Advice Column: Council Tax Arrears

Thursday 23rd April 2020

As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo weekly advice column we focus on support for council tax bills.

 I have received my new Council Tax bill. I think I am going to really struggle to pay it in full this year as my hours at work have been reduced. What help is available?

 If you are having problems paying your council tax it’s important to keep in contact with your local authority and to let them know of any change of circumstances and to discuss potential repayment options. You need to deal with some debts more urgently than others because the consequences of not paying them can be more serious than for other debts. These are known as priority debts and include council tax debts. Last year we helped with 587 enquiries about council tax arrears.

Local authorities in England are responsible for running their own local schemes for help with council tax. These are called Council Tax Reduction schemes. You can no longer make a claim for Council Tax Benefit. Council Tax Reduction – also known as Council Tax Support – is a reduction you may be able to get on your council tax if you’re on a low income

Everyone of working age has to pay something towards their council tax bill, with few exceptions. When deciding on its scheme, a local authority should take into account the needs of vulnerable people and support work incentives.

If you receive Council Tax Support, you are of working age and you are in a vulnerable financial situation you may be able to receive short-term assistance from the local authority.  Check the local authority website for more details of the Council Tax Support scheme and how to apply for additional help.

If you’re a pensioner, you should still be able to get the same level of Council Tax Reduction as you would have done if you were getting Council Tax Benefit. This means that if your income is less than an amount the government says you need to live on you will be entitled to maximum Council Tax Reduction.

If you get the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit, your income and capital are ignored and you will get full Council Tax Reduction. When working out your entitlement to Council Tax Reduction, the way some things are dealt with will be the same for all pensioners, regardless of where you live. This includes:

  • the way your income and capital are worked out
  • the way your applicable amount is worked out. This is the amount the government says you need to live on
  • the way non-dependant deductions are worked out
  • the way temporary absences from home are dealt with.

All pensioners must also be allowed to apply for a second adult rebate under the Council Tax Reduction scheme.

All council tax payers can ask for a longer period over which to pay their council tax, normally moving from 10 months to 12 months.

For more information and advice go to

 Look out for our column next week when we focus on energy bills.

 The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Exeter is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit