How to Reduce My Council Tax Bill

Call 0844 453 0158 for Council Tax advice or get in touch with your local council.

As the UK government continues to cut their funding, local councils are having to raise Council Tax. The residents in each borough have to keep paying more and more in Council Tax every year. Even properties on the lowest Council Tax band can be expensive, and some people struggle to pay. Fortunately, it is possible to reduce your Council Tax bill in certain circumstances. Read this guide to find out about Council Tax discounts.

What is Council Tax and why do I have to pay?

Most people are eligible to pay Council Tax to their local council when they live in a property within their area. Each council sets their Council Tax according to property bands and the amount of money that they need to raise. The charge for the least expensive valuation, Band A, is always one-third of the charge for the most expensive valuation, Band H. It is necessary to pay Council Tax so that the council can allocate these funds towards important local services. This includes social care, the police and fire brigade, public area maintenance, and waste disposal.

Check if you are Exempt from Council Tax

Some properties or individuals may be exempt from paying Council Tax. A property should be exempt if it is condemned or legally re-possessed. Other exemptions include properties where the residents are all under 18 years old or severely mentally impaired. If a property is unoccupied because the person living there had to leave to receive or provide care elsewhere, then they might not have to pay Council Tax for that. Self-contained smaller properties such as caravans, boats, or “granny flats” are exempt if they are on a main property where Council Tax is paid.

Council Tax charges depend on how many liable people are living in the property. Some people are disregarded when it comes to this calculation:

  • people under 18 years old
  • prisoners (or someone in detention and awaiting deportation)
  • severely mentally impaired people
  • full-time students on a qualifying course, student nurses, and Foreign Language Assistants on the official British Council programme
  • spouses or dependants of a student who is not a British Citizen
  • young people on a government training scheme or apprenticeship
  • long-term hospital patients or care home residents
  • people living in a hostel that provides care due to their old age, disability, drug dependence, or past or present illness
  • live-in care workers
  • school/college leavers under 20 years old who have left school/college after 30th April (disregarded until 1st November of the same year)
  • 18-year-olds when someone receives Child Benefit for them
  • members of religious communities
  • members of a visiting armed force and their dependants

This means that if you are liable for Council Tax but everybody else who lives with you counts as a disregarded person, then you will be entitled to a discount. If everyone counts as disregarded, then you’re all exempt.

Apply for a Council Tax Reduction

If you believe that you are eligible for a Council Tax reduction for any of the reasons below, then you will need to contact your local council in order to apply. Some councils may not offer the same discounts. Some offer discretionary discounts while others do not. They will usually ask you to provide supporting evidence to prove that you are eligible for a Council Tax reduction. Only the liable person can apply for a reduction, meaning that you must live at the property and it must be your main residence. You might have joint responsibility with another person, even if there is only one person’s name on the Council Tax bill. You have no obligation to pay until you receive the bill from your council. Once you receive your bill, you can contact your council to apply for a discount.

Council Tax Single Person Discount

If you are the only adult resident living in a property, then you can get a 25% reduction on the Council Tax for that property. Even if you are not actually living by yourself, you could still get the Single Person Discount. This applies if you share your property with any of the following people:

  • an apprentice
  • a young person (under 25) in training
  • a full-time student
  • an 18 or 19-year-old still in full-time education
  • a student nurse
  • a person who is severely mentally impaired
  • a carer (if they are not the spouse of the main resident)

Council Tax Second Adult Rebate

You may still be able to get a reduction even if you and another adult living with you are not eligible for other discounts. If the second adult that you share your home with has a low income, and they are not your spouse, then you could try asking for a Second Adult Rebate. If you could qualify for both a Council Tax reduction and a Second Adult Rebate, the council will only award one of these, which will usually be the higher amount. The second adult must not have joint responsibility with you for paying the Council Tax. They cannot be a joint tenant or pay rent to you. The council will calculate the rebate based on the second adult’s income and any benefits they receive from the government or council.

Council Tax Disability Discount

If you adapt your home with features to assist a person with a disability who is living there, then you could reduce your Council Tax valuation by one band and pay less. If you are already in the lowest valuation band, Band A, then you could get a reduction of 1/6 of your Council Tax bill. There must be at least one adult or child with a disability living at the property. The features that your home might include to be eligible are:

  • A room required for the predominant use of the person with a disability (not a bathroom, kitchen, or toilet)
  • An additional kitchen or bathroom required to meet the needs of the person with a disability
  • Floor space to permit the necessary use of a wheelchair inside

You will have to contact your local council to apply for a Disability Discount. They will arrange for an inspector to visit your property.

Council Tax Carer Discount

If you are a live-in carer and the only other person who lives with the person that you care for, then they could get a discount on their Council Tax bill. As mentioned previously, carers count as disregarded people. In order for the council to disregard somebody as a carer, they have to be:

  • living in the same home as the person they are caring for
  • be caring for a person who isn’t their spouse, partner, or child
  • providing at least 35 hours of care per week

The carer does not have to be receiving or claiming Carer’s Allowance to get this discount. However, the person that the carer is caring for must be in receipt of certain benefits. They need to get one of the following:

If there is more than one carer, they can both be disregarded if they both meet the conditions above. Income and savings will not affect eligibility.

Council Tax Low Income Discount

Residents who are struggling to pay Council Tax because they have a low income could get a discretionary discount from their local council. They will give this back as a rebate on their Council Tax bill. The size of this rebate depends on factors such as your savings and who you live with as well as your income. If you are on benefits, or your partner is, then you can ask the council to backdate the reduction by up to one month. This is only possible if you apply for the reduction within one month of getting your benefit award. It also only generally applies for these benefit types:

Council Tax Pensioner Discount

Pensioners should be able to receive a Council Tax reduction up to the full amount if their income is below the amount that the government thinks is enough for them to live on. In order to get a full reduction, you must be receiving the guarantee credit component of Pension Credit. The council will calculate the Council Tax reduction based on factors such as:

  • the pensioner’s income and capital
  • the amount that the government thinks is enough for them to live on
  • any non-dependant deductions
  • any temporary absences from home

Pensioners can also apply for a Second Adult Rebate if this applies. If you are a pensioner with a Council Tax reduction entitlement, then you can backdate it for up to 3 months without having to provide a reason for it.

Council Tax Empty Property Discount

If a property has no occupant and is not substantially furnished, the owner can get a Council Tax reduction up to 100% for one month only. After this, the Council Tax due will return to the full 100%, as there are no discounts for properties that are unoccupied for longer than a month. If a property stays unoccupied and unfurnished for longer than 2 years, the council can charge a premium of 50%. This means the owner must pay 150% of their Council Tax valuation. Some exemptions may apply, such as annexes. If a property is unoccupied because it is undergoing repairs or alterations, then a reduction of 25% could be applicable for a maximum of 12 months. Properties may be exempt from Council Tax if they are unoccupied/unfurnished due to any of the following reasons:

  • a charity owns it, and it was last used for charitable purposes (exemption for up to 6 months only)
  • the occupier is in prison or detainment
  • the occupier has moved permanently to receive care at a hospital, residential home, or hostel
  • the liable person passed away and the personal representative in possession of the property is awaiting probate
  • occupation is prohibited by law (e.g. Compulsory Purchase Order)
  • it is being held for occupation by a religious minister
  • the occupier is living elsewhere to provide or receive care
  • the occupier is a full-time student living elsewhere
  • the mortgagee has repossessed the property
  • it is a student hall of residence (owned/managed by an educational establishment)
  • it is a caravan, boat mooring, or annexe to a dwelling that is occupied
  • the Secretary of State for Defence owns the property and keeps it for UK armed forces members to live in

The council should remove derelict properties from the Council Tax valuation list. A property counts as derelict if there is too much damage for someone to safely live there (such as rot or vandalism), or if it would require major works for it to become secure against the elements again.

Council Tax Second Home Discount

If you are lucky enough to have a second home, such as a furnished holiday home, you may be able to get a discount on Council Tax for it. You will still have to pay the full amount of Council Tax on your main home, but you could get a reduction of up to 50% for your second home. The discount amount is at the discretion of the local council. It will also depend on why you have a second home. If it is a holiday home, you are most likely to only get a reduction of 10%. If you are a member of the clergy with accommodation as part of your work, then you could qualify for the maximum discount of 50%. Contact your council to discuss this.

Challenge Your Council Tax Band

Even if you are not eligible for any of these discounts, you might suspect that your property is in the wrong valuation band. If you live in an older property that has not been re-assessed in the last 15 years, then this may very well be the case. You might even be entitled to a rebate going back to 1993! However, there is also the risk that you are in a lower band than you should be. You wouldn’t want the unpleasant surprise of having to pay more and owing the council. This could also affect your neighbours, which might not make you popular! Therefore, you should run some checks before you actually apply to challenge your Council Tax band.

Start by checking your property’s band and the bands of neighbouring properties, which you can do online. If your properties are around the same size and value, then they should be in the same band. If you are not sure about the value of a property, use the House Price Calculator from Nationwide. You can get the rough value if you enter in the sales price, the date of sale as valuation 1, and 1991 as valuation 2, then select your region. If you think that your band is definitely incorrect, contact the Valuation Office Agency to ask for a reassessment. You should first complete a checklist to see if you have a good case for challenging your Council Tax band. You need to be able to provide supporting evidence.

Appeal Against Your Council Tax Bill

You will have to wait until you get your Council Tax bill before you can challenge the banding or apply for a reduction. Then you should contact your council to let them know if the bills are for the wrong person, or the amount is wrong. Your council will decide whether the bill is correct or not. You must continue paying Council Tax according to the original bill in the meantime. It can take up to 2 months to get a reply from your council on this matter. If you disagree with the council’s decision or they take longer than 2 months to respond, then you can make an appeal to the independent Valuation Tribunal. Your council must update your bill and payments if the Tribunal agrees that your Council Tax bill is wrong.

Council Tax Penalties

It is important to make sure that you are paying the right amount of Council Tax for your property and circumstances. Your local council can prosecute you if you provide false information to try and get a Council Tax reduction. They can also prosecute you if you fail to notify them of changes to your circumstances that might affect your entitlement to a reduction within 21 days. For example, if your employment changes or the people living with you change, you need to tell the council. If they find that you have been receiving a reduction fraudulently, then you must pay it back. You will have to pay a fine as well in order to avoid prosecution. The penalty could be anywhere from £70 up to £1,000. If your council suspects you of fraud, then they may ask you to attend an interview under caution. Make sure you get legal advice if this happens.