A court summons for unpaid council tax payments is definitely not to be ignored. It is also not the first form of communication initiated by the local council office. So, either the recipient has not responded to earlier notices by the local council or there has been a misunderstanding. Especially if the claimant has paid their council tax. 

A recent article on the BBC website sheds light on a similar miscommunication that took place in mid-2021 Harborough District Council sends out 700 court summonses in error

What Should I Do If Court Summons For Council Tax But I Have Paid?

If there is substantial evidence of council tax payments, one should immediately contact their local council office in response to a court summon. Generally speaking, a court summon is sent to those individuals who have missed their council tax payments. Despite reminders from their local council, they have either not contacted the local authorities with a response or their reason(s) for missing out on council tax payments not valid/acceptable.

The purpose of this legal document is to make sure that either the defaulting party clears their council tax debt within 14 days of receiving the court summons or face a court hearing; during which they will be required to give valid reasons for not paying their council tax instalments.

However, if the recipient of this court notice has paid their council tax, they must contact their local council office immediately to find out the details and clarify their position as council tax debt can have a far-reaching effect; from salary reduction to low credit score to loss of state benefits.  To find your local council website, click here Find your local council

To have a 360-degree view of the circumstances revolving around court summons for council tax debt, we will explore the following areas:  

  • what a court summons for council tax debt is
  • the reasons why does the court summon for council tax debt
  • what happens during the proceedings of a court summons
  • does a court summons affect the defaulter’s credit score 

What Is A Court Summons For Council Tax Debt?

If an individual has missed out on their council tax payment or has not agreed to a payment plan on their deferred payments, they will be sent 3 reminders before a court summons from the magistrate’s office. 

This is a legal notice informing the recipient of a court hearing in which they will be required to defend themselves by explaining the reason(s) why they have not paid their council tax. It also includes a payment plan mentioning the dates on which their debt, broken down into instalments, may be paid. 

In the case of acceptance of the payment plan and initiation of clearance of council tax debt within 14 days of receiving the summons letter, no court hearing is needed. However, the defaulting party will be required to pay for all legal fees incurred during this period. This may usually be up to and above £80.

Why Does The Court Summon For Council Tax Debt?

Council tax payments are mandatory upon adults who own or rent a property in England, Scotland or Wales. It is paid as a monthly instalment to local councils so that they may provide community-based services such as police and fire, streets lights and roads, garbage collection, parks, etc. 

If someone misses out on (or believes that they will miss out on one in the near future) one out of the ten-month instalments, they should immediately inform their local council office. If they qualify for a reduction in a council tax benefit, the local authorities will ask for evidence and grant the same. If they don’t qualify, they may still be eligible for a one-time council tax discount or leverage extended by the local council office to clear their dues.

However, if one does not communicate with their local council office, the local authority has the right to send them a reminder to clear their dues within 7 days. This is followed up with another reminder and after 3 of such reminders, the outstanding bill for the remaining financial year becomes due upon the defaulting party as a lump sum payment, rather than the previous monthly instalments.

Should the resident neither clear their debt nor respond to their local council office, It is only at this stage that they will be forced to send a court summons. Additionally, a liability order may also be sent; which authorises the local council office to recover council tax debt from the recipient through salary or benefit(s) deduction by contacting relevant authorities.

What Happens At A Court Summons?

This usually takes place once the local council has not received any response to their payment reminders from the resident in debt. It is preceded by a court summons, demanding the recipient to clear their council tax dues within 14 days, agree to a payment play or appear in court to defend themselves.

However, most of the time, a court session of this nature does not involve a debate between local councils and the debtors. It marks the announcement of a Liability Order against the debtor; which may also be done in their absence (should they choose not to attend the court proceedings).

It must be noted that all legal fees up to this point and that of the Liability Order itself will be charged to the debtor in addition to the due amount of their council tax payments.

Will A Court Summons Affect My Credit Score? 

In council tax debt, the court summons is issued through the Magistrate’s office and are not a County Court Judgement. Had it been so, only then the debtor’s credit score may have been affected; meaning that it would have been difficult to borrow money from a bank or even a shop. A CCJ appears on a debtor’s credit report; indicating their payment history. 

A status of owing debts and a history of a court appearance for the same may seriously hamper any future debt. However, with council tax not being part of CCJ, default status or court proceedings on the matter do not have any impact on one’s credit rating.

FAQs: What Should I Do If Court Summons For Council Tax But I Have Paid?

What happens at a court summons for Council Tax?

From the date of receiving the court summons letter, the defaulting party has 14 days to clear their council tax debt. Failure to do so leads to a session in the magistrate’s court during which a Liability Order is raised; authorising the local council office to use alternate means such as sending a bailiff to recover valuables or contacting the debtor’s employer to deduct the due amount from their salary 

Does a Council Tax court summons affect credit rating?

Since this is not a County Court Judgement, it does not affect the debtor’s credit rating.

What happens if you miss court for Council Tax?

If you have made payment, partial payment or agreed to a payment plan prior to the court hearing date, you do not have to appear in court for a council tax summon. However, failure to appear before the court otherwise will not affect the court’s proceedings as they are most likely to grant a Liability Order to the local council; assigning more authority over recovery of council tax debt. In case you have failed to prove any substantial reason for missing out on council tax payments and are unwilling to do so in the future as well, the court may sentence you to three months in prison.

How long can you be chased for Council Tax?

The local council office generally follows up for six years to recover council tax debt; after which the remaining amount is written off. However, during this time, they may use a range of means to recover the debt; including but not limited to recovering valuables, raising a liability order through the magistrate’s court, sending a bailiff to even pleading in court for jail-term of three months for the debtor. 

Can I go to jail for not paying council tax?

Yes, if you have not responded to the reminders or court orders sent by the local office and magistrate’s office, or not agreed to a payment plan or shown any proof of inability to pay your council tax debt or clear past payments, as the last resort, the court may sentence you to a jail term of three months.

References:

Court summons and liability orders | If you miss a Council Tax payment

Summons to Court | What happens if you don’t pay your Council Tax

Dealing with Council Tax arrears

Find your local council

Summons to Court | What happens if you don’t pay your Council Tax

Pay Council Tax arrears

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John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.

John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.