Council Tax debt is one of the easiest ways of getting into debt.
Well, unlike other debts, such as credit cards and loans, it’s not a debt you agree to take out. It’s a local authority charge which we all have to pay when we have a home, unless we are eligible for a reduction, discount or exemption.
This means even if you have avoided taking out other debts, you can quickly fall into arrears when things become difficult.
The first thing to do is get advice, but don’t pay for it.
The second, is be careful who you take advice from.
Some services will tell you they are a free service, but often they are seeking to place you into a product like a Protected Trust Deed or Bankruptcy, where they or a partner agency will make money.
This is not necessarily wrong, but something you should be aware of.
Who Can Help?
There are plenty of free services in Scotland that are extremely experienced at dealing with Council Tax debt such as:
These organisations will automatically check if it’s possible to reduce how much you owe, before suggesting you pay anything.
This involves checking whether you are entitled to:
- a council tax reduction,
- a council tax discount: or
- an exemption from paying council tax at all.
All of these, if successful, can help reduce the amount you owe, even to the extent you might not owe anything.
Contacting your Local Authority
Local Councils are also very helpful in helping you with your council tax debt.
They will often assist you to enter into a repayment plan with them, stopping any further enforcement action.
Where you have other debts or substantial arrears, however, it may be best to seek independent advice first.
Where you have not entered into a repayment plans with sheriff officers, Council’s will also usually deal with you directly.
This may mean in addition to paying your normal monthly payments, you make an additional payment towards your arrears. This reduces the amount you owe and also stops further arrears building up.
They then take your debt off the sheriff officers meaning you no longer have to deal with them.
Ignoring Council Tax debt is never the right answer.