What you need to know if you receive a Summons to Court for unpaid Council Tax.
Collection of Council Tax
- It is the Council’s duty to collect all instalments as they become due.
- The Council’s recovery policy has been drawn up in compliance with current regulations but we try to be responsive to individual circumstances.
- Recovery Policy for Council Tax is agreed in advance and ensures that all taxpayers are treated fairly and objectively.
It is important that you contact us immediately if you are experiencing difficulty in paying.
Summons to attend Magistrates Court
If you receive a summons it is because you have not ensured that we have received payments in accordance with notices that have been sent to you (e.g. the Demand Notice and Reminder).
A Summons to Magistrates Court issued: Costs incurred £75.00.
Do you dispute your summons?
If you dispute the summons that has been issued to you, you must contact the Council Tax Office immediately.
The aim is for us to make a decision on the dispute and notify you before the hearing day.
Do not leave it to the hearing day to contact us as we may not have time to make a decision on the dispute.
Do you want to make an arrangement to pay?
If you want to make an arrangement to pay please contact us immediately, do not leave it to the hearing day as we may not have time to reach an agreement with you.
Recovery action can only be stopped when payment is made in full, including costs, (see how to pay below) and must be received the day before the Court Hearing.
How to pay
Payments made at the Post Office or a Payzone Outlet, over the phone, or online take at least 3 working days and payments must be received by 3.00pm on the last working day before the Hearing.
If you elect to pay by Direct Debit we are usually prepared to spread any arrears over the remaining instalment period, unless a previous Direct Debit has failed.
At the Magistrates' Court
The Council will request a Liability Order, unless the outstanding balance is paid in full, if the Order is granted you will be notified of this within a week.
Once a Liability Order has been granted, if you have not already entered into an arrangement to pay, the Council will decide the next stage of enforcement from the following:
- Attachment of Earnings – deducting directly from your wages an amount set by regulations. You must provide details of your employment when requested or you may face prosecution and receive a fine (maximum £1000)
- Attachment of Benefit – deducting directly from Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance. The deductions are pre-set by regulations
- Enforcement agent action is usually a course of last resort as enforcement agent fees will be incurred. It is however, a requirement before the next stage of recovery. Once the enforcement agents have become involved any arrangement to pay must be with them.
About enforcement agent action
The enforcement companies act on behalf of the Council to recover a debt, either by arrangement or by removing goods and selling them at auction.
If any debt remains outstanding following enforcement agent action, the Council may issue a legal notice requiring you to attend a Committal Hearing at Oldham Magistrates Court.
A summons to Committal Hearing: Costs incurred £240.00
Any outstanding appeal against your band value or liability is not a valid defence against the granting of a Liability Order.
Changes to fees:
There has been a change to the regulations in respect of the fees that enforcement companies can charge. This amendment is contained in the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014.
The following shows the new fees that will apply if your case is dealt with by an enforcement company after the 6th April 2014.
|Fee stage||Fixed fee||Additional fees (for debts exceeding £1,500)||Definition|
|Compliance (Administration)||£75.00||0||This fee covers activity from the receipt of the case. It includes the issue of a notice of enforcement, dealing with any contact from the person(s) who owe the debt and any processing of correspondence or payments|
|Enforcement||£235.00||7.5% of any amount over £1,500||First attendance by the enforcement agent to the person’s premises or doorstep. The fee includes all the work carried out at this stage so there are no additional visit charges.|
|Removal/Disposal of goods||£110.00||7.5% of any amount over £1,500||This covers activity from the first attendance at the property to remove the goods to a place of sale.|
Committal Court attendance
The court officer will present the evidence to the Magistrates’ and in submission will try to establish “wilful refusal or culpable neglect”.
The debtor has the right to legal representation and will be subject to a detailed means enquiry.
The clerk of court will establish the debtor’s ability to make payment from the date of the first instalment to the date of the means enquiry in respect of council tax and/or from the date of the first instalment to the date of the liability order for non-domestic rates.
The Bench will then adjourn to consider the evidence. Upon its return the Magistrates’ have the power to either impose a custodial sentence up to a maximum of 90 days imprisonment, suspend sentence and make a payment order, or remit part or all of the debt.
If the defendant fails to attend court an application will be made for a warrant with bail and this will be issued to either the Recovery Officer or one of the Council enforcement agents for serving. When the warrant is served the defendant will be bailed on his/her own recognisance to appear at the next Committal Court.
If the defendant again fails to attend court an application will be made to the Magistrates’ for the issue of a warrant without bail. This warrant will be executed by a specialist firm of warrant officers who will take the necessary steps to arrest and place the defendant into custody. He/she will appear in court at the next sitting.
Committal Hearing: Costs incurred £85.00 (bail warrant issued) or £105.00 (without bail warrant).
It is usually not appropriate to make arrangements to pay once the person has been seen by the Magistrates at the Committal Hearing as the matter is taken over by the Court.