What is Council Tax, do I have to pay and what happens if I don't pay?
What is Council Tax?
Council Tax funds local services including:
- Fire and Police Services
- Rubbish collection
Most domestic properties are subject to Council Tax. There is one bill per dwelling (owned or rented), whether it's a house, bungalow, flat, maisonette, mobile home or houseboat.
Every property is allocated into one of eight bands (A to H) based on the property's estimated value in April 1991. This independent valuation is undertaken by the Listing Officer at the Valuation Office Agency VOA) .
Any appeal against the valuation (and therefore the band) should be addressed to the relevant office below:
- Adur: Council Tax South, Valuation Office Agency (full contact details on the VOA website)
- Worthing: The Worthing Valuation Office (full details on the VOA website)
The full Council Tax charge is based on two or more adults living in the property. If there is only one adult resident you can claim a discount of 25%.
The amount of Council Tax you have to pay is dependent on three main factors:
- The tax set by the appropriate councils and the Sussex Police Authority
- The valuation band that your home has been placed in
- Whether you are entitled to any help towards your bill
Worthing Council Tax payments are collected by Worthing Borough Council.
Who pays Council Tax?
Normally the person who lives in a property will have to pay the Council Tax. The list below shows who should pay in order of responsibility (from top to bottom):
- A resident freeholder
- A resident leaseholder
- A resident statutory or secure tenant
- A resident licensee
- Someone who lives in the property with no security of tenure
- The owner (the person entitled to legal possession)
- If there is no resident freeholder (1) then the resident leaseholder (2) will be liable. If there is no resident freeholder (1) nor a resident leaseholder (2) then the resident tenant (3) will be liable to pay etc. until the liable person is determined.
More than one person may be held liable to pay the bill, for example joint owners or joint tenants. Usually husbands and wives, couples living as man and wife and civil partners are jointly responsible, unless either of them suffers from a severe mental impairment.
There are also situations when the owner will have to pay rather than the resident, for example:
- Properties that are nobody's main home
- Homes where the tenants have separate tenancy agreements for only part of the property, or where it has been adapted for partial occupation (for example, bedsits)
- Care homes, nursing homes and night shelters
- Religious communities (monasteries or convents)
- Properties which are not the owner's main home but are occupied by their domestic staff
- Homes where a minister of religion lives and works, or homes where religious communities are resident
- Properties occupied by asylum seekers who are receiving support directly from the Home Office
What happens if I don't pay?
Remember that paying Council Tax by Direct Debit ensures that your payments are made on time every month. Please note that instructions will not be accepted and processed unless your account is up to date.
If you are unable to pay your Council Tax please see our information on difficulties paying your Council Tax .
If the account is not paid the following actions will be taken:
- A first reminder
- A second reminder in certain circumstances
- A final notice in certain circumstances
- A Court Summons
- A Liability Order
If payment is not received on the due date you will be issued with a first reminder, which gives seven days for the account to be brought up to date by the amount specified in the notice. If you fail to pay this amount, on the expiry of another seven days you lose the right to pay by instalments and the full amount for the year becomes due and a summons will be issued. If you pay the amount due and then pay all further instalments on time, no further action will be taken.
If you pay the amount outstanding on the first reminder notice, but at a later date fail to pay on time again, you will be issued with a second reminder notice. This notice gives seven days for the account to be brought up to date by the amount specified in the notice. If you fail
to pay this amount, on the expiry of another seven days you lose the right to pay by instalments and the full amount for the year becomes due and a summons will be issued. If you pay the amount due and then pay all further instalments on time, no further action will be taken.
Will be issued with a Final Notice; if you fail to pay a third instalment on time you would have lost the right to pay by statutory instalment scheme and the full balance must be paid within seven days; and if on the issue of a first or second reminder you pay an amount not equal to the amount due on the notice. If the amount due on the Final Notice is paid within seven days, no further action will be taken. If you fail to pay the amount in full within seven days then a summons will be issued.
A summons will be issued if you fail to pay in accordance with the Reminder or Final Notice. A summons will incur costs and give notice to appear at the Magistrates Court on the date stated. If you pay in full amount including the costs before the hearing date no further action will be taken.
If you cannot pay the amount in full on the summons and would like to make an arrangement, you should contact the Revenues and Benefits section immediately, N.B; you should note that any arrangement that extends beyond the hearing date will incur Liability Order Costs and these will be added to your arrangement.
A summons is issued due to non-payment if you are not disputing liability for payment, but cannot afford to pay then you do not need to attend the hearing, you contact the Revenues and Benefits section immediately to explain your circumstances.
If you are disputing Liability for the charge you should write in the first instance to the Revenues and Benefits Section stating why you should not be held liable in order to give the section time to investigate the matter.
On the day of the hearing (as stated on the Summons) the Council will apply for a Liability Order which will incur additional costs. The Liability Order gives the Council additional ways to collect the outstanding balance, which include:
- Requesting Financial Information
- Using an Enforcement Agent (bailiff) to take control of (seize) your personal goods and possessions for sale at public auction
- Setting up an attachment to your earnings (this means that your employer will deduct a prescribed percentage of money from your wages/salary to pay off the outstanding Council Tax)
- Setting up an attachment to certain State Benefits (this means that a small amount of money is deducted from your Benefits to pay off the outstanding Council Tax)
- Placing a charge on your property (this means that a Charging Order will be placed on your property so that when it's sold the outstanding Council Tax is paid from the proceeds of the sale. In some instances the Council can force the sale of the property)
- Taking insolvency action against you (either personally or corporately)
- Taking committal action, which could lead to a custodial sentence
Notice of Liability Order
The Council will issue a Notice of Liability Order with a Request for Information. If you:
- Don't contact the Council and make a satisfactory arrangement; or
- Pay the amount in full; or
- Return the completed form requesting information
within 14 days the debt will be passed to the Council's bailiff, which will result in additional fees becoming payable.
Bailiff legislation changes from 6th April 2014
From 6th April 2014 the way bailiffs can charge to collect debts in England and Wales changed meaning that:
- As soon as a Council Tax account is passed to the bailiffs by the Council, a Compliance Fee of £75.00 will be added to the debt
- The bailiff will try to contact you on a number of occasions, but if it becomes necessary to visit you the debt will pass to the Enforcement Stage and a further fee of at least £235.00 will be added to the amount of money that is owed
It is therefore important that if a Liability Order for unpaid Council Tax has been granted by the Court, you should contact the Council before the debt is passed to the bailiff so that the additional fees do not become due.
Information about the key changes to the way that bailiffs can collect debts from 6th April 2014 is available below:
Contact Worthing Council TaxSource: www.adur-worthing.gov.uk