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Council tax debt collection isn’t efficient or effective

2 December 2019

Council tax debt collection isn’t efficient or effective [ 0.92 mb]

An estimated 2.2 million households are behind on their council tax. It is the most common debt problem Citizens Advice helps people with, impacting 86,000 clients in England last year. 

Overall, council tax collection rates are very high. But this does not tell the whole story. 

When people fall behind on council tax, centrally-set regulations govern how they are collected. These regulations mean that when people miss a single payment they become liable for their full annual bill soon after. They also push councils to use the court process, and don’t set out what good collection looks like. 

That can push people further into debt and limits the ability of local councils to take a more flexible approach to collecting council tax arrears.

We sent a Freedom of Information request to all councils in England. 286 councils responded. Our findings show these regulations are not only failing households - they’re also failing councils. 

A version of the Freedom of Information request issued to councils can be read here [ 100 kb].

The complete data set can be accessed here [Excel 240 kb].