Gaeilge | English

Rules for specific debts

Introduction

There are specific rules and practices in place in relation to certain debts. These are mainly debts that are owed to the State or to a State body and arise from statutory charges and levies; debts to providers of essential services, such as utility companies; and debts arising from statutory obligations, such as the obligation to pay maintenance to spouses and children.

The Civil Debt (Procedures) Act 2015 (when in force) will change the arrangements for the enforcement of civil debt. Read more in this press release.

Specific rules and practices apply to the following:

Taxes and charges

In general, you are expected to pay your taxes on time and in full. If you fail to do this, Revenue has a range of options for collecting the tax due.

Prosecution

If you fail to pay your tax on time, you may be prosecuted and convicted of an offence. This may lead to a fine and/or imprisonment. The level of fines and length of imprisonment vary in accordance with the gravity of the different offences under revenue law. Regardless of the outcome of the prosecution, you are still obliged to repay the underpayment.

The main ways in which Revenue collects overdue taxes from individuals are as follows:

Phased payment arrangements

If you owe money to Revenue for unpaid taxes, you may be able to agree a repayment arrangement. However, in general, interest applies to any late taxes and so you have to pay this as well. In some cases, penalties may also apply.

If you are paying income tax through PAYE and you underpay in a particular year, you may be able to pay the amount due by having your tax credits in a subsequent year reduced. In general, interest is not applied in these circumstances.

In other cases where you have not paid or have underpaid your tax, you may be able to agree a phased payment arrangement. This generally does involve the payment of interest as well as the amount owed.

Collection by Sheriff

If you get a final demand for the payment of any taxes due and you do not respond, Revenue may refer your case to the Sheriff for enforcement. It is not necessary to have a court order.

The Sheriff is given a warrant, which is a legal document conferring authority on the Sheriff to enforce collection of Revenue liabilities, if necessary, by seizing goods. A warrant is valid for 12 months. However, if the Sheriff fails to collect any of the liability within 6 months, the certificate must be returned to Revenue. The Sheriff has the authority to negotiate a payment arrangement, not exceeding 2 years, with you.

Once your case has gone to the Sheriff, you must then deal with the Sheriff. You cannot now deal with Revenue officials as this is part of Revenue’s agreement with the Sheriffs. Revenue Sheriffs are officers of the courts and are responsible to the courts. There is a Code of Practice for Revenue Sheriffs (pdf).

Court action

Revenue has contracts with several firms of solicitors to help enforce Revenue debts. They are involved in taking cases through the courts. If the court grants a judgment order, it is enforced in the normal way.

Attachment of a debt

Revenue has specific powers of attachment of debt, which can be exercised without a court order. Read more about how this works.

Local Property Tax

If you are a liable person for the Local Property Tax (LPT) and you do not submit a return, the estimate made by Revenue will become payable by default. Revenue will then collect the amount due in the normal ways, such as deduction at source or attachment order.

If Revenue cannot collect the amount of LPT due, for whatever reason, then a charge will be put on your property. You will not be able to sell your property without paying the accumulated tax together with interest and, where appropriate, penalties.

Read more about the Local Property Tax.

Household Charge

A Household Charge of €100 was charged on residential property in 2012. If you owned a dwelling in 2012 and did not pay the Household Charge due on it by 1 July 2013, the Local Property Tax in respect of the property was increased by €200. In effect, the arrears were converted into LPT, to be collected through the LPT system and pursued by Revenue. Interest and penalties under the LPT system will apply to the additional €200.

Non-principal private residence (second home) charge

The Non-Principal Private Residence (NPPR) charge was payable on any second residence that you owned in any year between 2009 and 2013 inclusive. Late payment fees and penalties applied if you did not pay the charge by the liability date each year. If you were liable for the full period and did not pay (or agree terms) by 31 August 2014, you now owe a total of €7,230 on the property. Any unpaid charges or unpaid late payment fees remain as a charge on the property and are payable if it is sold or passed on inheritance.

Social welfare overpayments and maintenance

Social welfare overpayments

If you have received money from the Department of Social Protection that you should not have received, you are generally legally obliged to repay it. This is the case whether the overpayment arises as a result of fraud, a mistake by you or a mistake by the Department.

Read more about how the Department deals with social welfare overpayments.

Maintenance

If a parent, spouse or civil partner falls behind with maintenance payments that are due to you under a maintenance order, you can apply to the court for an attachment of earnings order if the person is in employment or on a private pension. This order results in the maintenance amount being deducted at source by the person's employer. If the person is self-employed, you can apply for an enforcement order.

If the person lives abroad, you can contact the Central Authority for Maintenance Recovery. You will need to provide the person’s address.

Read more in our document on Maintenance orders and agreements.

Local authority arrears

Rent arrears

If you fall behind in your local authority rent, the local authority must follow detailed guidelines for dealing with arrears. Some local authority rent schemes may allow for a rent reduction in cases of hardship.

If you fail to pay your rent, the legal consequences can include:

  • Being charged interest at a rate of 6% on the arrears as long as they remain unpaid
  • Notice to quit, followed by repossession of your home
  • Ineligibility for further social housing support

Read more about how local authorities deal with rent arrears.

Local authority loan arrears

If you have a loan from a local authority for buying or improving your house and you are having difficulty making your repayments, you may be able to make an arrangement with the local authority. Detailed guidelines (pdf) have been issued to local authorities on how to deal with such cases. These guidelines are based on the Central Bank's Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (pdf).

If you fail to pay your arrears, the legal consequences can include:

  • Being charged interest at a rate of 6% on the arrears as long as they remain unpaid
  • Repossession of your home
  • Ineligibility for further social housing support

Read more on housing.gov.ie.

Waste and utility charges

Waste charges

If you have not paid the charge levied by your refuse collection operator for the collection of waste within 2 months of the due date (and you are not eligible for a waiver) the operator may take court proceedings against you for the payment as a simple contract debt. It is not an offence to fail to pay.

Read more about waste charges.

Utilities: electricity, gas, water

Suppliers of electricity, gas and water are required by their regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), to have codes of practice for dealing with customers who have difficulties paying their bills and build up arrears of payments. Each of these regulated utilities must publish these codes of practice – you can check on the websites of your electricity supplier, your gas supplier and Irish Water.

If you are having difficulty (or are likely to have difficulty) paying your utility bills, it is very important to contact your supplier as soon as possible. Options that can be put in place with your supplier might include setting up a budget plan, spreading your payments across the year, installing a pre-paid meter or using a pre-paid card.

Read more about gas, electricity and water charges.

TV and dog licences

TV licences

TV licence fees are payable to An Post. (The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment may designate another body as the 'issuing agent' but at present it is An Post.)

If An Post considers that you do not have a TV licence and you are obliged to have one, it may send you a reminder notification, giving you 28 days to pay. If, after 2 such notifications, you do not pay the licence fee, An Post may serve you with a fixed payment notice.

You now have 21 days in which to buy your TV licence and pay the fixed payment penalty, which is capped at one-third of the licence fee.

If you do not buy your TV licence and pay the fixed payment fee, you may be prosecuted in the District Court, as it is an offence not to have a TV licence if you have a TV set. The fine for a first offence can be up to €1,000. For subsequent offences, you can be fined up to €2,000.

An Post may look for judgment for the outstanding payments as a simple contract debt.

Dog licences

If you have a dog over 4 months old, you must have a dog licence for it. If you do not have a licence for your dog, you are liable to an 'on-the-spot' fine. Failure to pay this fine can lead to a prosecution, with a maximum fine of €2,500 and/or up to 3 months' imprisonment if convicted.

The debt may be collected as a simple contract debt.

Read more in our document on Control of dogs.

Collection of court fines

The Fines (Payments and Recovery) Act 2014 introduces some new features in how court fines are treated, including the possibility of paying a fine by instalments or of having a fine treated and enforced as a civil debt.

All court fines over €100 can now be paid by instalments, though you can still opt for a single payment. The Fines (Payments and Recovery) Act 2014 (Section 6) Regulations 2016 set out the arrangements, as follows:

For once-off payment of a fine, you can opt to pay through An Post or else pay the Courts Service directly.

If you are paying by instalments, you can only pay through An Post. You pay in 13 instalments. The first instalment is 10% of the amount of the fine and the next 12 instalments are each 7.5% of the amount of the fine.

There are strict timelines for the payment of instalments, as follows:

  • The first instalment must be paid 42 days from the date on which the fine was imposed
  • The second instalment must be paid within 72 days from the date on which the fine was imposed
  • The third instalment must be paid within 30 days of the due date of the second instalment
  • Each of the next 9 instalments must be paid within 30 days of the due date of the previous instalment
  • The 13th and final instalment must be paid within 35 days of the due date of the previous (12th) instalment

The Courts Service accepts cash, cheques, bank drafts or postal money orders. If you are paying through An Post, you can use one of these methods or choose to pay by credit card or debit card. An Post will accept payments by phone or over the internet, as well as in post offices.

If you fail to pay a fine, you can be brought back to court. The judge may make an attachment order or a recovery order, to collect the money from you directly, or they can order you to do community service. If none of these options is appropriate, or if you fail to comply with a community service order, you may be sent to prison for a length of time that relates to the amount of the unpaid fine.

Read more in this press release.

Page edited: 2 November 2016