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‘Freeman on the Land’ Challenges to Council Tax Leads to Court Orders

Published on Wednesday, 17th August 2022

Chelmsford magistrates court

Maldon District Council is warning that residents could end up in court because of incorrect advice circulating online about challenging Council Tax.

A number of residents recently appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates Court claiming that they could refuse to pay their Council Tax as a result of the ‘Freeman on the Land’ movement. That theory is circulating online that people are only bound by contracts and laws that they have consented to and that therefore they can refuse to pay Council Tax. 

This is completely untrue. No-one has a choice as to whether they are liable to pay Council Tax and being a ‘freeman’ does not exempt anyone.

Liability for Council Tax is set out by the Local Government Finance Act 1992 which sets out local authorities’ right to demand Council Tax to fund services. Residents’ liability for Council Tax is therefore not dependent on any consent or contractual relationship with the Council.

The Magistrate dismissed every claim heard at the court on 26 July and each of the defendants was issued with a Council Liability Order.

A Liability Order gives the Council the right to recover that Council tax debt in a number of ways including

  • deductions from earnings or benefits
  • obtaining a charging order against a property
  • passing the account to an Enforcement Agent, and in extreme cases
  • commencing bankruptcy proceedings

Councillor Penny Channer, Leader of Maldon District Council said, “The mistaken belief that residents can refuse to pay Council Tax has landed people from our District in court. As a result they have been issued Liability Orders.

“This can mean very serious consequences if the Council Tax debt is not repaid and can even lead to possessions being seized or bankruptcy.

“I urge everyone not to be taken in by this false information and to pay their Council Tax on time like the vast majority of our residents.”   

If you are having genuine difficulties with paying your Council Tax, please talk to the Council as soon as possible. Our dedicated team will always try to help anyone experiencing financial hardship. 

More information on these issues can be found on the Council’s website at