Get The Lowdown on Council Tax
In the UK, Council Tax is an annual fee set by and paid to your local council to go towards the cost of running the local services it provides. It is normally paid in ten monthly instalments, but some councils now allow you to split the cost over a 12-month period to make household budgeting easier.
What Does Council Tax Pay For?
Many local services are covered by council tax, including the following:
- Police and fire
- Leisure and recreation projects, such as parks and sports centres
- Libraries and education services
- Rubbish and waste collection and disposal
- Transport and highway services, including street lighting and road maintenance
- Environmental health and trading standards
- Administration and record keeping, like marriages, deaths and birth, and local elections
How Much Should I Pay?
The amount of council tax you pay depends on several factors:
- your personal circumstances
- where you live and which valuation band your property is in
- how much the council needs to fund its services for that year
To find out how much your council tax will cost, you need to look at your local authority’s website or give them a call.
What is my Council Tax band?
England and Scotland have eight council tax bands ranging from A (the cheapest) to H.
A house’s band is based on its rateable value, so the more expensive the property, the higher the Council Tax band it will be in.
Wales has nine bands ranging from 1 (the highest) to 9.
What if I’m in the wrong Council Tax band?
It is believed that up to 400,000 homes in England and Scotland are in the wrong Council Tax bands. Welsh homes were more recently evaluated and are less likely to be in the wrong band.
If you think you’re overpaying council tax because your home is in the wrong Council Tax band, you can request a review and you might be entitled to a refund.
If you’re in England, Gov.uk helps explain how to go about challenging your council tax band.
In Scotland, the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) deals with council tax bands. Enter your postcode in the Council Tax Bands search box on the SAA Homepage and if you want to challenge the banding you can click on ‘make a proposal’.
What If I Can’t Afford my Council Tax?
There are some circumstances in which you may be entitled to a reduction on your council tax. These include the following:
- Low-income households
- Those who live alone (or if you’re the only adult in your home)
- People on certain benefits (such as Universal Credit, Income Support and Pension Credit, amongst others)
- If you are disabled, or you live with someone who has a disability and as a result need to live in a larger home
- If you’re severely mentally impaired or living with someone who is
- If you’re a care leaver in Scotland, where you’ll be exempt from Council Tax between the ages of 18 until you turn 26
- If you live in certain counties in England and Wales and are a care leaver
- Members of the armed forces, depending on your circumstances
- If you’ve moved into a care home or hospital
- If you’re in prison – unless you’re serving a prison sentence for failing to pay Council Tax.
To find out more about who can get a reduction and to apply visit gov.uk
What Happens if I Miss a Payment?
Falling behind with your council tax can have serious consequences, including being asked to pay a full year up front and even, if you live in England, a prison sentence.
Talking to your council before you miss a payment is by far your best option. Sometimes they will agree to a late payment, or to increase future payments.
If you don’t do this and miss a payment you will receive a reminder, which you should pay in full within seven days to avoid further action. If you do not do this, you will be sent a ‘final notice’, which will be a demand for ALL of your council tax for the rest of the year to be paid within seven days. If you ignore this, your council will apply to the court for permission to collect the debt from you via a ‘liability order’. After this, the council can take your unpaid debt directly from your wages or from certain benefits, or send a bailiff to your home. You’ll become liable for court and bailiff fees in addition to your debt.