70 / 100

How is council tax paid?

How is council tax paid?

You will receive an annual bill in March once a year stating how much needs to be paid. You can however spread the cost of your bill by paying weekly, or monthly instalments. Although council tax bills often show payments over 10 months, if asked, your local authority must let you pay over a 12 month period.

Usually, the ‘liable’ person is responsible to pay the council tax. If a person is below 18 years of age then they are not classed as liable and so don’t have the responsibility of paying. If you are a couple living together then you are both jointly liable. This applies whether the couple is married, cohabiting, or in a civil partnership.

Working out your council tax

You’ll need to know 3 things:

▪️The valuation band for your home in England and Wales or in Scotland

▪️How much your local council charges for that band

▪️Whether you can get a discount or exemption from the full bill

You may be able to get Council Tax Reduction (this used to be called Council Tax Benefit) if you’re on a low income or get benefits.

You can challenge your Council Tax band if you think your home is in the wrong valuation band.

Changes that may affect your council tax band

Your property may be revalued and put in a different band in some circumstances, for example, if:

▪️You demolish part of your property and don’t rebuild it

▪️You alter your property to create 2 or more self-contained units, for example an annexe – each unit will have its own band

▪️You split a single property into self-contained flats

▪️You convert flats into a single property

▪️You start or stop working from home

▪️The previous owner made changes to your property

▪️There are significant changes to your local area, like a new road being built

▪️A similar property in your area has its Council Tax band changed

Ask the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) if you want to know if changes to your property will affect your Council Tax band.

Woman smiling with her kids

“I wouldn't hesitate to use them again. They are always at the end of a text or phone call . They were very informative throughout the process and extremely helpful”

LindsayFirst Class

Am I entitled to council tax reduction and relief?

You may qualify for council tax relief, which is a way to reduce your council tax bill if:

▪️If you live on your own, you’re entitled to a 25% ‘single person discount’. Also, some people are not counted when working out council tax. If you live with an apprentice, a full-time student, or a person who is significantly mentally impaired you may still qualify for a 25% discount.

▪️You may qualify for a reduction of your council tax if you’re on a low income. This is where your council tax bill is reduced based on your financial income. Local authorities have different thresholds for who qualifies.

▪️You will get an extra council tax reduction if you are above the pension age.

▪️You may also qualify to have your council tax reduced by one band if somebody in your household is disabled and the property has been adapted.

You need to ensure that you let your local authority know if your circumstances change so they can send you an updated bill.

If you do receive help and are still struggling to keep up with your payments, this could be a sign of a further debt problem. You need to get free, impartial debt advice. All of our advisers at Council Tax Helper are fully trained and solely focused on offering debt advice. Call us on 0800 088 2303 or fill out our quick and simple form to request a call back.

Apply for a council tax reduction

Apply to your local council for Council Tax Reduction (sometimes called Council Tax Support). You’ll get a discount on your bill if you’re eligible. The Council Tax Reduction replaced the Council Tax Benefit in April 2013.

Find Out Your Local Council Details:

Metropolitan and Local Council Authority

Unitary Local Authority Councils

District Councils

London Borough Local Authority Councils

Welsh Councils

What you need to know

There’s a different scheme in Northern Ireland.

You could be eligible if you’re on a low income or claim benefits. Your bill could be reduced by up to 100%.

You can apply if you own your home, rent, are unemployed, or working.

What you get depends on:

▪️where you live – each council runs its own scheme

▪️your circumstances (eg income, number of children, benefits, residency status)

▪️your household income – this includes savings, pensions and your partner’s income

▪️if your children live with you

▪️if other adults live with you

Appealing a fine or completion notice

You can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal if you disagree with the completion notice you received. You may also be able to appeal a fine.

You may get a completion notice if:

▪️your home is being built

▪️you’re making major improvements to your home

A completion notice tells you the date you must start paying Council Tax, because the council believes work will be completed by then.

You must appeal within 28 days of getting the notice.

Appealing a fine

You can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal if you disagree with a fine you received for not telling your council about your Council Tax when asked.

You must appeal within 2 months of getting the fine. You may be able to get the time limit extended if you can’t apply to appeal a fine or completion notice in time.

You don’t have to pay your fine until your appeal is decided. If you’re appealing a notice, you need to pay Council Tax from the date on the notice.

Get Help

The Valuation Tribunal has guidance on:

▪️what you need to do for the hearing

▪️preparing for the hearing

You can also contact the tribunal for help. To contact the Valuation Tribunal, you can call them on: 0300 123 2035

How to appeal your Council Tax bill

Tell your council immediately if you think:

▪️your home shouldn’t be charged Council Tax

▪️the bills are being sent to the wrong person for your home

▪️the amount being charged is wrong

▪️the council hasn’t reduced the bill even though a disabled person lives there

You can’t appeal just because you think your Council Tax bill is too expensive.

Contact the Valuation Office Agency to appeal against your Council Tax band.

Write to your council, saying why you think your bill is wrong.

The council will decide that the bill is either:

▪️wrong and send you a new one

▪️right and explain why

If the council decides your bill is wrong, you must continue to pay the amounts listed in your original bill until the new bill arrives.

The council has 2 months to reply.

What to do if you disagree with the councils decision

If you think the council’s decision is wrong, or you don’t hear back within 2 months, you can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal.

The Valuation Tribunal is independent of the VOA. It’s a free service but you have to pay for your own costs.

You must appeal within:

▪️2 months of the council telling you its decision

▪️4 months of you first writing to the council (if you haven’t had a response)

You may be able to get the time limit extended if you can’t apply in time because of circumstances beyond your control.

If the tribunal agrees with you, the council will update your bill and adjust your monthly payments.

Second homes and empty properties

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%. Contact your council to find out if you can get a discount – it’s up to them how much you can get.

You’ll usually have to pay Council Tax on an empty home, but your council can decide to give you a discount – the amount is up to them. Contact your council to ask about a discount.

You can be charged up to double your Council Tax if your home has been empty for 2 years or more (unless it’s an annexe or you’re in the armed forces).

The rules are different in Scotland.

When you do not pay council tax

If you’re selling an empty property on behalf of an owner who’s died, you only start paying Council Tax 6 months after you get probate.

Some homes do not 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, for example if they’re derelict

▪️that are empty because they’ve been compulsory purchased and will be demolished

Council tax discounts for full-time students

Households, where everyone is a full-time student, do not 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 of 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 of study per week

You’ll 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.

Who pays council tax?

You’ll usually have to pay Council Tax if you’re 18 or over and own or rent a home.

A full Council Tax bill is based on at least 2 adults living in a home. Spouses and partners who live together are jointly responsible for paying the bill.

You’ll get 25% off your bill if you count as an adult for Council Tax and either:

▪️you live on your own

▪️no-one else in your home counts as an adult

You’ll usually get a 50%discount if no-one living in your home, including you, counts as an adult.

You will not have to pay any Council Tax if everyone in your home, including you, is a full-time student.

Who does not count as an adult?

These people are not counted as adults for Council Tax:

▪️children under 18

▪️people on some 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 impairment

▪️live-in carers who look after someone who is not their partner, spouse, or child under 18

▪️diplomats

Contact your local council if you’re unsure about whether you can get a discount or who’s responsible for paying.

People on apprenticeship schemes

To show that you do not qualify as an adult for Council Tax, you’ll need a declaration from your employer stating that:

▪️you will not be paid more than £195 a week

▪️the training leads to a qualification accredited by a body recognised by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) or the Scottish Vocational Education Council (SVEC)

If you get a council tax discount by mistake

You must tell your council. If you do not, you could get a fine.

The council may ask you to pay back the discount.

What are council tax bands?

Local councils set the amount of council tax you need to pay based on your council tax band. They are calculated by looking at the value of your property at a certain time. April 1991 in England and Scotland, and 2003 in Wales. Northern Ireland kept the old system of domestic rates and in 2007 changed to a modified system. The Council Tax band system was not adopted in Northern Ireland and so domestic rates are set individually.

Council tax band assessment

The VOA assesses properties to ensure that they’re in the correct Council Tax band. They automatically assess some properties, for example when a property has been made smaller or when a property is newly built. The VOA also assesses properties when asked to do so, such as during a Council Tax appeal or band review.

Assessments are based on a number of factors, such as a property’s:

▪️size

▪️layout

▪️character

Check your Council Tax band in England and Wales or Scotland.

A property that’s increased in size may move to a higher band when it’s next purchased.

If you have any concerns regarding the assessment of your Council Tax band contact the VOA.

New properties

When a new property has been built, or an existing property is converted to domestic use (for example, a warehouse conversion), the property will need to have a Council Tax band.

If you’ve moved into a property that doesn’t have a Council Tax band, you should contact your local council. They’ll provide the VOA with the information they need to allocate a band.

There’s guidance available on how to start paying Council Tax.

Banding of houses in multiple occupation

Domestic properties that have separate dwellings are known as houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Each separately let part of property qualifies as a separate dwelling with its own band. There may be circumstances where the VOA can combine the bands.

Examples

HMOs with little or no adaptation: Where minor adaptations have been added then the VOA can put the whole property into one band. This could be where door locks are added and the occupants of the separately let parts share the kitchen and bathroom of the original house.

HMOs with adaptations to each floor: A single band can be given where each floor of a house let in parts has standard facilities and can be treated as a self-contained unit. This applies where the occupiers of the floor share a kitchen and a bathroom.

HMOs with adapted letting rooms: Separately let rooms in an HMO may have been adapted, for example, so that they have their own kitchenette or separate shower/bath and WC. They will be given their own band even though may share some facilities. In making a decision, the VOA will look at the degree to which each part has been structurally altered.

Purpose-built HMOs: These properties would generally not be combined and would have separate assessments for each internal unit.

There’s more information available on houses in multiple occupation.

Your local authority calculates a separate Council Tax bill for every property banded and collects payments. The council is responsible for applying relevant discounts or exemptions.

If you believe your band is wrong, or your household shouldn’t be banded at all, you may be eligible to appeal.

Council tax bands and annexes

If the VOA determines that your property contains more than 1 area of separate living accommodation, you may find you’re charged for more than one Council Tax band.

The VOA is required by law to apply a separate Council Tax band to every:

“building, or part of a building, which has been constructed or adapted for use as separate living accommodation”

The operational instructions followed when applying this can be found in Practice note 5: disaggregation of dwellings in the VOA’s Council Tax manual.

Example

“A family adapts two rooms in their house so that a relative is able to live with them. This includes installing kitchen appliances and a toilet and shower and also creating a single entrance to the new annex. As a separate area of living accommodation, this annex would normally require its own Council Tax band.”

The VOA will make a decision on every case based on the specific nature of the construction and / or adaptation of the property, such as:

▪️independent access to, or access from, a hallway, landing, or other common areas

▪️its own facilities for sleeping and preparing food

▪️washing facilities and a toilet

Only physical features are considered when deciding whether or not an additional area of living accommodation exists within a domestic property, not how it’s used. A separate Council Tax band is still required if an area of a house, flat, or other domestic property which could be occupied separately is vacant.

If you have an annex you may be entitled to relief from the local authority. Contact your local authority for more information.

Accommodation occupied by tenants wouldn’t be treated as an annex, but it would still have its own Council Tax band.

Various discounts and exemptions are administered by your local authority (council).

If you’ve removed a separate area of living accommodation by making physical changes to your house, flat or other domestic property, you should contact the VOA. The VOA will only be able to remove a Council Tax band if the area or annex has been sufficiently altered so that it could no longer be lived in separately.

The VOA is unable to give specific advice on any planned changes to a property. They can only explain how relevant Council Tax regulations are applied.

If you think your property has incorrectly been given an additional Council Tax band, you have the right to appeal that decision.

Am I entitled to council tax reduction and relief?

You may qualify for council tax relief, which is a way to reduce your council tax bill if:

▪️If you live on your own, you’re entitled to a 25% ‘single person discount’. Also, some people are not counted when working out council tax. If you live with an apprentice, a full-time student, or a person who is significantly mentally impaired you may still qualify for a 25% discount.

▪️You may qualify for a reduction of your council tax if you’re on a low income. This is where your council tax bill is reduced based on your financial income. Local authorities have different thresholds for who qualifies.

▪️You will get an extra council tax reduction if you are above the pension age.

▪️You may also qualify to have your council tax reduced by one band if somebody in your household is disabled and the property has been adapted.

You need to ensure that you let your local authority know if your circumstances change go they can send you an updated bill.

If you do receive help and are still struggling to keep up with your payments, this could be a sign of a further debt problem. You need to get free, impartial debt advice. All of our advisers at Council Tax Helper are fully trained and solely focused on offering debt advice. Call us on 0800 088 2303 or fill out our quick and simple form to request a call back.

What to do if you think that your council tax bill is wrong

Is your Council Tax bill wrong? You should always contact your local authority first if you are having any problems regarding council tax. If you feel that you have been unfairly treated or your council tax bill is wrong then you can make a complaint.

Your local authority needs to be given 8 weeks to reply to your complaint. However, if you are unhappy with the reply when they do, you should contact the following. The links below are independent organisations that can investigate a complaint further and give you further help.

England – Local Government Ombudsman

Scotland – Scottish Public Service Ombudsman

Wales – Public Service Ombudsman for Wales

What to do if you can't pay your council tax bills

There can be serious consequences if you can’t pay your council tax arrears, this is why they are treated as a priority debt. Around a quarter of local authority incomes in England, Scotland and Wales are made up of council tax. Most households have to pay council tax, however, the amount paid is based on factors such as age, income, tenants living with you, and the value of your home.

Local authorities often act quickly if council tax payments are missed as they are given extra-legal power to collect them. As a result of this, Bailiffs (or Sheriffs in Scotland) could be visiting your property. This is why council tax arrears are treated as a priority debt.

If you have missed council tax payments or you are struggling to pay them, you need to get free debt help now before further action is taken. Council Tax Helper offers free debt advice and can put you on that road to recovery! Call us on 0800 088 2303 to speak to one of our advisers or fill in our quick and simple form to request a call back.

Arrears or missed payments

You will be sent a reminder letter if you are more than 14 days late paying a council tax payment. If you make the payment within 7 days of the reminder letter then you can keep paying your council tax in instalments. However, if you fail to do this you can be asked by your local authority to pay the whole council tax for the rest of the year. You are then given seven days to pay the whole amount. After this, local authorities can take you to court. Depending on your location, the court process differs.

Court action in England and Wales

You will receive a summons in the post if your local authority starts court action. This will give you a date and time for your hearing – an extra charge will be added at this point.

▪️A magistrate will issue a liability order at your hearing. This then gives permission to your local authority to take further action to collect the unpaid council tax payment.

▪️If you think that a mistake has been made, or your council tax payment has been fully paid before the hearing date then you can attend and tell the magistrate. You should ask the local authority to agree to you paying monthly instalments of your arrears and keep in touch with them.

▪️Your local authority then has several ways to collect the unpaid council tax payment. (Once the liability order has been issued.

The most common ways are:

▪️Using Bailiffs, also known as ‘enforcement agents’.

▪️Using your wages to take payments straight out using an attachment of earnings. This is a fixed percentage.

▪️Taking payments from your benefits. £3.65 can be taken from income support, income-based jobseekers allowance, income-related employment, support allowance, or pension credit.

If there are no other ways to collect the debt, they also have the following options. These are rare and are only used as a last resort!

▪️Securing the debt to your home using a charging order if you owe more than £1000.

▪️Make you bankrupt if you owe more than £750.

▪️Send you to prison for up to three months. This extremely rare, and only used when somebody is deliberately refusing to pay their council tax. The local authority can’t send you to prison if any of the above methods could be used instead.

Court action in Scotland

If your local authority starts court action, they will apply to the sheriff court for a summary warrant. A fee of 10% of the outstanding council tax will also be added.

▪️A charge for payment letter will then be sent to you asking you to pay the amount due within 14 days.

▪️The charge for payment letter also comes with a form that you can fill in and return asking for a time to pay the order. The form must be completed straight away and sent to the sheriff’s office with an order of payment. However, it’s very important that your offer of payment is realistic so you should call us and speak to one of our advisers to work out how much you can afford.

▪️If the local authority accepts your offer of payment, you will make the payments you’ve agreed and no further action will be taken.

▪️If you do not make the payments that you have agreed or do not apply for a time to pay the order, your local authority has several options to collect the unpaid council tax.

The most common ways are:

▪️Use earnings arrestment’s to take payments straight from your wage

▪️Use bank arrestment’s to take payments directly from your bank

They also have the following options; these should only be used if there are no other ways to collect your arrears as a last resort.

▪️Sheriff officers taking goods from both outside and inside your home.

▪️If you owe more than £3,000, Sequestration (Scottish Bankruptcy) could also be an option.

Don't Feel Alone With Debt, Get Started Online