Council Tax - recovery process explained and frequently asked questions

The recovery process explained

If you do not pay your Council Tax or pay late, you may be subject to recovery proceedings.

Council Tax is a yearly charge normally paid in ten monthly instalments, starting in April. Your bill must be paid by the 1st of each month unless you choose to pay by Direct Debit. Your bill shows your payment dates and amounts. If you have previous year’s arrears on your account it is particularly important that you pay the exact amount of the instalment otherwise the payment will be allocated to your arrears.

Any changes to your Council Tax account will cause an amended bill to be sent to you. You should make payment according to your latest bill.

If your payment is late, or no payment is received the below diagram gives an overview of the recovery process that may commence against you:

Council Tax Recovery Flowchart

For further information regarding any of the notices above, please view our Recovery Notices page.


Frequently asked questions

Reminder / final notice

Q. Why has this reminder been sent to me?
A.
i) According to the council’s records you have not made your monthly payments as detailed on your Council Tax Bill.

ii) Payments are recorded on your account when the council actually receives the money. You must therefore allow sufficient time for the transmission of payments made by post or through the bank.

To pay the amount due now you can make a payment online on the Council Tax Online Payment web page or by using the Council’s automated telephone payment line, which is 0300 123 5039, using your debit or credit card. Both of which are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Q. I have received a reminder but my instalment has already been paid?
A.
If you have paid the full amount shown on the reminder notice and your payment has crossed with the reminder and now been credited to your account, no further action will be taken. If the payment has not been credited to your account you should contact the Council Tax Team.

Q. I have received a final notice for my Council Tax, can I just bring my instalments up to date instead?
A.
Once a final notice has been issued you have lost your right to pay Council Tax by instalments and the whole outstanding balance is now due.

Q. I am unable to make a Council Tax payment, what should I do?
A.
You should contact the Council Tax team immediately. Officers may consider making a special arrangement with you. Do not ignore the reminder notice as recovery action may be taken against you and will incur additional costs.

Q. What happens if I have an outstanding claim for Council Tax benefit?
A.
You still need to pay your current instalments while your claim is being considered. This is because your claim may not be successful. If you would like to check the progress of your claim please contact the Benefits Section in the first instance on 0300 123 5013.

Q. I have an outstanding appeal against my Council Tax band with the Valuation Office or awaiting a reduction by the council. Do I still need to pay?
A.
You may not withhold payment of your Council Tax whilst an appeal is outstanding, whether it is against the existing Council Tax band or the award of discounts or exemptions. Should your appeal be successful your account will be adjusted and any overpaid Council Tax refunded . For banding queries please Visit the Valuation Tribunal Office for further information.

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Summons

Q. I have received a summons; if I bring my instalments up to date can the costs be withdrawn?
A.
No. The summons has been issued because you failed to comply with an earlier reminder/final notice. You have lost your right to pay by instalments and the full balance is due, including the costs. The costs have been incurred by the council in the preparation of the issue of the summons and remain payable. As long as the full summons balance, including the costs, is paid in full before the court hearing no further action will be taken or costs incurred.

To pay the amount due now you can make a payment online on the Council Tax Online Payment web page or by using the council’s automated telephone payment line, which is 0300 123 5039, using your debit or credit card. Both of which are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Q. Czy otrzymałeś wezwanie za Nie Płacenie Council Tax? (Have you received a Summons for Non-Payment of Council Tax?)
A
. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z wezwaniem – ulotka z ważnymi informacjami (PDF, 111KB)

Q. I have received a summons with an arrangement, why?
A.
The council will ask the magistrates to grant a liability order unless the total amount due, including costs, is paid before the hearing date. If you can’t pay in full then the council will apply for a liability order at the hearing. However, you can avoid further enforcement action by making the instalments as stated in the payment arrangement section of the summons notice you have received. Liability order costs of £35.00 are incorporated into the arrangement, however no further action will be taken as long as payment is made in accordance with the arrangement.

Q. Everyone in the household has received a summons. Do we all have to pay the amount on the summons?
A.
Every person named on the bill will receive a copy. Only one amount of Council Tax and court costs needs to be paid.

Q. Do I have to go to court?
A. 
NO.  If you accept that you are liable for the charge set out in the summons enclosed with this notice you do not need to attend court.  The court cannot make any arrangements with you for payment of the amount outstanding or take account of your financial circumstances.  You should contact the Council to resolve any issues that you may have, before the court hearing.  If you do not understand anything you should seek help from the council, the Citizens Advise Bureau or a solicitor. If you wish to appear personally before the magistrates you must contact the council at once, your case will not then be dealt with on the date of the hearing given on the summons. We will write to advise you of an alternative date to attend.

Q. Will I still have to pay additional court costs if I make an arrangement to pay before the hearing?

A. Yes. We will apply for a liability order and costs will be added to your liability. However, we will take no further recovery action provided you make payment as we have agreed.

Q. Will my name or address be 'black-listed'?
A.
Applications for a Liability Order are made in the magistrates court, not the County Court; therefore it will not affect your credit rating.

Q. Why have I been sent a summons for the whole year when I've got until March next year to pay it?
A.
You have the right to pay by instalments (usually from April - January), but if you do not pay the instalments as detailed on your bill you will be sent a reminder or final notice. If the amount due on the notice is not paid within 7 days, you will lose your right to pay by instalments and the full amount becomes payable. A summons for non-payment is issued for the full years balance incurring additional costs.

Q. I have received a summons for the previous occupier. What should I do?
A.
Please write 'return to sender' on the envelope and post back to the Revenues Service.

Q. Can I pay 'my share' of the summons?
A.
If the summons is addressed to more than one party, payment must be received for the full amount due before the court date. All liable parties are joint and severally liable for the full amount, therefore we can pursue monies in full from any named person on the account. Whilst you may wish to split the amount due, it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone pays their 'share'. If payment is not received in full, further action can be taken against any liable party regardless of payments made and further costs will be incurred.

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Liability order

Q. What is a liability order?
A.
A liability order is an order of the magistrates court that gives certain powers to the council to collect the debt that it is owed. The order is for a fixed amount of money, plus additional costs. Both of these amounts are payable without any further delay.

The options available to the council include deductions from Income Support, Job Seeker's Allowance, Pension Credits or Employment Support Allowance, attachment of earnings order, the use of an enforcement agent previously know as bailiff (see below for further information), or even committal to prison. Alternatively, the council can look at instigating insolvency proceedings against you or placing a charge against any interest you may have in the property.

Q. Do I have to complete and return the document entitled “Notice of Issue of liability order"?
A. If you return this document it will assist the council in choosing the most appropriate option for the recovery of the outstanding Council Tax.

Q. I have received an attachment of earnings order. What should I do?
A.
The council has decided that it can best recover the outstanding Council Tax by collecting the balance through your wages or salary. Your employer has been ordered to make the deductions and pass these directly to the council. The amount deducted will vary depending on the amount that you earn and the number of orders in place.  Details of the amounts that will be deducted are on the reverse of your copy of the order or can be viewed via the following link Council Tax AEO Deduction Tables (PDF, 25KB).  Your employer will deduct the Council Tax from your wages or salary until the full balance of the order is paid.

In order to prevent the deductions from being made, you may choose to settle the amount shown on the order in full. If you intend to do this we recommend that you contact us in order that we can then contact your employer to advise that the orders are paid in full once we are in possession of the necessary funds.

If an attachment of earnings order is in place, you must tell the council if you change your employer. If you have any further query, please contact us.

Please note that the council can instigate an attachment to earnings order against a maximum of 2 liability order’s at any one time.

Q. I have had a deduction from my Income Support/Job Seeker's Allowance/Pension Credit/Employment Support Allowance. What should I do?
A.
The council has decided that it can best recover the outstanding Council Tax by collecting the balance through your Income Support, Job Seeker's Allowance, Pension Credit or Employment Support Allowance.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been ordered to make the deductions and pass these directly to the council. The DWP will write to you about this. It will inform you of the amount that will be deducted each week and when these will start. This will continue until the amount of the order has been paid or your circumstances prevent further deductions.

Q. An enforcement agent has contacted me. Can I make a payment to the council?
A.
A Council Tax liability order has been passed to the council's enforcement agent to be collected. All further payments should be made directly to the enforcement agents office.

Failure to do so may lead to the enforcement agent being unaware that you have made a payment. If you have not already done so, you must now contact the enforcement agent to discuss payment. Failure to do so may lead to additional costs being added to your bill.

Q. Why have I received a notice from an enforcement agent?
A.
The council has decided that it can best recover the outstanding Council Tax by using an enforcement agent. The enforcement agent has sent this notice so that you are aware that they are now collecting Council Tax on behalf of Cheshire East Council in relation to a liability order issued by the magistrates court.

Further costs may have been added to your bill for this. You must now contact the enforcement agent company to make arrangements for payment.

Failure to contact the enforcement agent may lead to the removal of your possessions and will lead to further costs being added to your bill. All payments relating to the debt being collected by the enforcement agent must be paid to them. They will continue until the Council Tax debt and costs have been paid in full.

You may already be aware that from 6th April 2014 enforcement agents are replacing bailiffs and this will change the way in which enforcement agents work and the charges they can make in relation to Council Tax. Under The Taking Control of Goods (Fee) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014 No 1) there are now fixed fees that an enforcement agent may recover from a debtor when carrying out enforcement work which are detailed below:-

  • Residents will now have to pay a £75 compliance fee as soon as the council passes an unpaid account to the agent for collection, this fee is payable per individual order
  • They will also have to pay a further enforcement fee of a least £235 if they do not make arrangements to pay or default on payments and a visit becomes necessary, this is a one off fee regardless of the number of orders outstanding
  • They will also have to pay at least a further £110 at the sale or disposal stage
  • A further 7.5% fee will also be charged on any additional amount above £1,500 excluding fees, this is though only chargeable at the enforcement or sale/disposal stages

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Attachment of earnings order

Q. What is a Council Tax attachment of earnings order?
A.
Where there is non-payment of Council Tax the local authority can apply to a magistrates court for a liability order against the defaulter. If a court grants a liability order an authority has a number of options for recovering the outstanding amount. One of these is a Council Tax Attachment of Earnings Orders (CTAOE).

The CTAOE will be in a form prescribed in regulations. It contains the name of the debtor, the payroll number (if known) and the local authority reference. It confirms that the named person is liable for Council Tax and specifies the amount of charge that still has to be paid. Deductions in line with the order should be made as soon as possible after the order has been received.

Q. What duties does this order place on an employer?
A.
This order is a legal document and places certain duties on an employer, so it is important that you know the governing principles. If the person who is the subject of the order is in your employment you should make deductions from his or her earnings as explained below. These deductions should begin as soon as possible after the receipt of the order. The amount deducted should then be forwarded to the authority by the 19th day of the month following the month in which the deduction was made.

As well as the amount to be deducted and paid to the authority you may also deduct £1 per transaction from your employee towards your administrative costs. With each deduction made a written statement of the cumulative amount deducted, including any £1 deducted from your employee in respect of your administrative costs should be supplied to your employee. This can normally be done when a pay statement is issued, but if this is not convenient may be done as soon as possible after the deduction is made.

If the employee has moved on or has never been in your employment, you should inform the issuing authority within 14 days and your liability to do anything under the order will cease.

Q. How long does this order last?
A.
Deductions should be made each pay day until:

  • the total amount specified on the order has been paid over to the authority
  • the person has left your employment
  • the order is discharged by the authority

When the employee leaves your employment and you have notified the local authority nothing further is required of you. The local authority will have to serve a copy of the order on the new employer, which will state the amount remaining to be deducted.

Q. How much should be deducted?
A.
The amount to be deducted is dependent on the total net earnings received by the employee. Go to How do I use the Council Tax Attachment of Earnings Deduction Tables? for more information.

Q. What are net earnings?
A.
For the purpose of these orders net earnings means earnings after the deduction of Income Tax, Primary Class 1 National Insurance Contributions, Superannuation Contributions and any deduction with a higher priority.

Earnings are defined as sums payable by way of:

  • Wages or Salary (including any fees, bonus, commission, overtime pay or other emoluments payable in addition to wages or salary payable under a contract of service)
  • Statutory Sick Pay

Earnings do not include:

  • Sums payable by Public Departments of the Government of Northern Ireland or of a territory outside the United Kingdom
  • Pay and Allowances of members of the Armed Forces
  • Benefit or Allowances payable under any enactment relating to Social Security (this includes maternity pay)
  • Tax Credits
  • Redundancy Payments
  • Allowances payable in respect of Disablement or Disability
  • Wages payable to a person as a Seaman, other than as a seaman of a fishing boat

Q. Are Youth Training Allowances earnings?
A.
No


Q. How do I use the Council Tax attachment of earnings deduction tables?
A.
Column 1 of each Council Tax AEO Deduction Table (PDF, 25KB) details pay bands which correspond to net earnings. Column 2 details the percentage of earnings to be deducted. Locate the earnings band in column 1 and then read across to column 2 to find the percentage and then calculate the amount to be deducted.

Q. How do I know which Council Tax attachment of earnings deduction table to use?
A. Since the majority of people are paid at regular intervals this should normally be straightforward but there will be cases of irregular payment.

The examples listed below may help you to decide which Council Tax AEO Deduction Table (PDF, 25KB) should be used.

  • Weekly - if the person is paid weekly then deductions should be made in line with Table A
  • Monthly - if the person is paid monthly then deductions should be made in line with Table B
  • Other weekly intervals - if the person is paid at intervals of a whole number of weeks then the net earnings should be divided by the number of weeks in the pay period. Table A should then be used to work out the appropriate weekly deduction and the resulting amount multiplied by the number of weeks in the period.
  • More than one month - if a person is paid at intervals of a whole number of months the net earnings should be divided by the number of months in the pay period. Table B should then be used to work out the appropriate monthly deduction and the resulting amount multiplied by the number of months in the period.
  • Regular intervals (not whole weeks or months) - if a person is paid at regular intervals, but not at intervals of a whole number of weeks or months then net earnings should be divided by the number of days. Table C should then be used to work out the appropriate daily rate, which should then be multiplied by the number of days in the period.

Q. What do I deduct if there is an advance for holiday pay?
A.
The amount to deduct is the aggregate of:

i) the amount that would have been deducted on the pay day if there had been no advance of pay and
ii) the amounts that would have been deducted if the amount advanced had been paid on the normal pay day or days

Q. How should I deal with loans made for other purposes?
A.
Loans made, for example, for the purchase of a season ticket or for helping with moving house, are not advances of pay and should not be counted as earnings.

The way that repayments of such loans are treated in calculating a deduction depends on the date that the CTAEO was made:

  • for calculating a deduction under a CTAEO made before 1 April 1995, net earnings should be reduced by the amount of the repayment made to the employer; and,
  • for CTAEOs made on or after 1 April 1995, the AEO deduction should be based on net earnings before any loan repayment.

Q. What do I do if there is an attachment of earnings order already in force?
A.
The following examples should cover most situations:

  • if there is already a CTAEO in place the new CTAEO is still applied, in date sequence, with the later order being applied to the residue of earnings. However, if there are already two or more CTAEOs in payment, then no further CTAEOcan be actioned and the local authority should be notified accordingly.
  • if there is already a community charge AEO (CCAEO) in place then the new CTAEOis still applied, in date sequence, with the later order being applied to the residue of earnings. However, please note that a single CTAEO should still be actioned irrespective of the number of CCAEOs, or other Non-Council Tax Orders, already in force.
  • any 1971 Act non-priority orders are to be applied (in date order) after all other orders.

Q. What are the statutory duties placed on employers?
A.
 The CTAEO is a legal document and places certain duties on employers and debtors. A summary of these legal duties is below.

An employer could be liable for a fine for:

  • failure to comply with the order unless he can prove all reasonable steps were taken to comply
  • failure to give all required notifications relating to the Council Tax attachment of earnings order
  • in giving notification makes a statement which he knows to be false in a material particular or recklessly make a statement which is false in a material particular

Q. What are the statutory duties placed on debtors?
A.
Debtors could be liable for a fine for:

  • failure, without reasonable excuse, to supply information
  • making a statement which they know to be false in a material particular

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Contact us

Council Tax online enquiry form

Council Tax Team available for telephone enquiries:
Monday - Friday, 8:30 - 17:00

0300 123 5013


Revenues Service
Cheshire East Council
PO Box 622
Crewe
CW1 9JH

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