This link suggests that there are possibly no criminal implications, either summary or indictable, which is a little counter intuitive and somewhat hard to believe. As a form of tax, one would expect that declining to pay it would be some form of criminal offence. But the case seems to only rule on one narrow particular aspect of the question, that is of disclosing one's address of residence, rather than addressing the broader matter of payment or non payment of council tax itself.

A popular fad among self styled common law sovereign citizens is to claim that there is no need to pay tax which seems highly dubious.

But then one of them has cited among all of his rambling an actual news report on an actual court ruling. I suppose that it is slightly different from some (many? All?) Other forms of tax in that it is levied/collected by local authorities, rather than the slightly more reputedly ruthless HMRC. Do taxes not collected by HMRC have different statutory statuses as well?

Another common trope to be addressed in a correspondingly separate question that is often spread with this one is that there is no need to pay one's domestic utility bills. But in any case, what eventually... "Happens" if one fails to pay one's council tax?

Reference: https://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/litigation-and-enforcement/400-litigation-news/40025-court-of-appeal-rejects-legal-duty-for-council-tax-purposes-to-disclose-fact-of-residence

  • 1
    "This link suggests that there are possibly no criminal implications...": no it doesn't. The court stated that there's currently no legal obligation to tell the council when you move into a property; and if you don't live there (as far as the council knows), then you can't be liable for council tax (you probably also won't be able to vote). This appears to be a legal loophole. But if you have told the council that you live in a property, then you are liable for council tax, and Rick's answer applies. Jul 11, 2022 at 9:22

1 Answer 1


what eventually... "Happens" if one fails to pay one's council tax?

  • Short Answer:


You can be sent to prison for up to 3 months if the court decides you don’t have a good reason to not pay your Council Tax and you refuse to do so.

  • Long Answer:

But before then...

If you miss Council Tax payments

Your council will send you a reminder notice giving you 7 days to pay if you miss a payment. If you don’t pay within 7 days, you’ll have to pay the whole year’s Council Tax instead.

You’ll be sent a second reminder notice if you miss another Council Tax payment.

You’ll only get a maximum of 2 reminder notices in a financial year - this runs from April 1 to March 31 of the next year.

Your council will send you a final notice saying you must pay the whole year’s Council Tax if you miss a payment for the third time.

If you don’t pay your whole year’s Council Tax within 7 days, the council may take legal action to get the Council Tax you owe.

Legal demands for payment

Your council can ask a magistrate for a ‘liability order’ if you owe them unpaid Council Tax. This is a legal demand for payment. The council’s legal costs, eg for hiring a lawyer, may be added to the money you owe. You’re allowed to go to the court and give your reasons for not paying if you want.

If you receive a liability order you should speak to your council or your local Citizens Advice bureau about your options.

If you still don’t pay

Your council can get your employer to pay your unpaid Council Tax directly from your wages.

Your council can also apply to take money from the following benefits:

  • Employment and Support Allowance

  • Income Support

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Pension Credit

  • Universal Credit

If this means you don’t have enough money to pay other bills, you can ask your council if you can make smaller payments. Your council doesn’t have to agree but will usually try to make an arrangement with you.


Your council can send bailiffs (‘enforcement agents’) to seize your property if there’s no other way to recover your debt. They’ll 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.


Your council can take you to court if you don’t 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 don’t have a good reason to not pay your Council Tax 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.

Source, gov.uk's guidance Pay Council Tax arrears

  • Okay, but can you reconcile this with the significance of the 2019 court of appeal ruling described in the report? Jul 9, 2022 at 7:51
  • @JosephP. Statutes on Councils and Council tax change every year. I haven't seen a change specific to the ruling on a cursory glance, but I would be very surprised if the loophole hadn't been plugged, since it was based purely off the reading of the statute as it existed and not any kind of fundamental rights. Aug 11, 2022 at 9:28

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