Are you sure you have to pay council tax?

There are many reasons you could be due a reduction or even complete elimination of the bill

UK council tax bill with eyeglasses and cash

Whenever Brits are polled on their most hated taxes, council tax always finishes at or near to the top.

It's set to become even more unpopular, with increases of up to 4.99% across the country from the start of April.

See also: In Council Tax arrears? Why you need to act now

See also: Council tax debt crisis: 6 million in £300 debt to councils

However, you don't have to take it lying down.

And the good news is that there are a number of loopholes that mean you can reduce how much you pay, or even skip it entirely.

This is what you need to know:

Step one - know your band

The first thing you need to establish is whether you can challenge the council tax banding of your property.

The council tax you have to pay is determined by the valuation band your home has been placed in. The band is based on the value of your home in 1991. Yes, really.

Your property's band will be detailed in your council tax bill, but you can challenge it if you think your property is wrongly banded.

Exempt properties

Credits: Getty

Getty

Some property is exempt from council tax, though this may only be a temporary status.

A property may be exempt from council tax if:

  • it is owned by a charity
  • It is empty because someone has died
  • it is now unoccupied because the person who lived there now lives elsewhere in order to be cared for
  • all residents are full-time students
  • all residents are under 18 years old
  • all residents have severe mental impairments
  • it is lived in by diplomats
  • the property is a self-contained 'granny flat' where a dependent relative lives

Enter your postcode in our calculator below to find out what you will pay next year

Full instructions for the council tax calculator can be found here

Can I get a council tax discount?

There are a number of reasons that you may be able to get a council tax discount.

For example, if you live on your own, if you're on a low income or benefits, or if you are in severe financial hardship you may be able to claim a discount.

You can also get a discount if you live with someone who is not counted for council tax - these include full time students, those with severe mental impairments, those who had had a long stay in hospital and carers.

Local authorities can also grant a discount of up to 100% of the bill for properties that are empty and substantially unfurnished, or empty and in need of major alterations in order to make it habitable.

What happens if I don't pay my council tax bill?

Credits: fStop

fStop

Council tax is sometimes referred to as a 'priority debt'. That's because failing to pay it can have serious consequences.

Council tax is generally paid in 10 or 12 monthly instalments. If you are more than 14 days late in paying an instalment, you'll be sent a reminder letter.

If you fail to make the outstanding payment within seven days, your local authority is entitled to ask you pay your entire council tax for the rest of the year.

If you still don't - or can't - pay up, then the council can take you to court.

From here, the local authority can apply for a liability order; this may see them deduct money from your pay, apply for you to be made bankrupt, or instruct bailiffs to take your possessions and sell them in order to clear your debt.

It can even apply for you to be sent to prison for up to three months for non-payment.

I need help with my council tax bill

If you're struggling to pay your council tax bill, then you should speak to your council immediately.

There are also a host of debt charities that may be able to advise you. These include StepChange Debt Charity, National Debtline and Citizens Advice.


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