Process for unpaid business rates
If you don't pay your business rates, we have a process we follow to recover what is owed:
If you don't pay an installment, we will send you a reminder notice, which gives you seven days to bring your account up to date. If this notice isn't paid, we will start formal legal action.
If you pay the overdue installment but miss a future one, a final notice will be issued and the full balance of your bill will be payable within seven days. If this notice isn't paid, we will start formal legal proceedings.
If you fail to discharge the reminder/final notice within the required seven days, we will take court action to enforce payment of the debt. At this point, you'll start to incur costs.
If you settle the amount in full, including costs, shown on the summons before the court hearing, we will take no further action.
Before the hearing, we'll be willing to discuss a mutually acceptable payment arrangement but this will be on the understanding that we continue with the legal action. We'll still attend the hearing to ask the magistrates to grant a liability order. The magistrates won't discuss settlement of your account, so unless you wish to defend against our application, you don't have to attend court. If you do attend, arrive at least 15 minutes before the hearing time so that a member of the local taxation team can interview you.
If the magistrates are satisfied with the evidence we present, they will grant a liability order. This gives us powers to recover the outstanding debt using other methods.
For 2020-21, the cost for the issue of a summons is £61 and for obtaining a liability order £28, a total of £89.
These costs cover the extra work involved in issuing the summons and attending court.
The Liability Order
Even at this late stage, unless instructions to take enforcement action have been issued, you will still have the chance to propose a payment arrangement.
A liability order gives us the power to:
- Start enforcement action
- Petition for bankruptcy
- Petition for a winding up order
- Apply for a charging order on the property
- Ask for committal to prison
If you don't contact us providing an acceptable offer of payment, we will pass your case over to our enforcement agents for collection. They can call at your premises to take control of your goods, and remove and ultimately sell them at public auction. Any money raised will be used to clear the debt.
Once agents are instructed to collect the debt, you will have to pay additional fees. We strongly recommend that you engage with us, rather than letting it get this far.
Contact details for our agents can be found on their websites:
If the debt is more than £999 we can make an application to the county court to impose a security against the value of your property. This will be paid to us when it's eventually sold.
We may decide to take insolvency action against you for non-payment of your business rates if the debt is more than £749. If we take bankruptcy action, you could lose your home and possessions to pay your debt. We will send you a letter warning of bankruptcy proceedings and give you a last chance to make a payment arrangement before bankruptcy action starts.
This is a last resort, if the bailiffs haven't been able to remove goods to pay for your debt, or if we think other recovery options are inappropriate. We can ask the magistrates’ court to send you a summons to attend a committal hearing. This means that we will ask the court to decide whether to send you to prison for not paying your business rates.
Where to get help
If you're struggling with debt, there is help available.
The independent Money Advice Service provides a wealth of online information on how to budget. A new free online 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 the StepChange Debt Charity as well as telephone services that allow people to speak to an expert adviser.
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.