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Paying your bill

Find out what to do when you receive your bill, how to query an amount, different ways in which the bill can be paid, and what to do if you are unable to pay the amount due.

You will normally receive your Council Tax bill in March each year, or during the year if your circumstances change. It will tell you the amount you have to pay and how that amount has been worked out. The bill will also set out the amount of each instalment and the dates on which each one should be paid.

Normally, you will be offered ten instalments, from April to January each year but from the 1st April 2013 you may spread your annual charge over the full 12 months in the financial year, or the number of months remaining to March if you ask part way through the year. If you would like to arrange this please ring 0300 303 7801 with your reference number to hand.

If your circumstances change and it is necessary to send you a bill during the financial year your instalments can only be spread until the following March.

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Find out how to make payments to Sedgemoor District Council, and how we deal with payments owed to you.

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What if I have trouble paying my bill?

As soon as you realise you have a problem paying your bill you should talk to the Council. Please ring our friendly Team who will be happy to help you: 0300 303 7801

You may be entitled to a reduction in your bill, for example, through Council Tax Support. The Council may also be able to help you by rescheduling your payments. Do not ignore the bill; if you do not pay it and fail to agree any other arrangement with the Council, recovery action may be taken which could considerably increase the amount you have to pay.

Making Council Tax payments easier

How can the Revenues Service help ?

  • Offer free support and assistance to customers experiencing difficulty with their payments
  • Make sure you are receiving all of your Council Tax discounts, allowances and benefits
  • Arrange a payment plan to suit your finances
  • Discuss options and ways to pay; weekly, fortnightly or monthly to suit you
  • Spread your payments over the whole year meaning lower amounts to pay each time
  • Help you draw up a financial statement to budget your payments
  • Friendly walk in service at Bridgwater House, King Square, Bridgwater
  • Telephone advice
  • Appointments in a private room can be made if preferred

Other ways we can help:-

Even if you have several Council Tax debts, or other related worries, please contact us first.

If we are unable to help you ourselves we can refer you to various advice and information centres around Sedgemoor who offer free independent advice.

There is no charge for our assistance and speaking to us early can avoid incurring further costs and charges.

Contact our friendly staff straight away and we will be happy to help you.

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What if I don't pay my bill?

If you miss a council tax instalment you will get a reminder notice giving you seven days to bring your council tax payments up to date. If you do not do this within the time, or if after a second reminder you fall behind with your payments again, you will have to pay the outstanding balance of your council tax bill (i.e. the full amount for the rest of the year). If the balance is not paid, the Council is likely to start recovery action.

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What action can Sedgemoor District Council take?

Sedgemoor District Council can apply to the magistrates' court for a liability order. You will be sent a summons telling you when the court will consider the application and the amount the council is seeking to recover. This will be both the outstanding amount of council tax plus the cost to the council of making the application. You have the right to attend the court and offer evidence as to why the order should not be made.

Even if you decide not to attend court, you should speak to the council or, if you prefer, your local Citizens Advice Bureau. The council will try to come to a reasonable arrangement with you for payment but they cannot do that unless you contact them. If you make an arrangement and stick to it, you will avoid any further recovery costs.

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What if I am still unable to pay?

The council may apply to the magistrates' court for a warrant committing you to prison. The council will only take this step when other efforts have failed and when they have already unsuccessfully tried to levy distress.

Before issuing a warrant of commitment the court must hold a means enquiry with you present. A warrant will only be issued if the court is satisfied that the failure to pay is the result of wilful refusal or culpable neglect. The maximum period of imprisonment is three months. The court may decide to fix a term of imprisonment and postpone the warrant on certain conditions, normally relating to payment of the debt over a period of time. The court also has the power to remit all or part of the debt where no warrant is issued or term of imprisonment fixed.

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What if the amount I have to pay changes during the year?

If the amount of council tax you have to pay changes during the year, perhaps because your entitlement to a discount or benefit changes, you will get a new bill. This will tell you what the new amount for the year is, and what instalments you now have to pay.

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What if the bill is wrong?

If you think the bill is wrong in any way you should tell the council immediately. Unless you make other arrangements with the council, you must continue to pay the amounts set out in your original bill until you are sent a revised bill.

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What powers does a liability order give Sedgemoor District Council?

If a liability order is granted by the court, the council can demand certain information from you about your employment and earnings to help them decide how to recover the debt. You are legally required to give the council this information and it may help you pay the bill. The main options for recovery are as follows:

  • Attachment of earnings orders
  • Deductions from various benefits
  • Enforcement Agents
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Attachment of earnings orders

The council can order your employer to recover the amount direct from your wages or salary and pay it straight to the council. The amount will be a set proportion of your pay after certain other deductions (such as income tax and national insurance) - your employer may also deduct a further £1 towards his costs in making each deduction and sending it to the council.

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Deductions from Income Support

If you are receiving Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Pension Credit or Universal Credit, the council may be able to apply for deductions from that benefit. Deductions are made at the rate of 5% of the personal allowance for a single claimant aged not less than 25. Universal Credit deductions vary on an individual basis.

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Enforcement Agents

Bailiff (Enforcement Agent) Law and Regulations from 6th April 2014

The law relating to bailiffs changed on 6th April 2014.

The Changes;

  • Bailiffs will now be known as Enforcement Agents
  • There is a new fee structure
  • Enforcement Agents must now follow a three stage process;

Stage 1 - Compliance.

Upon receipt of an instruction, the Enforcement Agent shall give the debtor a minimum of seven clear days notice that a visit will take place to take control of goods.

Stage 2 - Enforcement.

An Enforcement Agent shall attend the premises to take control of goods and undertake activities necessary prior to the removal of goods.

Stage 3 - Sale.

An Enforcement Agent shall attend the premises to either remove goods for sale, or start the preparations for sale if the sale is to take place on the premises. This stage ends when the goods have been sold or disposed of.

New Fee Structure

A new fee structure has been introduced and the fees relating to the three stages above are triggered as soon as each stage begins. These are the Enforcement Agent's fees, not the Council's. The fees have been set up by central Government and will be periodically reviewed.

Compliance Stage Fee £75.00.

-The Enforcement Agent will charge this fee as soon as your debt is passed to them by the Council. The fee is payable for each Liability Order, so the total fee could be much more.

Enforcement Stage Fee £235.00 (plus 7.5% of the value of the debt that exceeds £1,500.00).

-This fee shall be charged by the Enforcement Agent when the premises are visited for the first time.

Sale Stage Fee £110.00 (plus 7.5% of the value of the debt that exceeds £1,500.00).

-This fee shall be charged when an Enforcement Agent attends the premises to remove goods and make preparations for the sale of goods.

There are additional fees which the Enforcement Agent may charge relating to the removal and storage of goods and locksmith's fees.

There are transitional arrangements in place for cases already with the bailiffs (Enforcement Agents) before 6th April 2014.

Other Important Changes

  • The new regulations have removed the term 'bailiff'. Bailiffs are now known as Enforcement Agents.
  • The terms Levy, distress and walking possession are now known as the process of 'taking control of goods'.
  • An Enforcement Agent is permitted to visit your property seven days a week between 6.00am and 9.00pm, excluding bank Holidays and Christmas Day.
  • Tools used in the course of your work may be removed by the Enforcement Agent if they have a value of more than £1,350.00
  • From receiving a case, the Enforcement Agent has 12 months in which to take control of goods. The 12 month period ends if a payment arrangement is made, but begins afresh if the arrangement is broken.
  • An Enforcement Agent will give written notice to the owner or co-owner of any goods which have been taken control of.

The procedure and notes prior to 6th April 2014

The council can employ bailiffs (now known as Enforcement Agents) to recover the debt - this process is known as the levy of distress. The charges involved are set out in legislation - they can be quite considerable and you will be held liable for them. It is advisable to avoid matters reaching this stage if you can.

If you are unable to pay the outstanding debt in full the bailiff has three options:

  • he can agree a walking possession agreement with you. Your goods will not be removed so long as you meet the payment arrangements agreed with the bailiff;
  • he can take close possession of your goods by staying on the premises until payment is made or the goods are removed for sale;
  • or he can remove the goods with a view to their sale.

Other options for enforcement action include bankruptcy proceedings, and, for a debt of £1000 or more, a charging order whereby the authority may apply to a county court for a charge on the debtor's property.