Non-Payment: Before Court Proceedings
If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax and other financial commitments, it can be hard to know where to turn for help.
The Money Advice Service is an independent service set up by the government to help people manage their money better, they provide a wealth of online information, where you can access support material on how to budget. A new free on-line service has been launched to help people to manage their debts.
Information is provided about partner organisations that can help, such as the National Debtline and StepChange Debt Charity, as well as telephone services which allow people to speak directly with an expert advisor. Most importantly the face-to-face debt advice search tool allows you to type in your location and find local organisations that give free advice on managing finances and dealing with debt.
Richmondshire District Council's recovery process is set out below:
The Council has a duty to all of its taxpayers to collect the Council Tax within a very limited time scale and in accordance with Central Government regulations.
We do not want you to build up debts and as such will follow the recovery and enforcement procedure set out below.
For more information on the Council's recovery procedure please click on the appropriate bookmark below.
If you have not paid your instalment by the due date the Council will issue you with a reminder. This requires that you pay the missed instalment(s) within 7 days from the date of its issue.
If you do not bring your account up-to-date within the required 7 days, you will lose the right to pay your Council Tax by instalments. Failure to pay the full remaining balance within a further 7 days will result in the issue of a summons - please see below.
Please note that the Council does not have to send you a reminder each time you miss an instalment, as the law only requires us to send a maximum of two reminders in any financial year. So, if you receive the two reminders in the year and after each one bring your instalments up-to-date, should you fall behind again you will not be sent a third reminder, you will immediately be sent a final notice requesting the full remaining balance.
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Once you have been issued with a final notice, if you do not pay the full amount within the required seven days, you will be sent a summons. You will then have to pay the costs relating to the issue of the summons (see below), as well as your outstanding Council Tax.
We may, however, be willing to suspend the final notice and reinstate your instalments if you contact the Council to arrange to bring your account up to date and set up a Direct Debit instruction for future instalments.
Please note that if a final notice is suspended and you either fail to maintain your payments or cancel the above Direct Debit instruction, you will be issued with a summons without further notice.
If you receive a summons and do not pay in full before the hearing, the Council will apply for a 'liability order'.
Should you pay the outstanding charge but not the summons costs, the Council will still apply for the liability order.
Please note that the Magistrates will not discuss settlement of your account. So unless you wish to defend against the Council's application it will not be necessary for you to attend Court.
If, however, you do wish to attend Court please arrive at least 15 minutes before the hearing time so that a member of the Local Taxation Team can interview you.
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At the hearing the Council will provide evidence to the Court that the Council Tax has been correctly set, advertised & demanded, that the appropriate recovery documents have been issued and that it has not all been paid.
If the Court is satisfied with the evidence it will issue a liability order for the amount outstanding.
The defences against the granting of a liability order are very limited. These are:
- that there is no entry in relation to the dwelling in the Valuation List, (outstanding appeals against a valuation assessment will not be accepted),
- that the tax had not been properly set,
- that the tax has not been demanded in accordance with the statutory provisions,
- that the amount demanded has been paid,
- that more than six years have elapsed since the day on which the sum became due,
- that the sum outstanding is in respect of a penalty which is the subject of an appeal or arbitration, or
- that bankruptcy or winding up procedures have been initiated.
It will not be necessary in such proceedings for the Council to prove that a defendant is the liable person, or that the award of an exemption, disabled relief or discount should have been granted. The valuation tribunal deals with appeals in this respect. Consequently these matters may not be raised as a defence against the application for a liability order.
Furthermore the Court cannot, at this stage take account of your personal circumstances as to why you have not paid.
With regards to the service of Council Tax bills, reminders and final notices, these are generally issued by sending them by normal post. Service of such documents is deemed, by the Court, to have been made unless the contrary can be proven. As such, proof of posting is accepted as proof of delivery.
If a person summonsed fails to appear following the issue of a summons, service of their summons may be proven on oath to the Court.
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The reasoning behind applying to a Magistrate to obtain a Council Tax liability order is that it permits a Local Authority to carry out further recovery proceedings on the debt specified in the order. These include:
- the issue of a financial details request (liability order questionnaire);
- to make an attachment of earnings order;
- to apply to the Benefits Agency for deductions to be made from Income support/Job Seekers Allowance;
- for the Council's Enforcement Agents to take control of goods;
- to apply for a charging order against a dwelling;
- to apply to bankrupt the debtor.
It is then up to the Council to decide which is the most appropriate form of recovery action to undertake, if a payment arrangement has not been accepted.
Even when an arrangement has been discussed, the Council will still apply to obtain a liability order, but will not execute the order other than by issuing a Liability Order Questionnaire. Please note that confirmation of any payment arrangement will be dependent upon the return of the duly completed Liability Order Questionnaire.
Where no arrangement has been agreed, the liability order will normally be passed over to the Council's Enforcement Agents.
The Enforcement Agent will visit the property and is empowered to take control and sell goods if necessary.
Should enforcement reach this stage, the Council will not intervene in any action taken by our agent to enforce payment unless the circumstances are exceptional.
For more information about the enforcement of the liability order please click here.
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Statement of Case
If you disagree with the decision made by the Magistrates’ Court to grant the liability order you can ask for a case to be stated for an opinion from the High Court. This must be done within 21 days of the magistrates’ decision, and certain other restrictions apply. An application must be made in writing to the Clerk of the Magistrate’s Court, detailing who is making the claim, on what basis i.e. a question of law or jurisdiction and the questions they wish to raise.
Please note, however, that the Magistrates may refuse an application if they deem the request to be frivolous, unless it is made by or under instruction of the Attorney General.
For 2017/18 the cost for the issue of a summons is £49.00 and for obtaining a Liability Order £25.00, a total of £74.00
What are these costs for?
These are payable to cover the Council's additional expenses which occur as a result of the extra work involved in issuing the summons and attending the court. It would not be fair to burden Council Taxpayers who pay on time with this extra administrative cost.
We are committed to ensuring that Council Tax bills are kept as low as possible. Prompt collection means the Council has to spend less on sending reminders and final notices and if the cash is collected promptly the Council benefits from improved cash flow.
Everyone has to pay the cost of tax arrears and we are trying to keep the cost down.
This Council consistently achieves an in year collection rate of over 98% and the recovery of any outstanding debts is vigorously pursued in subsequent years.