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Council Tax liability orders and powers to recover your debt

Liability order

If the court decides that you are liable to pay the amount that is shown on the court summons, and you have not paid the full amount outstanding, it will grant a liability order. A liability order gives the Council enforcement powers to recover the Council Tax costs owed by other means including:

  • deduction from your earnings
  • deduction from your benefits
  • referral to an enforcement agent
  • committal to prison
  • bankruptcy
  • criminal proceedings

If the balance and the summons cost remain unpaid on the day of the liability order court hearing, the Council will apply for additional costs. To avoid enforcement action pay the full balance, the summons cost and the liability order cost. If you are having difficulty paying, take a look at our Council Tax support webpage to see if we can help.


Deductions from your earnings or benefit

Once a liability order has been granted, if you are employed we can issue an attachment of earnings order. This means that we will ask your employer to make deductions from your salary and pay them directly to us until you have repaid what you owe. If you receive certain benefits, we can apply to the Department for Works and Pensions to request that deductions are made from your benefit and paid directly to us until your debt is repaid.


If you or your company owes more than £5,000 in Council Tax or business rates and a liability order has been ordered against you, we may start bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings. If we take this action, we will send you a statutory demand which will give you 21 days to pay the full amount.

If you receive a statutory demand, you should contact us immediately. If you do not settle the statutory demand, we will present a petition for bankruptcy or liquidation at court.

Enforcement agent

Your account may be passed to the Council's enforcement agent for collection if you have not paid the debt in full or you have not adhered to an agreed repayment plan. This action will incur additional costs.


As a last resort, we will apply to the Magistrates' Court for a committal summons. This is the first stage towards you possibly going to prison. If you receive a committal summons, you should contact us and get legal advice from a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Service. If you pay in full, you do not need to go to court.

If you do not pay in full, you must go to court at the time and date shown.

If you fail to turn up at court, the magistrates may issue a warrant for your arrest. This procedure incurs significant additional costs to cover the committal summons (£305) and the Warrant of Arrest (£145).

Getting a phone call about your Council Tax

We've started using a new phone service to contact customers who have a Council Tax debt. This is not a scam.

  • if you get a phone call, you will be asked to press 1 to speak to an advisor at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
  • if you get a voicemail, you will be given a number to call to speak to an advisor at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
  • if you get a text message, you will be given a number to call to speak to an advisor at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Please take this opportunity to speak to an advisor who may be able to offer support to help you to pay your Council Tax.

If you haven't found what you are looking for, use our online contact form:

Contact us about Council Tax