Difficulties paying your Council Tax

People's circumstances can mean that they have difficulties paying their Council Tax - if you're on low income you may be eligible for support to make your payments affordable. 

The Council has a legal duty to seek to recover all outstanding debts. Paying Council Tax on time helps us to keep the amount you are required to pay as low as possible. Any possible Council Tax and Business Rates not collected, can potentially put Council services at risk.

If you have problems paying your Council Tax, the following procedures and information sections may help.

All our customers are entitled to pay their current year’s demand by instalments. If you receive a demand at the start of the financial year you will be given 10 instalments. Where demands are issued later in the year, the number of instalments you can pay over will be reduced. Every customer has the right to make a request for their payments to be extended for up to 12 months (i.e. April to March). Contact us to discuss what we can do for you or complete the online application form.

If your payment date is inconvenient, consider paying by Direct Debit as this gives you a choice of payment dates. You can complete the online Direct Debit application form for this to be arranged.

If you are struggling to meet your payments contact us as soon as possible to discuss your options on 0345 140 0845.

If appropriate, we may be able to come to a short-term payment agreement with you, though details of your income and outgoings could be requested to help us make an arrangement which you can afford and keep to.

If you are on a low income you may be eligible to receive Council Tax Reduction. Contact us to discuss what we can do to help you.

If you are already in receipt of Council Tax Reduction, you may be able to request an Emergency Hardship Fund payment if you are experiencing hardship caused by unusual or extreme circumstances. The Emergency Hardship Fund policy statement and application form can be found on the right hand side of this page.

While your Universal Credit Application is being considered, you should continue to pay the monthly instalments shown on your Council Tax demand, or as detailed in any special payment agreement you may have.

Even if your application is successful, there could still be an amount of Council Tax to pay after any Council Tax Reduction is awarded.

If you are unable to pay the instalments demanded, and wish to discuss a temporary payment arrangement while your application is being decided, please call the Council’s Contact Centre on 0345 140 0845, or visit the Southport or Bootle One Stop Shop:

Sefton One Stop Shop Offices are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

  • Bootle One Stop Shop, 324 - 342 Stanley Road, Bootle, L20 6ET
  • Southport One Stop Shop, Cambridge Arcade, Southport, PR9 1DA

The Citizens Advice Bureau can also arrange an appointment in order for you to receive money advice, which will incorporate Personal Budgeting Support for Universal Credit applicants. 

If payments are not made in accordance with your demand and you do not pay the instalments that are due, you will be sent a Reminder Notice asking you to bring your payments up to date within 7 days. The full year’s charge will become due if the payments are not brought up to date.

If you pay nothing, or continue to pay late and receive a Final Notice, your right to pay by instalments is lost and you will be expected to pay the outstanding balance in full.

If you do not pay the amount outstanding, or fail to make an acceptable payment arrangement (usually by Direct Debit), we will continue with recovery action.

The Council will apply for a Court Order, called a Liability Order, against anyone who fails to pay following a Reminder or Final Notice.

Why have I received a Summons?

The Council relies on prompt payment of Council Tax. If you do not make payments on time, the Council may not be able to provide all essential services to the residents of Sefton. The Council’s records show that the amount(s) due have not been paid as demanded and consequently, recovery action has been taken against you in order to protect the Council’s interests. The Summons includes costs, which have now been incurred. If the total amount due, including costs, is not paid before the hearing, and Sefton Council proves that the sums are due, the court will be asked to grant a Liability Order against you, in your name. Details of the action that can be taken against you are shown on the back of your Summons. Further costs may be incurred if any of these actions are taken.

Do I have to attend court?

You do not have to attend court: -

  • If you do not dispute that you owe the amount due.
  • If the total amount due, including costs is paid before the date of the hearing.

If you are unable to pay the full amount on the summons?

If you are having difficulty paying the full payment, you must contact us as soon as possible with your proposed payment arrangement by completing the online payment arrangement form found in the Do it online section of this web page.

All payment arrangements must be made with the agreement of the Council and can only be accepted by Direct Debit, that way we can enter a formal arrangement on your account and make sure that no further action is taken as long as you keep to the agreed payment arrangement.

The Council will still apply for a Liability Order but undertake not to take any further proceedings if you make the payments as agreed.

What if I dispute the debt?

  • If you dispute that you owe the amount due or that you are responsible for the property contact the Council immediately.
  • The Council will attempt to resolve any dispute before the court hearing date. If the dispute cannot be resolved, your right to ask the Magistrates to consider your case is unaffected.

If I attend court what are the Magistrates unable to consider?

  • Your ability to pay i.e. your financial circumstances.
  • Any reasons you may wish to give for withholding payment. For example, questions of principle or unresolved disputes with other Council departments.
  • Whether an appeal has been made against the banding of your property.

You will be summonsed to appear at the Magistrates Court in Bootle to explain why you have not paid, and if the Court grants the Liability Order you will be liable to pay additional court costs as well as your outstanding Council Tax.

A Liability Order allows the Council to ask you to provide information about your employment and income. Failure to supply this information is a criminal offence and the council may prosecute you in the Magistrates Court. The penalty, if you are convicted, is a fine of up to £500 plus an order to pay court costs. However, only in those cases where the requested information is not supplied, or there is an unacceptable payment offer made, or an arrangement to pay is broken, will further recovery action be taken.

If it is considered necessary, then the Council can choose any of the following methods to enforce payment

  • Order your employer to make deductions from your wages
  • Ask the DWP to make deductions from your Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support or Employment Support Allowance
  • Instruct an Enforcement Agent to take control of your goods and sell your belongings

With effect from 6th April 2014 The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 and The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 come into effect.

If Enforcement Agents are instructed to recover a debt, the initial ‘’Compliance Stage’’ costs will be £75.00 and all queries concerning that debt must then be made directly to the Enforcement Agent and not to Sefton Council.

If ‘’Enforcement’’ is necessary, an additional £235.00 becomes due. The Enforcement Agents may make a list of your goods, but as long as you agree to an acceptable payment arrangement, they will only remove the goods if you do not keep to the agreement.

If the Enforcement Agent remove your goods, they can sell them and use the money to repay the debt. Further costs of £110.00 are due if your goods are removed and sold.

Therefore, early contact to the Enforcement Agency reduces the amount of costs you have to pay.

If one of those options does not result in an acceptable payment arrangement being made and adhered to, the Council may then consider

  • Registering a Charging Order against your property
  • Applying to the County Court to make you bankrupt
  • Applying to the Magistrates Court for you to be sent to prison

If you have several debts and are experiencing problems in paying them it may help if you get independent guidance from an advice agency.
They may be able to help you prioritise the debts, work out how much you are able to afford and may negotiate repayments on your behalf. As well as advice about dealing with debts they may also provide information about Benefit entitlement and Council Tax discounts, reduction and exemptions.
Local and national agencies that give free advice are listed in the 'Related Links' area of this page.

Sefton Council is committed to working in partnership with the Citizens Advice Bureau, and its Enforcement Agents, to ensure access to high quality debt advice and fairness in collecting Council tax debt. Full details can be found on this policy document:

Debt Collection Protocol Policy Document (pdf 380KB)



Last Updated on 14 March 2019