The term “precept” comes from the Latin præcipe (command). When used in local government finance, it refers to a legally-binding instruction to collect a specific amount in Council Tax.

A precepting authority is one with the power to instruct another local authority (the billing authority) to collect an amount from Council Tax on its behalf.
Precepts are shown as separate elements on the total Council Tax bill.

Powers to issue precepts, and the process by which they must be calculated are set out in the Local Government Finance Act 1992.

Major precepting authorities cover territory larger than that of the billing authority (so they actually issue precepts to more than one billing authority). They are:
  • county councils (other than those which are unitary authorities);
  • police authorities;
  • metropolitan county fire and civil defence authorities;
  • combined fire & rescue authorities;
  • the Greater London Authority.

Local precepting authorities cover territory smaller than that of the billing authority (so they only issue one precept, to one billing authority). They are:
  • parish, town or community councils;
  • the chairman of a parish meeting, where not formally constituted as a council;
  • charter trustees;
  • the sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple;
  • the under-treasurer of the Middle Temple.