Step 3 Dealing with your priority debts

​Council tax

The amount of council tax you pay is based on:

  • the value of your home (homes are placed in a band – A to H in England and A to I in Wales);
  • the number of adults who live in your home and their status; and
  • the amount of Council Tax Reduction that you get from your local council.

Who pays what?

Only people over 18 can be made to pay the bill. If there is more than one person over 18 living in your home, the owner will normally have to pay the bill if they live in the home. Joint tenants and owners may have to pay, even
if their names are not on the bill, as long as the council sends them a ‘joint taxpayers notice’.

If you are either married, live with your partner, or live together in a same-sex civil partnership, both you and your partner will be responsible for paying the bill.

Sometimes the owner of a house will be responsible for the bill even if they don’t live there, for example, if the house is unoccupied, or in ‘multiple occupation’ such as bedsits. If you are not sure who is responsible for the bill, contact us for advice.

Can I reduce my bill?

You may get a reduction if someone living in the house has a disability. Apply to the council for this. Only some properties will qualify. Contact a local welfare rights agency or contact us for advice.

You will also get a discount in the following circumstances.

  • If you are the only adult in the house.
  • Or, if you share your house only with people who are not taken into account, such as:

     - a full-time student or student nurse;

     - an apprentice or someone on a youth-training scheme (only certain ones apply); or

     - someone with a mental disability who is getting certain disability benefits.

Tell the council if you think you may qualify for a discount. Check how this works with your local council.

You may be able to claim a rebate called ‘Second Adult Rebate’. Check how this works with your local council.

What happens if I don’t pay?

The council will usually tell you to pay your bill in 10 monthly instalments but they may accept weekly payments. You can ask the council to let you pay your bill in 12 monthly instalments. If you find that you can’t pay the full monthly instalment, don’t just stop paying!

  • If your circumstances have changed, you may now qualify for help with paying your council tax bill from your local council. Contact us for advice.
  • Keep paying what you can afford.
  • Contact the council and try to come to an arrangement. Use Your budget to help explain your situation.

If you don’t keep to any payment arrangement you make with the council, they may apply to the magistrates’ court to make a ‘liability order’ for the full amount they say you owe, plus court costs. The order will state that you are due to pay your council tax and have not done so.

Further action against you by the council

See our fact sheet:

Council tax recovery.

Once the council has got a liability order, there are a number of ways they can make you pay. Even if they have a liability order, it is not too late to try to make an arrangement to pay. Contact the council as soon as possible if you have not paid or come to a payment arrangement.

The council can take the following action to make you pay.

  • The council can order your employer to take a fixed amount from your wages to pay the council tax you owe. It is called an ‘attachment of earnings order’.
  • Bailiffs can visit your business premises or your home to try and remove goods.
  • If you claim certain benefits, you or the council can ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to take a set amount each week.
  • The council can apply to secure the debt on any property you own. This is called a charging order. You could lose the property if you do not pay the debt. They can only apply for a charging order if you owe more than £1,000.
  • If you owe council tax to a council in England, the council can ask for an order to send you to prison if they think you have refused to pay, or had the money and neglected to pay. It is unlikely you will be sent to prison if you did not have enough money to pay.


You may be able to complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman if the council have not behaved properly or not followed the proper procedure. You will need to complain to your local council first.