Rules for different types of debts
If you have debt you have not repaid, what happens can depend on the type of debt it is. For some types of debt, there are particular rules. These include debts due to:
- Social welfare overpayment
- Legal obligations, such as maintenance payments
- Local authority rent or mortgages
- Utility charges
- Charges set by law (known as statutory charges), such as TV licences or dog licences
- Court fines
If you do not pay the tax you owe, Revenue has a range of options for collecting the tax due. These are set out in detail in the Code of Practice for Revenue Compliance Interventions (pdf).
The main ways Revenue collects overdue taxes are:
- Phased payment arrangements
- Collection by a Sheriff
- Court action
- Attachment of a debt
Phased payment arrangements
If you owe money to Revenue for unpaid taxes, you can apply for a phased payment arrangement where you repay your tax debt in instalments. Interest is charged on the amount you owe.
If you are paying income tax through Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and you underpay in a particular year, you may be able to repay the amount due by having your tax credits reduced in a following year. In general, interest is not applied to these repayments.
Collection by a Sheriff
If you get a final demand to pay taxes due and you do not respond, Revenue can refer your case to a Sheriff to enforce the debt. A court order is not required.
The Sheriff is given a warrant, which is the legal authority to collect Revenue debts, including by seizing goods if necessary. A warrant is valid for 12 months. However, if the Sheriff does not collect any of the debt within 6 months, the certificate must be returned to Revenue. The Sheriff has the authority to negotiate a payment arrangement, with you. The repayment arrangement must be for 2 years or less.
Once your case has gone to the Sheriff, you must then deal with the Sheriff. You are no longer able to deal with Revenue staff. Revenue Sheriffs are officers of the courts and are responsible to the courts. There are Revenue Guidelines for Sheriff Enforcement (pdf) and a Code of Practice for Revenue Sheriffs (pdf).
Revenue may take legal action on a debt by referring it to a solicitor. Revenue will look for a court judgement that the amount is due. Revenue can then seek further legal action to recover the debt. Revenue has Guidelines for using the court process to pursue tax liabilities (pdf).
Attachment of a debt
If Revenue has issued a final demand for tax you owe and you do not agree to pay it, Revenue has powers of attachment of debt. This means that if you are owed money, Revenue can require that the money owed to you is paid to Revenue instead. This could include:
- Salary from an employer
- Money due to you from a state agency
- Money in your bank or credit union account
This does not require a court order.
Revenue has Guidelines for Attachment (pdf).
Local Property Tax
If you are a liable person for Local Property Tax (LPT) and you do not make a return, Revenue’s estimate will become payable by default. A liable person means the person responsible for paying. 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, 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, penalties (if applicable).
If you are responsible for paying Local Property Tax (LPT), and you do not make a return, you will owe the amount that is estimated by Revenue.
If you do not pay the tax, Revenue may collect it by:
- Deducting it from your salary or pension
- Keeping any refund of tax you are entitled to
- Adding a surcharge to your income tax or Capital Gains Tax
- Using a solicitor or sheriff
If Revenue cannot collect the amount of LPT due, then a charge will be put on your property. This means that you will not be able to sell your property without paying the tax and any interest or penalties due.
The Local Property Tax replaced the Household Charge which was abolished from 1 January 2013. Household Charge arrears that were not paid by 1 July 2013 were converted into LPT and are now collected by Revenue through the LPT system.
Non-Principal Private Residence Charge
The Non-Principal Private Residence (NPPR) Charge on second homes was introduced in 2009 and paid to the relevant local authority. From 2014 onwards, the NPPR is no longer charged, but outstanding liabilities and payments will still be collected.
After 12 years the charges expire and so are no longer due to be paid. If there was an NPPR charge on a property for 2009, it expired on 1 August 2021. Charges for the years 2010–2013 expire on 1 April. An NPPR charge for 2010, for example, expired on 1 April 2022 and the charge for 2013 will expire on 1 April 2025. For more information see nppr.ie.
Social welfare overpayments
If you get money from the Department of Social Protection that you should not have, you must repay it. This is the case whether the overpayment was because of:
- A mistake by you
- A mistake by the Department
If a parent, spouse or civil partner falls behind with maintenance payments due under a maintenance order, you can apply to the court for an attachment of earnings order. If the person is in employment, their employer will deduct the maintenance amount from their wage or salary. 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
If you fall behind in your local authority rent, you should contact the local authority to discuss the arrears. Some local authority rent schemes may allow for a rent reduction in cases of hardship.
If you do not contact your local authority about the arrears, the local authority may start the process to evict you. It must warn you before it starts the process.
Read more about how local authorities deal with rent arrears.
Local authority loan arrears
If you have a loan from a local authority and you are having difficulty making your repayments, you may be able to make an arrangement with the local authority. Local authorities have guidelines on dealing with mortgage arrears.
You can read a short guide to resolving your mortgage arrears problem.
Suppliers of electricity and gas must have codes of practice for dealing with customers who have difficulty paying their bills and build up arrears. Each supplier must publish these codes of practice – you can check on the website of your electricity or gas supplier.
If you are having difficulty paying your utility bills, it is important to contact your supplier as soon as possible. Your supplier may agree to:
- Set up a budget plan
- Spread your payments across the year
- Install a pre-paid meter or using a pre-paid card
TV and dog licences
You must pay your TV licence to An Post.
An Post keeps a database of every premises which should have a TV licence. The database is regularly updated.
If you have not paid your TV licence, you may receive a notice from An Post to warn you that you could be prosecuted if you do not buy a TV licence. You are given 28 days to pay. An Post may serve you with a fixed payment notice if you have still not paid after receiving 2 notifications.
You then have 21 days to buy your TV licence and pay the fixed penalty fee. The penalty fee is capped at one-third of the licence fee.
If you do not buy your TV licence and pay the fixed penalty fee, you may be prosecuted in court. It is an offence not to have a TV licence if you have a TV set. If convicted, you could be fined €1,000 for a first offence and €2,000 for subsequent offences.
If you have a dog over 4 months old, you must have a dog licence. If you do not have a licence for your dog, you could face an 'on-the-spot' fine. If you do not pay this fine you can be prosecuted. If convicted, you could be fined up to €2,500 or up to 3 months' imprisonment (or both).
If you are ordered to pay a fine, you have the option to pay in full or by instalment.
You can pay by instalment only if the fine is more than €100. Instalment payments should be made through An Post. There are rules on how much you must pay by instalment and when.
If you do not 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
- Order you to do community service.
If no other options is appropriate, or if you do not comply with a Community Service Order, you could be sent to prison.