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Paying council tax

By Joe Elvin

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Paying council tax

Discover how council tax can be paid, what to do if you move house and what may happen if you fail to pay.

Council tax bills for the coming year are issued on or before 30 April. 

The total sum is normally payable in 10 monthly installments, meaning residents get a two-month council tax break in February and March. 

Some authorities offer alternatives, such as 11 or 12 payments a year, to help spread the cost.

How do I start paying council tax?

Councils prefer to receive payment by direct debit, but you can also pay by cash, cheque or debit card. 

Most councils accept payment via the internet, telephone banking, Bacs or standing order. Some accept credit card payment but make a surcharge for this. If in doubt, check with your council’s finance office before payment is due.

Find out more: reducing your council tax - learn how you can get a lower council tax bill

Failure to pay council tax

Not paying council tax can have serious consequences. If you are unable to pay, you should contact your council immediately and ask if it will agree to reschedule your payments. If your circumstances have changed, you may be eligible for council tax benefit.

If you miss a council tax instalment, you will get a reminder notice requiring you to pay by a certain date. 

If you miss this, you will be asked to pay the outstanding balance of your council tax bill for the rest of the year in a one single payment. If this is not paid, the council may start recovery action by applying to a magistrate's court. 

If a liability order is granted by the court, the council may seek to obtain payment by an attachment of earnings order, where money is deducted directly from your pay. 

It could apply for deductions to be made from benefits you are receiving, or it could use bailiffs to recover the debt. 

In extreme cases, councils have the power to bring bankruptcy proceedings or apply for a warrant to have you committed to prison.

Find out more: disputing a council tax bill - learn how to challenge your council tax bill 

Council tax when you move home

If you move home, you need to let the council know in advance, so it can stop charging you council tax for your old address from the day you move out. 

If you are staying within the borough, it will adjust your bill to a new rate. 

If you are moving further afield, your new council should be notified, and will start charging you council tax based on your new property's rating from the day you move in.

If you need a new mortgage for your new property, call Which? Mortgage Advisers on 0808 252 7987 for expert, impartial advice on the best deal for you.

Find out more: a step-by-step guide to moving home - provided by our Which? Mortgage Advisers team

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

  • Last updated: April 2017
  • Updated by: Joe Elvin

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