Pay Council Tax arrears

Contact your council as soon as possible if you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax or are behind with your payments.

You can choose to spread your payments over 12 months instead of the usual 10 to reduce the amount you’re asked to pay on each bill. Ask your council to set this up for you.

Your council may give you a one-off discount if you still can’t pay what you owe.

You should also check if you’re eligible for:

If you miss Council Tax payments

Your council will send you a reminder notice giving you 7 days to pay if you miss a payment. If you don’t pay within 7 days, you’ll have to pay the whole year’s Council Tax instead.

You’ll be sent a second reminder notice if you miss another Council Tax payment.

You’ll only get a maximum of 2 reminder notices in a financial year - this runs from April 1 to March 31 of the next year.

Your council will send you a final notice saying you must pay the whole year’s Council Tax if you miss a payment for the third time.

If you don’t pay your whole year’s Council Tax within 7 days, the council may take legal action to get the Council Tax you owe.

Your council can ask a magistrate for a ‘liability order’ if you owe them unpaid Council Tax. This is a legal demand for payment. The council’s legal costs, eg for hiring a lawyer, may be added to the money you owe. You’re allowed to go to the court and give your reasons for not paying if you want.

If you receive a liability order you should speak to your council or your local Citizens Advice bureau about your options.

If you still don’t pay

Your council can get your employer to pay your unpaid Council Tax directly from your wages.

Your council can also apply to take money from the following benefits:

  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit

If this means you don’t have enough money to pay other bills, you can ask your council if you can make smaller payments. Your council doesn’t have to agree but will usually try to make an arrangement with you.


Your council can send bailiffs (‘enforcement agents’) to seize your property if there’s no other way to recover your debt. They’ll tell you how much you owe before the bailiff visits you.

The bailiffs’ costs can be added to the total amount you owe the council.


Your council can take you to court if you don’t pay the money you owe and the bailiffs can’t recover enough property to cover it.

The court will consider whether you:

  • can afford to pay the bill
  • have a valid reason to not pay

You can be sent to prison for up to 3 months if the court decides you don’t have a good reason to not pay your Council Tax and you refuse to do so.

If the court decides you have something to pay back you may be able to make an arrangement to pay your debt over time.