5 ways to make paying council tax easier

It’s easy to think that credit card debts are more important than council tax arrears, when you get chased for them so quickly.

If you miss just one payment on a loan or credit card you might find that you get a volley of calls, emails or letters from creditors.

Some clients pay those creditors who shout the loudest first, irrespective of whether it’s a priority or a non-priority bill, but…

Council tax arrears are priority debts

Not paying your council tax could, in some extreme cases, lead to a prison sentence and money may be taken directly from your wages or benefits. For these reasons, falling behind with council tax payments can be more serious than non-payment of a credit card or unsecured loan.

Because council tax is a priority bill, we always recommend you avoid missing council tax payments and pay back what you owe if you do fall behind.

I’m struggling to pay council tax, what do I do?

We often come across people who haven’t paid their council tax for months on end, because they’re focused on their credit card debts instead.

They’re shocked when suddenly they’re hit with a bill from the council informing them that they have lost their right to pay by monthly instalments. They’re told they have to pay all their council tax debt immediately – that’s the full amount owed for that year. Non-payment could result in bailiffs taking action, they’re warned.

When the council suggests that bailiffs may take action, they mean real court-appointed bailiffs. They don’t mean those ‘doorstep collection agents’ sometimes threatened by credit card and loan companies.

Read more about the difference between bailiffs and debt collectors.

To ensure that you don’t end up at this stage with your council tax arrears it’s vitally important that they are treated as a priority from the off.

If you find you’re struggling to pay council tax, here are five tips to make the payments more affordable.

how to deal with financial stress

1. Check if you can spread your council tax payments over 12 months

Although they don’t always advertise or promote the fact, many local councils will allow people to pay their council tax over 12 months. This is particularly relevant if you’re in financial trouble as it makes the repayments easier to budget for.

To see if your council will allow you to do this, give your local council tax office a call explaining your circumstances. While you’re on the phone you might also find that…

2. …you may qualify for council tax benefit!

Many people think that you can only get reductions on your council tax if you’re out of work or claiming other benefits.

This isn’t always the case; have a look at this Turn2us information sheet on Council Tax Support.

We have a handy benefits checker available on our website. You can also have a welfare benefits check if you get debt advice from us over the phone.

3. Check the property you are living in is within the correct band

In England homes are put into their banding based on what their value was on the 1st April 1991 (2003 in Wales), not on their valuation in today’s prices.

In some cases your property may have been placed within the wrong band. You can appeal the banding to try and reduce the amount you have to pay. A quick warning before you do that: Some properties have been put into the cheaper bands in error…

Our tip: Only appeal if you think it’s going to make your council tax bills cheaper!

4. Do you qualify for single person’s allowance or the second adult rebate?

These are two of the most common reductions to your council tax bill. See if you’re eligible. In some cases it’s even possible to backdate a claim if you can prove a genuine reason why you hadn’t claimed these council tax benefits before.

5. Have you had a change in circumstances?

Life moves pretty fast and sometimes it’s tough to keep every organisation and authority aware of your current circumstances.

Council tax can be affected by children moving in and out of your property, when people start receiving benefits or if you lose your job. If your situation changes it’s always worthwhile giving the council a call straightaway.

The best advice would be to continue to pay the council tax as it is until they get back to you with a revised bill.

We can help you deal with money worries. If you’ve got debt problems or are struggling to work out which bills are most important, try our online debt tool. It’ll help you with free and impartial advice and offer a solution to your situation instantly.

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