Can I go to prison for non-payment of Council Tax?

Can I go to prison for non-payment of Council Tax?

Courts have the power to commit a person to prison for non-payment of council tax. Each year a small number of people go to prison. But nobody wants that to happen, and the sanction is a last resort.

If you have not paid your Council Tax, the Local Authority that covers the region where you live will send you a reminder notice giving you 7 days to pay. You’ll be sent a second reminder notice if you miss another payment after this but will only get a maximum of 2 reminder notices in a financial year. If payment is still not made, your council will send you a final notice for the amount due. If you don’t pay that within 7 days, the council may take legal action.

You should never ignore contact from your local authority, especially if you are dealing with problem debt. After exhausting methods to get into contact with you directly, your council can ask the courts for a ‘liability order’, which is a legal demand for payment. That is where enforcement action begins and where CIVEA member firms will try to contact you (known as the Compliance Stage) to discuss and resolve the outstanding debt.

Fees and charges set out by the government to cover the costs this incurs will be added to the overall debt. These fees cannot be removed and will increase at each enforcement stage if efforts to reach you are repeatedly ignored. This is designed to encourage contact at the earliest opportunity and prevent the more costly aspects of enforcement (such as visits to your property) adding further costs to the overall debt. Enforcement Agents have the legal right to take control of goods (often motor vehicles or non-essential household items) if there is no other way to recover the debt that is owed.

Councils may apply to take money from benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Pension Credit or Universal Credit. If you are in work currently, they can also ask your employer to deduct unpaid Council Tax directly from your wages.

If all else fails, and both the council and enforcement agents are unable to recover the money owed or enough property to cover the debt, you may have to appear in court. If you go to court, you’ll have to pay the cost of the court fees on top of the other charges already incurred. This is why ignoring contact from the Local Authority or enforcement firm is never the answer.

The court will then consider whether you can afford to pay the bill you owe or if you have a valid reason to not pay. It is the law that you can be sent to prison if the court decides you do not have a good reason for not paying and that you have deliberately refused to do so.

Can I go to prison for not paying parking fines?

Councils have the power to enforce parking penalties often known as a penalty charge notice (PCN). Unlike Council Tax arrears, this is not considered a criminal offence and so you will not be sent to prison for not paying. However, this does not mean the debt will go away or that the consequences are not severe. Enforcement agents have the power to clamp your car or even remove it in certain circumstances. The council can also apply to the Traffic Enforcement Centre (TEC) for an ‘order for recovery’, which will register the charge as if it is a county court judgment and add court costs to the amount you owe. Money may be taken directly from your wages by an attachment of earnings order or the debt can be secured against your property. As with any type of debt, the fastest and best way to resolve the problem is through communication at the earliest opportunity.

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