By Danielle Boxall, media campaign manager
Council tax rates continue to spiral out of control. The number of bills over £2,000 went up by three times this year. According to our recent polling, the tax is seen as the second most ‘unfair’ after the licence fee. This is no surprise given the thousands of council bosses up and down the country that are receiving remuneration over £100,000.
Understandably, residents across the land are sick to the back teeth of shelling out thousands each year for substandard services and town hall fat cats. But did you know there are a number of ways to cut down the size of your tax bill? Councils are notoriously quiet about the discounts (what a surprise!), so you’ll need to check your local authority's rules to see what you’re entitled to.
Here are some of the ways you can bring your bill down:
The most common discount is the single person’s discount of 25 per cent if you live alone. This also counts if you live with someone under 18 or still in full-time education. You can also claim it if you live with someone with a severe mental impairment like dementia, or someone who is a long term hospital patient or care home resident.
- If you are on a low income (in receipt of pension credit or income support), you could get anything from a percentage reduction to a full exemption. The reduction you can receive is dependent on a number of factors including your income and your local authority’s scheme so if you think you might be eligible, check their website to find out how much you could cut down your bill.
Students do not have to pay council tax whether in private rented accommodation, in halls, or living at home. This includes anyone studying for at least 21 hours a week, for at least a year, or under 20 and studying for a qualification up to A level.
- Self-contained annexes are eligible for a 50 per cent discount if used by the main resident or immediate family. There’s a full exemption if it is occupied by a dependent relative such as those aged 65 or over.
If you or someone you live with is permanently disabled, you can apply to go in a lower council tax band. You must be able to demonstrate that you live in a larger property than you would need were you not disabled. This can be anything from an extra kitchen or bathroom to ensuring there’s enough space to use a wheelchair.
Live-in carers can get a 50 per cent council tax discount if they are looking after someone who is not their partner, spouse, or child under 18.
- Some empty properties, such as those undergoing major works to make them livable or the property of someone who’s moved into a care home, can receive anything from a full to a 50 per cent reduction. However, the reduction is time-limited in certain cases, such as 12 months for repairs.
Second homes or holiday homes in England are sometimes given a discount of up to 50 per cent because no one lives there on a permanent basis. This is dependent on your local authority, so you should contact them to find out if you are eligible.
- Finally, there is a way to challenge your council tax band - property reevaluations. Tax bands are based on property prices from 1991! However, getting your council tax band reevaluated requires evidence and is only possible under specific criteria. These are if your property has changed (such as split into flats), the use has changed (such as become a business), or similar local properties are in a lower band. More information about challenging your council tax band can be found here.
These are some of the ways to reduce your council tax bills, but as you can see, they are very restrictive and can be pretty complicated. This is yet another case where lower, simpler taxes would be welcome! If these methods don’t apply to you and your tax bill is still shockingly high, anyone can challenge their bill by signing our petition calling on local authorities to put a stop to the hikes. Given council tax bills have trebled since the levy was first introduced, it’s high time that we demand an end to year-on-year rate rises.