People living elsewhere in the UK are being left in the lurch. Yet there are 100,000s households across Britain paying too much. Council tax bills in England rose at the start of this month by an average 4.5 percent or £75/year on a typical band D property (according to CIPFA) and there are rises in Wales and Scotland too. The sooner you check if you’re overpaying, the better. Here are my four council tax need-to-knows:
Someone with a ‘severe mental impairment’ should be discounted for council tax
Like students and under 18s, if someone’s intellectual or social functioning is severely impaired (common for those with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other conditions), then provided they have had a medical diagnosis and are eligible for one of a large range of benefits, they are entitled to be disregarded for council tax purposes.
If they live alone they are entitled to pay no council tax. If they live with another adult (often a carer) they get 25 percent off –typically £400 a year. While it is a postcode lottery, some councils will backdate this. I’ve been campaigning to raise awareness since 2016. The impact can be huge. Full details on claiming are at www.mse.me/smi
Some mystery shopping in 2017 found 69 out of 100 councils were giving incorrect info on discounts. We made a series of recommendations.
The Welsh government has recently enacted them all. All 22 Welsh councils have one common, simple application form (which we helped design), and there’s now consistent backdating, with rebates back to the point of an SMI diagnosis. Hopefully Scotland will follow suit. Getting the UK government to enact any changes for England is proving tough.
400,000 households are paying the wrong amount
It’s estimated around 400,000 homes in England and Scotland are on the wrong council tax band and have been overpaying for years as many houses were wrongly banded in the 90s.
If you are in the wrong band you are not just entitled to a reduction now, but going back to when you moved in (or 1993 whichever is more recent).
My check and challenge system can help establish the banding:
Step 1: Neighbours Check. See if you’re in a higher band than neighbours in identical properties via www.voa.gov.uk in England and Wales, and the Scottish Assessors Association at www.saa.gov.uk in Scotland.
Step 2. Valuation Check. Work out what your house price was in 1991 – when council tax bands were defined. If you don’t have a recent valuation of your home, use one of a similar property, then use a house price calculator to work out what it was worth in 1991. I’ve built a free calculator at www.mse.me/counciltax.
Only challenge your band if BOTH stack up as your band could go up. Some who only do the first check find that their band is higher than neighbour’s because their neighbour’s bands are too low – and they get raised (doesn’t make you popular).
Moved home since 1993? You may be owed £100s
Council tax is paid one month (sometimes a year) in advance. So it’s common to be in credit. You can claim it back when the account is closed if you’ve moved home, or the person living there has died. But many don’t.
Data my team gathered under the Freedom of Information Act from over 280 councils, found that more than £230 million is unclaimed.
There’s no point everyone just calling their council on spec – this only really for those who’ve moved house since 1993, changed council or local authority area and didn’t pay by direct debit. If that’s you, search for the ‘council tax refund’ form on their website and fill it in to check, or call.
Are you due a discount?
If you live alone (or with students or under 17s) there’s a 25 percent single person’s discount.
If living alone and on pension credit, or on low income and don’t have much in savings you may get council tax support. It varies between councils, so contact it to see if you’re eligible.
If you’ve made modifications to your home for a disabled resident, you may be able to get your council tax band lowered.