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What is Council Tax debt?

Some debts are really charges that you are obliged to pay – Council Tax arrears are a prime example.  Unlike other debts, you do not agree to take out this debt: it is simply imposed on you as an obligation, and large Council Tax arrears can easily start to run up if you forget to, or are unable to, make payments.

Council Tax arrears are a serious problem for many people across Scotland.  By virtue of having a home, we are all (to varying degrees) liable for Council Tax payments and, by failing to make those payments, we can quickly fall into Council Tax arrears.

How it can happen

This situation can arise in a number of ways, including family breakdowns or even lack of communication within a household where one party thinks the other is paying or has paid the Council Tax over a period – only to discover that this is not the case, and that Council Tax arrears have gradually built up.

There are of course various rebates, discounts and exemptions available, depending on your personal circumstances, but, once you have run up Council Tax arrears, you will have to find a way to deal with those arrears if you are unable to make the payments.

Local councils have special powers to recover such debts, which makes finding a solution even more important.

What happens if I cannot pay Council Tax arrears

Councils will want their money

What happens if I cannot pay Council Tax arrears?

Councils are quick to take action against people who have Council Tax arrears.

The first thing that will happen will be a letter stating that you have failed to make a payment and that your credit rating could be affected.

The Council will then contact you with increasing frequency to get you to resolve your debts and will eventually issue you with a final notice.

This will mean that your right to pay your Council Tax in monthly instalments will have been removed, instead the Council will be looking for a full and immediate payment of all your debts.

No money

If you do not have this money then you might try to reach an agreement with the Council, negotiating with the Finance Department to try to spread the cost.  Ultimately, this is at their discretion: you have no right to such an arrangement at this stage.

Whatever happens though, you will need to get touch with them and make it clear that you cannot pay.

Protect money and assets that you have

We can help you resolve your Council Tax Arrears

We will work with you to assess your debt repayment options and have access to other ways of dealing with Council Tax arrears.

Our debt advisers have vast experience of helping people facing Council Tax arrears debts and problems.  We can help you work out an affordable repayment plan with the Council and/or with Sheriff Officers if your case has been passed on to them. 

We can also deal directly with these people on your behalf, and will advise you of your legal position and just what can and cannot be demanded of you and what legal rights you have. 

What else can councils do to recover Council Tax arrears

Explore options with your bank

What else can councils do to recover Council Tax arrears?

The Council may well choose to hand your debt to Sheriff Officers if you persistently fail to make payments on time.

Some Sheriff Officers can apply considerable pressure to get you to pay.

Councils can apply to the Sheriff Court to get a summary warrant and can repossess, which allows Sheriff Officers to recover items from your property or elsewhere (such as your car for instance) as part of a summary warrant or court order against you.

Arrested wages

Councils can apply to the Sheriff Court for a summary warrant, there is no court hearing required for a warrant to be issued.

The warrant also allows Sheriff Officers to arrest part of your earnings – getting access to your wages or salary to make deductions for the payment of creditors such as the councils, allowing them to get full or part payments depending on your financial circumstances.

Your employer is required to deduct these payments at source.

Don't panic

What if I am dealing with other unmanageable debts as well as council tax debts?

It is quite often the case that people struggling with council tax debts are also trying to deal with a range of other unsecured debts too.

This simply reflects general financial difficulties that anyone can find themselves in, given the right set of circumstances.  If this is you, don’t panic, there are ways of dealing with such situations.

Debt Arrangement Scheme

One way, if you live in Scotland, is a Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS).  Set up by the Scottish Government, the Debt Arrangement Scheme is a useful alternative to insolvency.

It is an effective way of preventing aggressive court actions being taken by creditors including HMRC,  banks, etc. and it allows you to manage your unsecured debts and work your way to a debt-free and much happier future.

Protected Trust Deed

Other options we can explore with you include a Protected Trust Deed if you are dealing with unsecured debts of £5,000 or more, and you live in Scotland.

A Protected Trust Deed will help you pay off your debts while making life much easier for you and those close to you.

Although it is a form of insolvency, it is really simply a formal agreement between you and your creditors.


If you are a resident in Scotland and have over £3,000 of unsecured debts that you cannot pay back, then bankruptcy may be an option for you.

It gives you a way out of what can be seemingly overwhelming debt. Filing for bankruptcy in the right circumstances, can be the correct thing to do.

It is best to take expert advice before considering bankruptcy.

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If you have been contacted by Sheriff Officers about Council Tax arrears, or to find out about your legal rights, complete our short form and we will contact you straight back.

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