April is proving the cruellest month financially, with millions of households hit by hikes in energy bills, food costs, National Insurance contributions and Council Tax.
Many people consequently are looking at ways they can reduce their outgoings, and with Council Tax often taking a big chunk out of our monthly budgets, it’s worth seeing whether you might qualify for any help.
Analysis of council tax data by the TaxPayers’ Alliance found that In England, a typical bill for a band D property comes in at £1,966 and in Wales, £1,777. Scots pay the lowest Council Tax bills, with a typical band D home paying annual costs of £1,336.
Four years ago, not one council in England had a band D bill greater than £2,000, according to the Tax Payers’ Alliance, but in the 2022-23 tax year, band D households in 171 local authorities will pay bills in excess of this amount.
The most expensive band D Council Tax in England is in Rutland, at £2,300, followed by Nottingham, Dorset, Lewes, Wealdon and Newark and Sherwood.
Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown said: “The government allowed councils to increase bills as much as 2.99% - including 1% for social care. The councils who didn’t use the full 3% allowed for social care last year can add up to 2% of it to the overall rise, so some will increase as much as 4.99%. On average councils will hike taxes by 3.5%.”
Ways you might be able to reduce your Council Tax bill
Here are some of the ways you might be able to lower your Council Tax costs this year.
Claim the £150 Government rebate
People living in homes in Council Tax bands A to D in England are eligible for a £150 support payment from the Government to help them cover steeper energy bills.
Households in Wales and Scotland can also claim a payment under similar schemes.
However, some of these payments have been delayed, supposedly due to software issues which have prevented councils from processing them, so households in certain areas may receive their rebates in the summer rather than this month.
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If you want to get your rebate as soon as possible, make sure you’ve set up a Direct Debit to pay your Council Tax. Doing so means you won’t have to apply for the rebate so you should get it faster. Your local council will need to take at least one Council Tax instalment from you via Direct Debit before it can pay you your energy rebate. You should be able to set up a Direct Debit on your local council’s website. You can find their details at https://www.gov.uk/find-your-local-council.
Do you qualify for a discount?
If you live alone, or if you or you are the only person over the age of 18 living in the property, you will be eligible for a 25% reduction in your Council Tax bills.
If everyone who lives in your house or a flat is a full time student then you don't have to pay Council Tax at all. Remember that it is your responsibility to let your local council know you are all students, otherwise you'll get a bill and you could even be fined for not paying.
Discounts also apply to unfurnished properties. You may not have to pay Council Tax for a month if a property is unfurnished and no one is living in it. Bear in mind that this discount can only be given once and when it ends you will need to start paying again.
If you are on a low income and have limited savings, you might qualify for Council Tax Support to help cover your bills. Each council runs its own scheme, and your bills could be reduced by up to 100% depending on your circumstances. You can check what Council Tax Support is available in your area by speaking to your local authority.
If you qualify for means-tested support to pay your Council Tax bill, then you may also be eligible for help from the Household Support Fund which has been set up to make sure people who might be struggling get additional help. This might come in the form of supermarket vouchers, or a payment towards utility bills.
Are you in the right band?
Properties were allocated their Council Tax bands way back in 1991, often without detailed information being used to check each property was placed in the correct band.
If you think your property could be in the wrong band, perhaps because you are in a higher band than similar properties nearby, you’ll need to make a formal challenge to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). In Scotland you have to use the Scottish Assessors’ Association (SAA).
You can find out more about how to do this here https://www.gov.uk/council-tax-appeals. You will need evidence to show the price your property would have sold at in 1991 conflicts with the valuation made at that time.
Bear in mind however, that your band can be moved up as well as down, so you must be absolutely certain yours is too high before appealing.
If the valuation office agrees that your property is in too high a band, you could be entitled to a refund of the council tax you’ve paid dating back to when you first moved into the property. If, however, it decides your property is in too low a band, you’ll have to start paying higher Council Tax straight away.