Step 3 Dealing with your priority debts

​TV licence


buy a licence

​Even if you have to pay a fine for not having a licence, you still need to buy a licence as well.

TV licence arrears are a priority payment because you can be fined in the magistrates’ court if you do not have a licence. In Your budget, put these payments under household outgoings. If you are contacted by TV Licensing, or are being prosecuted for not having a licence, it is a good idea to buy a licence as soon as possible. You should send a copy of the licence to the court to help your case. It is also a good idea to plead guilty to not having a licence and explain the reasons why (even if this is just that you simply forgot).

Find the easiest way to pay your TV licence

You may already have a fine for not paying your TV licence.

Magistrates’ court fines below.

Magistrates’ court fines

The magistrates’ court may order you to pay a fine, for example, for a driving offence, for not having a TV licence or for some other offence. You must treat a magistrates’ court fine as a priority debt. The court has a range of further types of action it can take, including using bailiffs and taking money from your wages or your benefits. Also, you could be sent to prison if you do not pay.

See our fact sheet:

Magistrates' court fines.

Extra advice:

what type of court?

If you have been taken to court for a non-priority debt such as a loan or credit card, this would be in the County Court and you cannot be sent to  prison.

Dealing with your non-priority debts




Extra advice:

golden rules

  • If you have a magistrates' court hearing or have arrears from failing to pay fines, contact us for advice.
  • Always go to court hearings.
  • Take your budget with you.
  • Try to make arrangements that you can afford to pay or contact the court if you cannot pay.
  • Keep paying what you can afford.




Parking penalty charges

Many local authorities have made parking offences non-criminal offences and instead enforce parking penalty charges through the Traffic Enforcement Centre in Northampton. There are special rules that apply if you have this type of parking penalty. You cannot be sent to prison but the local council can ask the County Court to use private bailiffs to try to recover the money. If you have a parking penalty charge, contact us for advice.

Extra advice:

which type of parking penalty do I have?

It is important that you know the type of parking penalty you have because the rules about what happens if you don’t pay are different. You should check whether you have a penalty charge notice from the local council or a fixed penalty from the police. The rules are also different if you parked on private land. If you are unsure, contact us for advice.