In a recent survey by the Debt Advisory Centre around a quarter of 18 to 24 year olds said they were behind with their council tax payments.
This begs the question: is enough being done to educate people on how council tax supports local communities and services and the implications of missing payments?
If we look closely at the results we can see that 44% of those young people in council tax arrears were putting the money towards their rent instead. A further 16% said that they had prioritised paying unsecured debts, such as loans and credit cards. A similar number (16%) had needed to put the money towards utilities bills and 10% of the young people surveyed spent the money on food.
Clearly not everyone considers council tax a priority.
Young people were also unclear about the implications of not paying their council tax. Just under a quarter (24%) said they had no idea what would or could happen if they fell behind with their payments.
With councils using debt enforcement agents as the first collection route (following the issue of a liability order) it could mean that within two months of missing a payment, the citizen could receive a knock on the door from an agent looking to levy on goods to cover the debt. It will also mean that the full year’s council tax will become due and the citizen will have lost their right to pay by instalments in that financial year. The worst case scenario of non-payment of the council tax debt could result in a prison sentence.
With little education being given about this in schools, colleges or even universities, is it now time for the government or local councils to start to educate future generations about council tax and the legislation around it? This would ensure that the next generation of council tax payers would be fully informed about the system, its benefits and importance in supporting local communities and economies. It may also help to ensure they are paying the right amounts and at the right time. With councils looking to increase collection rates, this would no doubt help and may also provide some further ideas and innovation around debt collection in the future.
Luke Allen, director of communications, NSL