Frequently Asked Questions

The information provided on this page is general guidance only and is not intended to be a statement of the law
or any creditor's policies on debt recovery.
Click on the headings below to reveal the answers

Council Tax

What is Council Tax? Where can I find information about my Council Tax Bill?

Council Tax is a local tax, which helps pay for the services the Council provides, such as education, social services and refuse collection and provides funding for the Police and Fire Brigade. Council Tax is billed annually, usually collected in 10 monthly instalments.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to Council Tax Benefit. This Benefit helps people on a low income pay their Council Tax bill.

Council Tax Benefit does not cover any water or waste water charges which you are due to pay along with your Council Tax.

If you live in the undernoted areas please click the links for further information on how Council Tax is administered in these areas, entitlement to benefits etc. and contact details
West Lothian Council, Falkirk Council , Stirling Council, Inverclyde Council

What is a Summary Warrant?

A summary Warrant is a warrant signed by the Sheriff authorising sheriff officers to execute diligence to recover the sums due. The Summary Warrant does not require that any correspondence is issued prior to the execution of diligence except in special circumstances for certain diligences. If you do not receive a letter intimating that a Summary Warrant has been granted, this has no effect on any diligence that may follow.

I did not receive a formal summons intimating that I was being taken to court for Council Tax Arrears?

Council Tax follows a different procedure from ordinary debts. The procedure to be followed before the grant of a Summary Warrant is as follows.

  • If you miss any or part of an instalment the local authority will send you a reminder requiring you to bring your instalments up to date within 7 days
  • If you do not bring the instalments up to date within 7 days, after a further 7 days application is made to the court for a Summary Warrant. When the Summary Warrant is granted, 10% is added to the debt.
Why is 10% added to the debt?

This is a statutory provision. It is not within the power of the local authority or sheriff officer to vary this amount. It should be noted that no other additions are made to the account by way of interest. Further charges may be added to the account if the Sheriff Officer requires to execute diligence to enforce recovery.

What happens if I cannot make full payment?

Contact the Sheriff Officer to make an offer of payment. Each firm of Sheriff Officers will have an individual approach to accepting payment by instalments. To arrange payment by instalments on a Council Tax debt being collected by AMA, telephone 01324 621293, or use our on-line facility. If there is no offer of payment or any instalment arrangement is not maintained the sheriff officer will proceed with diligence. For details of what diligence entails see the section on diligence below.

How can I pay?

Details on payment methods that can be used to pay AMA can be found on our Payment Arrangement page.

I am due Council Tax Benefit that has not yet been applied to my account.

Unless the Sheriff Officer is instructed otherwise he will continue to pursue recovery of the sums due under the Summary Warrant. The fact that Council Tax Benefit has been applied for does not affect his duty to collect the sums due at that time. You should contact the relevant local authority to enquire as to the progress of the Council Tax Benefit application. If Council Tax Benefit is awarded the sheriff officer will be advised accordingly.

If you live in the undernoted areas, click on the links for further information on benefits and contact details for enquiries.
West Lothian Council, Falkirk Council, Stirling Council, Inverclyde Council

Does anything have to happen before diligence is executed under a Summary Warrant?

A charge must be served before any further enforcement action can be taken. A charge is a formal warning document which states that diligence will follow if the debt is not paid within 14 days. The charge will be served by a sheriff officer at your home or business premises. A charge is required before the following diligences.

  • Earnings Arrestment
  • Bank Arrestment
  • Attachment
  • Exceptional Attachment

I am on a low income or have multiple debts and cannot afford to pay.

You should still contact the Sheriff Officer to make an arrangement to pay that is appropriate to your particular circumstances. Alex M Adamson staff are trained to take into account individual circumstances. If you need advice on handling your debts generally you will find a range of useful resources and a facility to search for money advisers at the Scottish Government’s Financial Health website

Alternatively you will find details of specific advisers in some of the areas that we operate on Our debt adviser’s page

If you are in receipt of Benefits, you should confirm with the Council that they are implementing direct deductions from your benefit payments as that will assist with payment of the current year Council Tax.


What is diligence?

Diligence is the procedure for enforcing a decree or court order.

What diligences are available to a Sheriff Officer?

A basic guide to methods of recovery can be found at our Enforcement Guide. Briefly the actions available to an officer are as follows.

  • Earnings Arrestment - An earnings arrestment schedule is served on the employer who deducts a statutorily set sum until the debt is paid in full. A charge must be served prior to execution of an earnings arrestment.
  • Bank Arrestment - A schedule of arrestment is served on the bank. The bank freezes the sums held at credit of the account in excess of the protected limit which is currently £415.00. These funds are automatically released to the creditor after 14 weeks unless a mandate has been signed authorising release of the arrested sums beforehand or alternatively due to an alternative arrangement the arrestment has been withdrawn. A charge must be served prior to service of a bank arrestment authorised by a summary warrant. No prior charge is required for a bank arrestment based on any other type of decree.
  • Attachment - The listing and valuing of goods that are subsequently sold at auction if the debt remains unpaid. An attachment cannot take place within a dwellingplace without a further order granted by the court. See the notes on exceptional attachment orders below. An attachment can accordingly take place in any non-domestic premises but can also be executed within driveways, gardens, garages and other outhouses attached to dwellingplaces. The authority to execute an attachment includes authority to open and shut lockfast places. A charge is required prior to the execution of an attachment for all types of decree
  • Exceptional Attachment - An exceptional attachment order authorises the valuation and uplift of goods within a dwellingplace. A charge has to be served in the first instance. The creditor must apply to the court for an exceptional attachment order to the court. The debtor will have an opportunity to state their case at a court hearing prior to any order being granted. Once granted the exceptional attachment order does give officers authority to open and shut lockfast places. An exceptional attachment differs from an ordinary attachment in that the listed goods are uplifted immediately from the dwellinghouse with a view to their subsequent auction.
  • Inhibition - A schedule of inhibition is served on the debtor. The inhibition is then registered in the Registers of Scotland. Once registered the debtor cannot sell or grant a security over their heritable property without having the Inhibition discharged. An inhibition may be served once a decree is granted. It cannot be served on the basis of a Summary Warrant. In certain circumstances authority may be granted by the court to serve an Inhibition while an action is proceeding. This is known as an Inhibition on the Dependence.
Are there any other actions that can be taken outwith these diligences?

Creditors may elect to petition for the sequestration (bankruptcy) of individuals or liquidation of limited companies. A creditor must be due £3000.00 before they can petition for an individual's sequestration but there is no similar limit for liquidation of limited companies. The debtor must also be what is technically known as apparently insolvent. The most common way of establishing apparent insolvency in individuals is the service of a charge and the debt is not paid within 14 days of service of the charge.

What diligence fees are added to my account?

The diligence fees that are added to an account are set out in the Table of Fees for Sheriff Officers. Full details of the table can be found under the SO Fees tab on our fees page. The most common fees added to an account are for a charge, earnings arrestment or bank arrestment. These fees can be seen on the Fees Calculator tab of our fees page. The charge fee is calculated using the personal service option. For all three types of fee select the Other Sheriff Court option. The fee added to an account will be exclusive of VAT in Summary Warrant cases.

My earnings are already being arrested. I cannot afford a further arrestment on my earnings.

Only one arrestment is competent at one time. There are two exceptions to this. A deduction of Earnings Order on behalf of the Child Support Agency takes precedence over an earnings arrestment. The earnings arrestment applies to the earnings left after the deduction of earnings order deduction has been made. A current maintenance arrestment may also operate alongside an earnings arrestment. If the operation of both would not leave the debtor with a minimum amount of his salary the two arrestments are calculated proportionally. Where a second creditor wants to enforce by earnings arrestment he has to apply to the court for a conjoined arrestment order. Once granted the same sum is deducted from the debtor's earnings but the money is now sent to the Sheriff Clerk who divides the money proportionally between the creditors.

I did not receive an intimation copy of the earnings arrestment schedule.

The officer must take all reasonable steps to send a copy of the earnings arrestment schedule to the debtor. However the fact that this is not received by the debtor does not affect the validity or competence of the arrestment. There is in any event now a duty on the employer also to intimate receipt of an earnings arrestment schedule to the debtor.

All the funds have been arrested in my bank account. What should I do?

Since 22 April 2009, a protected limit, currently £415.00, has applied to accounts subject to bank arrestment. This protected limit applies to individuals only and in particular does not apply to individuals operating the bank account as a trading account. The protected limit does not apply to companies. The sums arrested will be automatically paid to the creditor after 14 weeks. If more has been attached in the bank than is required to settle the debt, contact the sheriff officer in summary warrant cases or the creditors agent to arrange the signature of a mandate authorising earlier release of the funds. This will expedite the return of any excess back into the bank account. In all circumstances we would recommend contacting the officer or creditors agent to settle matters surrounding a bank arrestment.

My benefits have been arrested in my bank account?

There is no protection in respect of benefits once they have been paid into a bank account. The introduction of a protected limit will give some protection to benefits paid into a bank account.

I have received intimation of an application for an Exceptional Attachment Order.

This is the commencement of the process to execute an attachment within the debtor's dwellingplace. The intimation will contain a date for a hearing at the court. We would recommend that contact is made with the officer or creditor's agents to establish if alternative payment arrangement can be made prior to the hearing.