Council Tax Debt Help & Advice

Types of Debt

Council Tax Debt Help & Advice


Council tax debt is one of the most common types of debt in Scotland.

It is a charge that is levied on most residential properties which is paid to the local authority. The yearly charge is paid in monthly installments and is considered to be a priority bill as there can be serious consequences for falling behind on payments.

The council won’t hesitate to take action against those who don’t pay. Your local authority has the right to apply to collect unpaid council tax from your wages or salary and in some cases, you can be imprisoned for non-payment.

It can be one of the highest household monthly outgoings which is why it is important that it is factored into a budget each month.


Do I have to pay council tax and what if I can’t afford to?

Council tax payments are typically spread over a 10-month period, with Scots receiving an annual bill in March highlighting costs to be repaid for the year. Payments can be made by phone, bank transfer, cheque or by setting up a Direct Debt or standing order.

Most households are required to pay council tax, with only very few exceptions such as condemned property or a property which has been legally repossessed by a mortgage lender, but it’s important to note some people may be entitled to a reduction in how much you are required to pay.

  1. Challenge your council tax band: Council tax is charged based on the valuation, or ‘band’ of your house in 1991. Properties in bracket A are the cheapest with bracket H being the most expensive. If you believe your property is in the wrong band you could potentially reduce payments by asking your home to be reassessed. However, this could also potentially run the risk of your property being deemed to be more valuable and result in being placed in a higher band, incurring higher costs. You should check how your property is values on the Valuation Office Agency website.
  2. Exempt properties: As stated, some properties may me temporarily exempt from council tax. Reasons include: a property being empty due to ill health, all residents are full-time students, it’s owned by a charity, all residents are under the age of 18, all residents have severe mental impairments, the property is now empty as the occupier is being cared for elsewhere.
  3. Council tax discount: Some people may be entitled to council tax discounts which can reduce the cost each month. People able to make the most of this discount include those living alone or those who claim benefits or are on a low income. Scots who live with someone who is exempt from council tax (for example students) can also make use of a discount as well as those living with severe financial hardship.

If you are unable to pay your council tax bill the most important thing to do is to speak to your local authority. Explaining your circumstances and the reasons why you can’t pay may be difficult but will often lead to an arrangement with the council to spread the cost of what you owe over an extended period.

However, should you fail to continue to make council tax repayments and find yourself living with council tax arrears you will likely be asked to pay the entire amount owed in one lump-sum. If you fail to make this payment the council has the right to collect unpaid tax from your wages or benefits and could instruct Sheriff Officers to visit your home to recover what is owed. The council also has the right to call for court action in a bid to reclaim unpaid council tax debt, making it vital that you keep on top of payments.


Managing council tax arrears payments

Thousands of people across Scotland are living with council tax debt, each with their own reason for falling behind in payments. However, the most important thing is making sure you have a way to repay what you owe should you find yourself in this situation.


There’s no denying that council tax payments are one of the biggest household expenses you’ll be expected to pay. Understandably, covering large bills isn’t always easy – particularly for those on a low income or benefits – but regardless of your situation it’s vital that you make sure you budget for your council tax each month. Set aside your payment each month to make sure you don’t fall behind.

Be honest

No one wants to admit they’re struggling with their finances but that is often the reason people find their debts spiraling out of control. That’s why it’s so important not to be afraid of speaking about your finances – especially if you could fall or have fallen behind on council tax payments. You can request to repay what you can realistically afford and spread the cost over 12 months rather than the usual 10 in either weekly or monthly payments.

We've helped so many others just like you.