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If you do not pay your business rates


Recovery steps

There are three main steps that happen if you do not pay your business rates.

  1. Reminder notice
  2. Summons letter
  3. Liability order and debt recovery

If you do not pay your business rates we will send you a reminder notice. If you receive a reminder notice you have 7 days to make payment, or the right to pay by instalments will be lost.

If you do not pay after receiving a final notice, a court summons will be issued for the full amount. You will also have to pay extra court costs.

Business Rates Summons and Liability Audio Hearing

If you have received a Summons Notice from the Council, it means that they will ask the court to grant a liability order for unpaid Business Rates. A liability order means that the court agrees that you owe the money and that the council can take steps to collect it by taking control of goods, bankruptcy, or winding up order.

At present Liability Order hearings are held remotely by audio link. You should not attend a Magistrates Court building.

You have some options:

1. Pay off the amount on the summons in full including the costs. That will end the case.

2. Do nothing. The council will ask the court to make the liability order in your absence.

3. If you accept that you owe the money, you can make an agreement with the council about how you will pay it (usually in instalments). If you make an agreement to pay with the council, they will still ask the court for a liability order. But if you stick to the agreement, they will not take any other steps (seizing goods etc). However, should you default on payment the liability order will be enforced.

To make an agreement you should contact the Council immediately on 0300 303 0164 rather than waiting for the court hearing. If you do that, you will probably not need to attend the court hearing as the Council will ask the court to make the liability order in your absence. Then they will collect the money as you and the Council have agreed.

If you are thinking about disputing the order (instead of paying – perhaps by instalments – or doing nothing) you should read the notes on the back of the Summons. They tell you what the council must prove to the court, and what defences you have. These are listed below.

Then, if you still want to dispute the liability order you must, check the Defences to a Liability or to be sure you have a valid defence. Then:

4. Contact the Local Authority at least seven days prior to the Court hearing and have a meeting with the council to explain to them why you believe you are not liable. If you cannot agree, you will be given a time to attend court by way of a telephone hearing. You will need to make yourself available for this telephone hearing for the full period of time the Council will give you. If you are not available and fail to answer the call when the Court telephones you the Court may make the Liability Order against you in your absence.

Please Note: if you turn up at the Magistrates’ Court without a prior appointment, you may be refused entry and your case may be heard in your absence

Legal defences against the issue of a Liability Order

These are defences which have previously been successful:

NNDR: Local Government Finance Act 1989. National Non-Domestic Rating (Collection & Enforcement) (Local Lists) Regulations 1989.

  1. There is no entry in the rating list effective for the period for which the defendant is alleged to have been liable to pay the business rates.
  2. That the bill, reminder/final notice, and summons have not been demanded or served in accordance with the National Non-Domestic Rating (Collection & Enforcement) (Local Lists) Regulations 1989.
  3. That the amount demanded has been paid
  4. The ratepayer is deceased
  5. That application was made more than 6 years after the first demand notice was issued.
  6. That the Council is in breach of the duty to service notices “as soon as practicable” in the relevant year.
  7. Although you occupy only part of the premises in one assessment you are being charged for the whole property (with no lease in place for this).

The Court will issue a liability order if the Council has done what it should, and you are the person responsible for the council tax at that property but you have not got an acceptable defence.

We can send bailiffs (known as enforcement agents) to seize your property if there is no other way to recover your debt. We will tell you how much you owe before the bailiff visits you.

The bailiffs’ costs can be added to the total amount you owe the council. Find out more about this process on the Bailiffs and their fees page.

We can take you to court if you do not pay the money you owe, and the bailiffs can’t recover enough property to cover it.

The court will consider whether you:

  • can afford to pay the bill
  • have a valid reason to not pay

You can be sent to prison for up to 3 months if the court decides you do not have a good reason to not pay your business rates and you refuse to do so.

If the court decides you have something to pay back you may be able to make an arrangement to pay your debt over time.

You do not have to attend court if you are not disputing that you owe the debt. If you believe a liability order should not be made against you, you should seek legal advice to see if you have a valid defence by consulting with a solicitor well before the date of the hearing.

The non-domestic rating (collection and enforcement) allow for the court to make an order for reasonable costs incurred in the application.

  • A non-domestic rates summons is £70.00
  • A committal summons is £245.00 plus a further £75 for a warrant of arrest

Any action taken against you after the hearing will incur further substantial costs payable by you.


Related documents

Debt Management Strategy (PDF, 434KB)

Business Rates Summons Costs Calculation (xls, 18KB)

Contact details

Business rates, local taxation and benefits, Municipal Offices, Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, DN31 1HU

Email: businessrates@nelincs.gov.uk

Telephone: 0300 3030164 option 4

Telephone opening times: Monday to Friday 9am to 4:30pm, except bank holidays