If you would like to make a payment arrangement to clear the debt at final notice stage, you need to call us as soon as you can on 01902 696669 or email us via taxation@sstaffs.gov.uk.

Whilst the arrangement is in place and you pay on time, no further recovery action will be taken.

If you default on your arrangement, we will take further action. 

IMPORTANT:  The next step will cost you more money.

Court Summons

The magistrates court will issue a summons if: 

  • you don't pay anything 
  • you have failed to keep your instalments up to date 
  • pay some but not the entire bill 

If you get a summons, you will be charged costs. 

Please contact us before the court date if you can't pay your bill on time to discuss your options. We can be contacted via email: taxation@sstaffs.gov.uk

You can also call 01902 696669.

You do not need to attend the court hearing and it will not affect your credit rating.

Liability Order

As previously mentioned, you do not need to attend the court hearing and it will not affect your credit rating.

  • We will apply for a Liability Order, together with additional costs (£50.00), if the full amount, including the summons costs (£45.50) is not paid by the hearing date. 
  • If we have agreed an arrangement for payment we will hold any further recovery action once we have obtained the Liability Order, providing you pay strictly in line with the arrangement, but you will still have to pay both the summons and Liability Order costs. 

Once a liability order is granted by the court it gives the council legal powers to recover council tax. 

This includes instructing: 

  • Your employer to take money direct from your pay (Attachment of Earnings - AOE).
  • The Department for Work and Pensions to take money direct from your benefits or pension credit (Attachment of Benefits - AOB).
  • Enforcement agents to collect the debt. This will cost you more money, you could lose your belongings which are sold to pay your debt (see below for further information on enforcement agents). 

We can also consider: 

  • Bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Putting a charging order on your property if you own your home and enforce a sale.
  • Applying to magistrates court for a warrant to send you to prison. 

If you are unable to pay your council tax, you should contact us immediately.

The earlier you contact us, the less likely it is that you will have to pay extra costs.

We can be contacted via email: taxation@sstaffs.gov.uk

You can also call 01902 696669.

Enforcement agents

If a mutually agreed payment arrangement has NOT been made once the Liability Order has been obtained, South Staffordshire Council will pass the debt to our enforcement agents for collection.  

If you are unable to offer a reasonable payment plan to the enforcement agents they have the power to collect the debt by taking control of goods. (Charges will be added to your account).

The council employs the following enforcement companies:

The enforcement agent process

Compliance stage

If the business rate debt is sent to an enforcement agent, they will send a notice requesting payment in full.

A £75 fee will be added to the debt.

If you cannot pay in full, you will need to contact the enforcement agent to discuss a payment arrangement. 

Enforcement stage 

The enforcement agent will visit the property to collect the debt outstanding.

At this stage, a minimum of £235 in fees will be added to the account. 

If you owe more than £1,500 a further 7.5% will be added. 

If you are unable to pay in full, the enforcement agent will: 

  • Make a list of your goods 
  • Make a controlled goods agreement with you 
  • Agree on a payment arrangement to clear the debt within a maximum of six months 

You should make a payment arrangement with the enforcement agent and provide details of your income and outgoings if asked to do so. 

If you are out when the enforcement agent calls, they will leave details for you to contact them. 

You should contact them straightaway to avoid further action being taken.

Controlled Goods Agreement

This is an agreement which allows you to keep the goods listed by the enforcement agent as long as you keep to the agreed payment arrangement. 

If you fail this arrangement, you will be given seven days to bring your payments up to date.

Subsequent visits

If the enforcement agent has obtained a controlled goods agreement and you fail to keep to your payment arrangement, the enforcement agent will call again and may take away the items listed in the controlled goods agreement.

What goods can be taken?

The enforcement agent can only take goods that belong to you.

This does not include: 

  • Fixtures and fittings 
  • Goods on hirer purchase 
  • Goods which are rented 
  • Items necessary for use in connection with your employment ('tools of the trade') if their value is less than £1,350 
  • Business necessities

If goods are seized, the sale of goods stage attracts further costs, including fees to cover the removal of goods (£110) and the costs of re-selling them, plus a further percentage fee (7.5%) for debts above a certain value.


Fees are non-negotiable and the only way to avoid them is to pay the balance in full or set-up and maintain a payment arrangement 

If the enforcement agents are unsuccessful in collecting the debt, South Staffordshire Council could commence action to make you bankrupt or your company insolvent.

Ultimately, if you do not have limited company liability the council can make an application for you to be committed to prison.

Independent advice

If you are having financial difficulties, the Citizens Advice Bureau has advisers who are available to discuss debt issues. 

The National Debt line provides free confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems. 

If you require further assistance, contact the revenues team by email: taxation@sstaffs.gov.uk or by telephone: 01902 696669 

If you would like to register for self-service where you can access information on your council tax account, please follow this link: My Login

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