Council Tax

Council Tax


Part 1: Working out your Council Tax

You’ll need to know 3 things:

  1. The valuation band for your home in England and Wales and in Scotland.

  2. How much your local council charges for that band.

  3. Whether you can get a discount or exemption from the full bill – for example, people living on their own get a 25% discount.

Find out if you’re eligible and apply for a Council Tax discount.

A full Council Tax bill is based on 2 or more adults living in a household.

You may be able to challenge your Council Tax band if you think your home is in the wrong valuation band.

In England and Scotland,valuation bands are based on property values on 1 April 1991, not what a property is worth today. In Wales, valuation bands are based on property values on 1 April 2003.

If you’re having trouble paying your bill, you may be able to get financial help.

Council Tax Benefit is ending in April 2013. It will be replaced by Council Tax Reduction.


Part 2: Paying the bill

You’ll usually have to pay Council Tax if you’re 18 or over and own or rent a home. Spouses and partners who live together are jointly responsible for paying the bill.

Contact your local council if you’re unsure about who’s responsible for paying.

When payments are due

Your Council Tax bill tells you:

  • how much you have to pay for the year
  • how that amount has been worked out
  • the dates you have to pay

The cost is usually split into 10 monthly payments. However, your council must let you spread the payments over 12 months if you ask them.

You’ll get a new bill if the amount of Council Tax you have to pay changes during the year.

Ways to pay

Some councils let you pay your Council Tax online or over the phone.

You can usually also pay:

  • by post
  • by direct debit
  • by standing order
  • in person at your council’s offices
  • using ‘Paypoint’, ‘Payzone’ or ‘Quickcards’ for cash payments at post offices, banks, newsagents and convenience stores


Part 3: Council Tax exemptions

A full Council Tax bill is based on at least 2 adults living in a home.

You’ll get 25% off your bill if you count as an adult for Council Tax and live on your own.

You’ll also get a discount if you live with people who don’t count as adults for Council Tax.

Apply for a Council Tax discount.

Who doesn’t count?

These people are not counted as adults for Council Tax:

  • children under 18
  • people on apprentice schemes
  • 18 and 19-year-olds in full-time education
  • full-time college and university students
  • young people under 25 who get funding from the Skills Funding Agency or Young People’s Learning Agency
  • student nurses
  • foreign language assistants registered with the British Council
  • people with a severe mental disability
  • live-in carers who look after someone who isn’t their partner, spouse or child
  • diplomats

To work out if you should get a Council Tax discount:

  1. Count the number of adults who live in your home as their main home.

  2. Discount anyone in the list above.

  3. If you’re left with 1 person who counts as an adult, your Council Tax bill will be reduced by 25%.

  4. If this is your main home and you’re left with no-one who counts as an adult, your bill will be reduced by 50% – second homes and empty properties have different rules.

Your bill doesn’t show a discount

Write to your council if there’s no discount listed and you think you should get one.

The council has 2 months to respond. If you disagree with the council’s decision or don’t hear back within this time, you can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal.

You get a Council Tax discount by mistake

You must tell your council. If you don’t, you could get a fine.

The council may also ask you to pay back the discount.


Part 4: Full-time students

Households where everyone’s a full-time student don’t have to pay Council Tax. If you do get a bill, you can apply for an exemption.

To count as a full-time student, your course must:

  • last at least 1 year
  • involve at least 21 hours study per week

If you study for a qualification up to A level and you’re under 20, your course must:

  • last at least 3 months
  • involve at least 12 hours study per week

You will get a Council Tax bill if there’s someone in your household who’s not a full-time student, but your household might still qualify for a discount.


Part 5: Discounts for disabled people

Disabled band reduction scheme

This scheme makes sure disabled people don’t pay more Council Tax if they need:

  • a bigger property
  • to adapt their home because of their disability

The property must be the main home of at least 1 disabled person. They can be an adult or a child and don’t have to be responsible for paying the Council Tax.

The property must have 1 or more of:

  • an extra bathroom, kitchen or other room for the disabled person
  • extra space inside the property for using a wheelchair

Other Council Tax reductions

People who are severely mentally impaired and some live-in carers are exempt when working out Council Tax.

You can apply for a Council Tax discount from your local council.


Part 6: Second homes and empty properties

Second homes

You may pay less Council Tax for a property you own or rent that’s not your main home.

Councils can give furnished second homes or holiday homes a discount of up to 50%.

Empty properties

You’ll have to pay Council Tax on an empty and unfurnished home, but you may qualify for a discount. It’s up to your council to decide whether you get a discount and how much you get.

If the owner of a house has died, Council Tax isn’t charged for up to 6 months after probate is granted (your legal right to sell the home).

Some homes don’t get a Council Tax bill for as long as they stay empty. They include homes:

  • of someone in prison (except for not paying a fine or Council Tax)
  • of someone who’s moved into a care home or hospital
  • that have been repossessed
  • that cannot be lived in by law
  • that are empty because they’ve been compulsory purchased and will be demolished

You may get a discount if your home is undergoing major repair work or structural changes (eg your walls are being rebuilt).

Properties empty for 2 years or more

Your Council can charge up to extra 50% Council Tax if your home has been empty and unfurnished for 2 years or more (unless it’s an annexe or you’re in the armed forces).

Completion notices

Local councils usually send completion notices to new homes and properties that have had major home improvements. A completion notice tells you the day the council thinks your property was finished.

You have to start paying Council Tax from this date.


Part 7: Problems paying and financial help

Tell your council as soon as you think you’ll have a problem paying your Council Tax bill.

You can choose to spread your payments over 12 months instead of 10 if you’re not already doing so. Contact your council and ask them to set this up.

Your council may be able to give you a one-off discount if you’re really struggling to pay.

Council Tax Reduction

You may be able to claim Council Tax Reduction or Second Adult Rebate if you’re on a low income.

Missing Council Tax payments

You Council Tax is normally split into 10 monthly payments.

If you haven’t spoken to your council about a problem paying your bill, and you miss a payment, your council will ask you for payment:

  1. Your council will send you a reminder notice giving you 7 days to pay.

  2. If you don’t pay within 7 days, the council will send you a final notice. You’ll also get a final notice if your monthly Council Tax payments are late 3 times in a year. The final notice gives you 7 days to pay the full amount of Council Tax for the whole year.

  3. If you don’t pay the final notice within 7 days, the council will take legal action to get the Council Tax you owe. The court may also make you pay the council’s costs, like hiring a lawyer.


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