With council tax debt in Scotland becoming a bigger and bigger problem, more people than ever before are receiving Summary Warrants. This article explains what a Summary Warrant is, when you can receive one and what to do if you receive one.
What happens before a Summary Warrant for council tax can be given?
A Summary Warrant for council tax is one of the final steps a council can take to recover unpaid council tax from you. A Summary Warrant is given by the Sheriff Court. It gives a Sheriff Officer the power to collect unpaid council tax on behalf of the council.
However, before a council can go to the Sheriff Court to request a Summary Warrant, a number of other steps must have happened.
The first two times you miss a council tax payment in a year, you receive a reminder letter that gives you seven days to pay. If you do not pay within seven days, the full amount of council tax owing for the rest of the year becomes due. The third time you miss a council tax payment, you automatically owe the full amount owing for the rest of the year.
If you do not pay the first two missed payments within seven days of receiving the reminder letter or if you miss a third payment, you will receive a Final Notice from the council. The Final Notice will state that you have 14 days to pay the entire amount that is outstanding for the rest of the year.
If you do not pay the amount you owe or do not get in touch to try to arrange repayment in instalments, the council can go to the Sheriff Court to request a Summary Warrant.
What is a Summary Warrant for council tax?
A Summary Warrant can only be issued by the Sheriff Court. The council will apply to the Sheriff Court for a Summary Warrant if you do not pay the council tax you owe within 14 days of receiving a Final Notice (or if you haven’t been in touch to arrange payment by instalments by then).
A Summary Warrant is a certificate that includes details of the amount of council tax you owe, plus a 10% penalty.
A Summary Warrant also gives a Sheriff Officer the power to collect the money on behalf of the council. Details of the Sheriff Officer who has been appointed to do this will be given in the Summary Warrant.
Sheriff Officers are officers of the court in Scotland, which means they have the power to enforce court orders such as Summary Warrants. Sheriff officers can be self-employed or part of a company. They are appointed by councils to collect unpaid council tax debts when a Summary Warrant is granted. One of the biggest firms in Scotland is Stirling Park, although there are countless others that councils work with.
What happens once a Summary Warrant for council tax is issued?
You will receive a copy of the Summary Warrant in the post. You have 14 days to contact the Sheriff Officer named in the Summary Warrant to arrange a repayment plan. If you get income support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or pension credit, you can ask for payments to be made directly from your benefit.
What happens if I don’t put a repayment plan in place after I receive a Summary Warrant for council tax?
If you do not contact the Sheriff Officer within 14 days to arrange the repayment plan, the Sheriff Officer has the power to request certain information from you. This includes the name and address of your employer, your National Insurance number, your bank account details and the name and address of anyone else who is liable to pay your Council Tax with you. You must provide the information they request within 14 days or you may be fined.
When the Sheriff Officer requests this information from you, the council can also obtain a charge for payment. This usually lasts for 14 days and it gives the Sheriff Officer to collect the council tax debt using the information you have provided if necessary.
The Sheriff Officer can do this by freezing your bank accounts, taking money from your bank accounts and removing belongings from your home and selling them. However, the most common method to collect the unpaid council tax is by wage arrestment. This is when Sheriff Officers takes money directly from your pay packet to pay the council until the debt has been cleared. Anyone who is employment (unless you are serving in the armed forces) can have their wages arrested.
What should I do if I receive a Summary Warrant for council tax?
If you receive a Summary Warrant for council tax, one of the best things you can do is seek independent help and advice from a specialist organisation. One such organisation is Council Tax Advisors. It has trained advisors who can give you information on the options that are open to you. They can also negotiate with councils and Sheriff Officers on your behalf. Most importantly, the help they give is free of charge. So if you are struggling with council tax debt or have received a Summary Warrant for council tax, contact Council Tax Advisors today.
This is a promotional post with images from Council Tax Advisors and Images Money via Flickr.