Recovery and arrears advice

If you’re having difficulties in paying your business rates, it’s important to get in touch straight away. If you don’t tell us there is a problem then debt recovery action could be started, which may result in magistrates’ court action. We would rather not have to do this and can put you in touch with local and national debt advice services who may be able to help.

We‘re not just here to collect money, we’re also here to help you. Please contact us at any time if you're having problems paying your business rates.

Call us on 01636 650 000 or email

If you’ve already received a letter from us about unpaid business rates and are wondering what to do, the information below should help.

Bill or demand notice

A bill will show how much business rates you owe for the year and will normally show what instalments you should pay and when. They are usually sent:

  • at the start of the financial year
  • if your rates bill alters during the year, for example, due to changes in relief entitlement or rateable value
  • if you move business premises

What should you do?

Pay the instalments on or before the due dates.

What if you cannot pay as billed?

Pay as much as possible as regularly as possible. If you are paying less than the due amount or paying after the due date then you may receive further notices. We will not put a hold on recovery action at this stage unless there are exceptional circumstances.

First reminder

This is sent because our records show that you have fallen behind with your payments. This usually means you have not paid an instalment on time or that you paid less than you should have done. It may also be sent if you still owe money from a previous year.

What should you do?

Bring your account back up to date within the specified time. If an account is brought up to date, and kept up to date, no further letters will be sent.

What if you cannot do this?

If you do not bring your payments up to date you could lose your right to pay by instalments. No further reminders will be issued and the next document you receive will be a court summons for the full balance on your account. Court costs will be incurred at this stage.

If you're unable to pay as required you must contact us straight away.

Final reminder

This is normally sent if you have had a first reminder, brought your account up to date and then fallen behind for a second time. This letter will not be asking for the instalments that have been missed. This letter will cancel your right to pay by instalments and you will be asked to pay the remaining balance on your account in full.

What should you do?

You must now pay the balance on your account in full within the specified time. If you pay the account in full you will not be sent any more letters.

What if you cannot do this?

Please contact us straight away to discuss payment of your account.

Magistrates court summons

This is sent to tell you that because you are in arrears the council is going to court to obtain a Liability Order against you. This is a legal document which states how much you owe us and it gives us the power to send your account to the bailiff. Costs of £100 will be added to accounts at the summons stage.

What should you do?

You must pay in full before the court date. If you pay the balance in full (including costs) before the court date you will not be sent any more letters.

What if you cannot do this?

If you cannot pay before the court date, but wish to make an arrangement to clear your account please contact us straight away. Any arrangement that you make will still include the costs, but if you keep to the arrangement we will not take any further action against you.

After court action

Once an account has been to court there are four courses of action that we may take, depending on what we believe is the best way to secure payment.

Make an arrangement

You can make an arrangement to clear your arrears by making regular weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments. Arrangements can be made by post, telephone or by visiting one of our offices. It is normal policy to make arrangements that will clear the arrears within the financial year. Arrangements that go beyond this date are at our discretion.

If an arrangement is broken, we will take one of the following courses of action:

Enforcement agents (bailiffs)

We may pass your account to an enforcement agent for collection. Any arrangements for payment on accounts held by the enforcement agent must be made direct to their offices and not the council.

Equally, any queries about enforcement agent fees must be addressed to the enforcement agent directly. Once an account is passed to the enforcement agent we will not ask for it to be returned unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Committal proceedings (sole trader/named on bill)

Where no other form of recovery has been successful, we may commence proceedings to have an individual committed to prison or declared bankrupt or a company put into liquidation.

If you receive a committal warning you must make an arrangement to clear the debt. If committal action is taken it will be for the amount of business rates owed and any enforcement agent and court fees.

Failure to make payments, or an arrangement for payment, could result in you being committed to prison for a maximum of three months.

Bankruptcy proceedings

If a liability order has been granted for over £5,000 the council can petition for your bankruptcy (sole trader), or liquidation (company). You will be served with a statutory demand giving you 21 days to clear the debt in full. If you cannot pay, the council would seek to make you bankrupt. This action, if successful, will affect your credit rating and may lead to you losing your home and any other assets which you own.