Can I really go to Prison for Non-Payment – Fact or Fiction?
There are almost zero justifiable reasons for non-payment of your Council Tax and/or Business Rates bills. Even people living on benefit payments are expected to pay in accordance with annual billing and there are measures in place that provide help to those who are unemployed or on low incomes, by way of local Council Tax Reduction or Council Tax Support schemes.
So, you have arrived here. You have surpassed the “Soft-Recovery” (Reminders/Summonses) and the “Hard-Recovery” (Enforcement) and have found yourself receiving yet another court summons – except this time, you DO have to attend!
Why have I been summonsed again?
You have received a Committal Summons because all other methods to recover the unpaid Council Tax or Business Rates debts have not been successful. As a result, your Local Authority have decided that matters should now be handled by a Magistrate directly.
What will happen at the Committal Hearing?
You will be required to stand up in front of the Magistrate, and declare your full income and expenditure – as it was at the time the arrears accrued. It is extremely advisable for you to be as honest and open as possible.
There are only two realistic outcomes here (remember what we said in an earlier Advice Pod?) – these are:
- Wilful Refusal
- Culpable Neglect
If you are found guilty of either, you could face up to 90 days in prison, for each Liability Order you have outstanding. In addition to this, your Local Authority can also request that the Magistrate awards a further cost – payable by you. This relates to the Committal Summons costs.
Will I still owe the debt after imprisonment?
In short, yes. Plus you will also be liable for current Council Tax or Business Rates whilst you are in prison.
I am self-employed and a sole-trader business. Does Committal still apply to me?
Committal proceedings can be started against individuals and Sole-Trader businesses.
If you are self-employed but your business is a limited company, in lieu of Committal, you may find that a Winding Up Petition is applied for.
What if I simply don’t attend the hearing?
Our advice is – this is not an option!
If you do not attend the hearing, much the same as if you do not answer a criminal summons – a warrant for your arrest will be issued. In this instance, Enforcement Agents are granted the power to detain you and bring you to the offices of your Local Authority, or direct to the court where you will be held until your case is heard.
If you are aware of a warrant for your arrest but anxious about contacting your Local Authority or Enforcement Agent, get in touch with us without delay!