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Help if you’re struggling to pay Council Tax

Council Tax is a priority debt you must pay, as the consequences of falling behind can be worse than with other debts. If you’re worried about paying it, it’s important to have a plan.

What help is available?

Every council has a scheme to help you manage your payments so contact your local council as soon as possible. If you wait until you’ve missed payments, it might limit the help they can offer you.

When you contact them, explain your situation and see if it’s possible to work out a new payment plan before you fall behind. For example, you might have had an income setback because of coronavirus.

Here are some examples of support that might be offered:

  • Bill reductions if you’re on benefits – if your income drops or you find yourself out of work you can apply for Council Tax reduction discounts. These might be up to 100% off your Council Tax if you’re on certain benefits or a low income, but this depends on your local council. Everyone can apply, but not everyone is entitled. There are also exemptions for those with serious mental health conditions, but the eligibility might differ depending on the local authority that you live in. 
  • Extra help – because of coronavirus, this year the government has funded an extra £150 discount for people who qualify for Council Tax reductions. This will automatically apply to new claims, while existing claimants should have already received a new Council Tax bill to reflect this.
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£150 Council Tax rebate

In April, all households in England in Council Tax bands A to D will begin to receive a one-off £150 rebate on their Council Tax bill that won't need to be paid back. If you’re still waiting to receive the £150, councils have until September 2022 to finish making payments, so get in touch with your council to find out when you should expect yours. 

You can check what tax band your home is inOpens in a new window on the GOV.UK website.  

If you’re paying by Direct Debit, the rebate might be automatically discounted from your April bill by your local authority. If you pay less than £150 a month, you’ll get the discount across two payments. Some councils are sending out the £150 as a direct payment into your bank account. If you don’t pay by Direct Debit, your council should start to process the discount from April. 

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If you are renting or do not pay your Council Tax bill directly, make sure you ask the person (such as your landlord) who does to pass the discount on to you.

In Scotland, properties in bands A-D as well as households in all bands who get Council Tax Reduction will also receive £150 towards their Council Tax. Individual councils have been given the choice to either send the £150 as a payment or to give it as a discount on Council Tax bills. You should start to receive your discount or payment in April 2022.

The Welsh government has also approved a £150 payment to households in Council Tax bands A-D and those in bands E or F who receive Council Tax Reduction. People who pay their council tax by Direct Debit should start to receive payments in April 2022. You can find more information about whether you’ll need to register for this or if it’ll be paid automatically on the Swansea council websiteOpens in a new window

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Make sure you’ve claimed everything you’re entitled to

If you’ve had an income shock, you could be entitled to government support. If you’re struggling financially, it’s important that you claim any extra help you can.

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What happens if my financial situation gets worse?

As with many others, even if your finances are on track now, you could be affected over the coming months because of coronavirus. This might mean an uncertain future, especially if your income is affected – perhaps being on furlough, or you’re self-employed and have a fluctuating income.

You might need to review your finances so that you can cover your repayments. It’s useful to make a budget. If you have a little more going out than coming in, you may be able to rework how you’re spending your money.

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Next steps if you have missed a payment

If you’ve already missed Council Tax payment, this means you’re in ‘arrears’.

Contact your council as soon as possible to let them know that your income has changed, and that you’re struggling to cover your bills.

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As well as coming to an arrangement on the money you owe them, you should also talk about future bills – especially if you think you may struggle to pay them.

Make a budget, work out what money you have left after it, and ask the council for help.

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When to get debt advice

If you’ve missed a payment, think you’re going to miss a payment or are juggling other debts and feel you need debt advice it’s important you pay them off in the right order as some are more urgent and some lenders have more power than others.

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Extra support if you’re struggling financially and with your mental wellbeing

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Having mental health issues might mean that you struggle to make the best money-based decisions for you, as well as act on them.

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Remember, if you’re struggling financially and with your mental wellbeing, it’s worth getting in contact with your bank, building society, lender or whoever you owe money to, to discuss your options.

However, picking up the phone and talking about your problems is often easier said than done when you’re struggling with your mental health.

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Most places that you owe money to have policies about supporting you if you’re vulnerable. But they can’t help you unless you ask.

For some general tips on how you can manage your mental health check out Rethink’s guide It covers everything from setting a budget to getting help if you, or someone you care about, is having a mental health crisis.

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