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i This information applies to anyone living within the UK.

TV licence: How to pay and deal with fines or arrears

You need a TV licence to watch or record programmes as they air on some channels. You also need a licence to use iPlayer and some other online services.

If you are caught watching TV without a licence when you need to have one you could be fined. You can be fined up to £1,000 plus court costs.

The rules can be confusing. To check if you need a TV licence for the television you watch, read the guide on the TV Licensing website.

Be aware that the licence does not only cover watching TV through a television set. It also applies to watching TV on your phone, tablet or computer.

You do need a TV licence if you:

  • Watch or record any live TV, including through services like Sky and BT
  • Watch any live TV on a streaming service, including through services like Prime Video and ITVX
  • Use BBC iPlayer

You do not need a TV licence if you:

  • Never watch live television
  • Never use BBC iPlayer
  • Always download, watch on demand or catch up (not through the BBC)

It is a good idea to contact TV Licensing and let them know if:

  • You don't watch TV that requires a licence
  • Nobody is living at your address

If you do not need a licence you can fill in the form on the TV Licensing website. They may still visit your home.

What happens if I don't have a TV licence?

If you don’t have a valid licence:

  • You will be sent a letter asking you to pay or explain why you do not need a licence
  • TV Licensing could visit your home to find out if you need a licence
  • TV Licensing will try to prove you do need a licence

At this stage, if you do not pay, and they decide you are watching TV you need a licence for, they can start court action against you.

The court can issue a fine of up to £1,000. This will show up on your criminal record.

You will also have to pay the TV licence on top of the court fine.

I cannot pay my TV licence. What can I do?

This could be a sign you need debt help. Contact us for free debt advice. Nobody needs to know we have helped you. Take two minutes to answer a few simple questions to get started.

Simple Payment Plan

TV Licensing have the ‘Simple Payment Plan’. This is a way to manage your payments. You may be able to change when you pay it. And they can look at ways to pay off what you owe.

You will need your TV licence number to log in. Find out more about how it works.

Find out more about how TV Licensing can help you by reading their FAQs.

I cannot pay TV licence arrears. What can I do?

Because not paying the TV licence is a criminal offence, you should always treat this as a 'priority'.

This means you should try to pay it ahead of other debts that can have less of an impact on you.

Find out more about which debts to pay first.

Can I go to prison for not having a licence?

No, there is no need to worry. You cannot go to prison for simply not having a TV licence. The court can only give you a fine.

But if you fail to pay the fine for not having a TV licence, the court can take further action. They can send bailiffs or sheriff officers to your home. And they can take money from your wages or benefits if you refuse to pay what you owe.

They can then send you to prison if you still do not pay after all these steps to collect the debt unpaid fine have failed. This is as a last resort.

TV licence concessions

In some cases you can apply for a reduction on the cost of your licence. This applies if you, or someone you live with, is:

  • 75 years old or older and receiving Pension Credit: You can apply for a free licence. Call 0300 790 6112 or visiting the TV licence website
  • Blind (severely sight impaired) and can provide evidence: You can get a 50% blind concession on your licence. This does not apply if you are partially sighted

How do I buy a TV licence?

You can pay weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually. You can choose how you would like to pay:  cash, Direct Debit, debit or credit card or by post.

Visit the TV Licensing website to find out more.


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Find out how we can help you.

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