A Summary Warrant is a type of court order and is granted by the Sheriff Court for certain types of debts that are owed to local authorities and HMRC.
They are issued to recover taxes and water and sewage charges and authorise Sheriff Officers to carry out formal legal debt recovery.
Once a Summary Warrant has been issued, HMRC and local authorities may serve on you a Charge for Payment that gives you 14 days’ notice to pay your debts in full. This allows them to legally recover the debt.
Once they have served the Charge for Payment, if you have still not paid, they can use certain types of formal debt recovery processes to recover the debt. These are:
They cannot be used to execute what are known as land diligences, like inhibitions or Adjudications for Debt; although local authorities and HMRC can use the normal court process to use these procedures.
Unlike other court orders, Summary Warrants do not involve a court hearing , so you do not receive a court summons and cannot state a defence.
However, unlike other court orders that are awarded for non-payment of debts, there is no judicial interest applied to Summary Warrant debts (normally this is 8% per annum). Instead there is a one off 10% surcharge applied to the debt.
Time to Pay
When the debt owed is owed to a local authority, you can ask for time to pay, even after a Summary Warrant has been granted, by applying for a Time to Pays Direction. This is a court procedure that can protect you from enforcement action from Sheriff Officers. Time to Pays cannot be used with HMRC debts, but HMRC do have their own rules about payment arrangements.
Alternatively, if you are concerned you will get a Bank Arrestment or Earning Arrestment, you can use the Debt Arrangement Scheme, which can be used with HMRC and Local Authority Debt.
Council Tax Arrears and Summary Warrants
Local Authorities can use the Summary Warrant procedure, but only for council tax, business rates and water and sewage charges. They cannot use it for other debts, such as rent arrears.
You can find out more about how the Summary Warrant procedure is used to recover Council Tax Arrears here.
Can Summary Warrants be used for HMRC Debts?
HMRC can also use the Summary Warrant procedure to recover taxes that are due. They must give you 14 days’ notice before using the summary warrant procedure to allow you a chance to pay the debt or enter into an agreement with them.