By Your Call Publishing | ,

Citizens Advice Column - February/March 24

Council Tax: Exemptions, Discounts, Benefit Support and Debt Management

Council Tax (CT) bills will soon start to hit the doormat. If you have been paying CT regularly you may feel you know the ropes in terms of exemptions, discounts, benefit support available to you and top tips on managing CT arrears.

If you are new to paying Council Tax take a minute to review the content below, it could save you hundreds or thousands of pounds.

What is Council Tax (CT)?

Council Tax is a local tax on domestic property collected by local authorities to pay for local services. Depending on your circumstances you might be eligible for a discount or even be exempt from liability. However, if you are liable but don’t pay, you will be subject to court recovery action.

How is my CT liability worked out?

All homes are given a council tax valuation band based on their value in 1991 and different amounts of council tax are charged for each banding. Some properties are exempt from council tax so it is vital to know if your property falls into this category. Usually one person, called the ‘liable person’, has to pay council tax.

How can I pay less CT?

You might be able to pay less council tax or not pay it at all depending on your circumstances. You might be able to get:

  • discounts - for example, for a single person or an empty property,
  • Council Tax Reduction (CTR) if you have low income, or
  • a different reduction if you can’t get much CTR.

How do I apply for Council Tax Reduction (CTR)?

You have to apply to your local council to get Council Tax Reduction (CTR) or other help. Application and eligibility rules vary depending on whether you are of working age or Pension age. You need to know which category of claimant you fit into.

What changes do I need to report if I'm getting CTR?

You need to report most material changes in your circumstances to your local council if you get Council Tax Reduction (CTR). If you don’t report these changes, you might:

  • get the wrong amount of CTR (if the council don’t charge you enough council tax you’ll need to pay back the ‘overpayment’ in the future),
  • have to pay a penalty, or
  • be taken to court by the council.

What should I do if I start missing CT payments?

You should contact your council straight away. Don’t wait for them to contact you. Ask to speak to someone in the council tax office and tell them about your situation. They should be able to tell you how to get help. If not, look for free debt advice from your nearest Citizens Advice office.

I am a student - does any of this apply to me?

As a student your property is ‘exempt’ from council tax if it’s only occupied by full-time university or college students. Student halls of residence are automatically exempt.

If your property isn’t exempt, some people, including full-time students, are ‘disregarded’. This means the council tax is calculated as if you don’t live there. This might mean that whoever does have to pay the council tax can get a discount.

Go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/council-tax/ for more details on all of the above.

Council Tax is a ‘priority debt’ in that building up arrears can and will result in court debt recovery action and even, in exceptional circumstances, the threat of imprisonment.

Keep the bailiffs away from your door by seeking specialist advice from your nearest Citizens Advice office if you are struggling with your Council Tax.

By Ed Hodson

Citizens Advice South Warwickshire - Citizens Advice working in partnership across Warwickshire