If you’re struggling with council tax debt in Scotland there’s a chance you may eventually be met with a summary warrant. This could eventually mean that the authority can made deductions from other payments you may receive, but there’s a long way to go before things get to this stage. It’s important to be aware of the process leading up to a summary warrant being issued, and what to do if you ever encounter one.
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Council tax bills are usually sent out by April, and you have the right to pay by 10 instalments. The local authorities may accept weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments, and some may even give you a reduction in the total bill if you pay everything at once, at the beginning of the year. If it’s been a while since you paid an instalment of council tax then your local authority may issue you with a reminder, asking for payment within seven days.
If this period passes without you paying, you lose the right to pay by instalments and a full year’s council tax is then owed. If you don’t pay an instalment of council tax within 28 days of the due date, the local authority could apply to the sheriff court for a summary warrant to show you are liable to pay the arrears. However it also has to give you time to pay the debt off, so make sure you’re not asked for the money straight away. Now you should try to reach an agreement with the authority over repayment, and come up with a plan that can suit all parties. It’s advisable to come up with an arrangement you can stick to, as even paying little over a longer amount of time is better than not being able to keep up with payments.
If you can’t reach an agreement with the authority to pay off the debt, or you can’t keep up the payments, then the summary warrant can be enforced. This will mean that deductions can be taken from your income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance or wages. It could also see sheriff officers being sent round to seize goods to the value of the amount owed. However many of your possessions are protected from seizure, so make sure you brush up on the law beforehand. If you feel like the summary warrant was wrongly issued and that the incorrect decision has been taken regarding your council tax, you can make an appeal.
If you do want to make a complaint then you can write a letter to your local authority, and they should send you a reply within two months. If it doesn’t agree with you then you can appeal the decision to the valuation appeal committee. If it’s been two months and the local authority hasn’t responded to you, then you can appeal directly to the valuation appeal committee without waiting for a reply. For your appeal you must explain why you think an incorrect decision has been made, and then the committee will decide if you have a case. During this appeal you must continue to pay your original council tax bill.
Dealing with debt is hard, but there is help out there. If you’re ever unsure about council tax arrears or any other form of debt, get in touch with Council Tax Advisors. We offer a free, impartial service where experts can talk you through your issues and advise you about what to do next, coming up with a payment plan to suit you.