Brits have now fallen behind on bills, to the tune of £18.9bn, according to a new Citizens Advice report.
This includes tax credit overpayments of almost £7.5bn, council tax arrears of £2.84bn and debts to water companies of £2.2bn.
Last year, 690,000 people turned to Citizens Advice for help with unpaid bills – almost twice as many as needed help with consumer credit (350,000).
Hargreaves Lansdown personal finance analyst Sarah Coles said: “While there are plenty of organisations keeping an eye on consumer borrowing, arrears on household bills tends to be overlooked entirely. Unfortunately, as these figures show, this unseen debt has been quietly proliferating, with devastating consequences.
“People on low incomes are struggling with rising housing costs and everyday prices. At the same time they are facing benefit freezes and cuts, low wage growth, and insecure incomes. The scale of overpaid tax credits demonstrates just how difficult it is to navigate the system unscathed if you don’t receive exactly the same income each month.
“The consequences of failing to pay your bills can be catastrophic. If you can’t pay your rent you can be evicted, while if you fail to pay your council tax you could ultimately end up in jail.”
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