Click here to download a PDF version of this article.
Click one of the links below to jump to that section:
1) What is Council Tax Reduction?
If you have to pay council tax and are on a low income or claim benefits you may be able to get help.
Councils run 3 schemes for reducing council tax. You can get help from the 3 schemes if you are eligible.
- The Council Tax Reduction Scheme
- The Discount Scheme
- The Disability Reduction Scheme
Your Council can decide if you do not need to pay council tax, this is called exemption.
Council Tax Reduction schemes
Council Tax Reduction schemes are run by local councils to help people on a low income pay the council tax.
In some areas the scheme may be known as Council Tax Support.
Council Tax Reduction schemes replaced Council Tax Benefit from 1 April 2013
It is no longer possible to claim Council Tax Benefit.
Depending on where you live, Council Tax Reduction (CTR) may be:
• a discount worked out as a percentage of your council tax bill.
• a discount of a set amount set out in your Council Tax Reduction scheme.
• a discount equal to the whole amount of the council tax bill – so that you pay nothing at all.
The Discount Scheme
You should get a single person’s discount on your council tax bill if you are the only adult living in a property. This will reduce the bill by 25%.
You will get this discount if the other people you live with do not have to pay council tax. This might be if they are students or exempt due to a severe mental impairment.
Disability Reduction scheme
You may be able to get the council tax bill reduced if you or a person that lives with you needs extra space because of a disability.
If you live in a larger property (house) than you would need if you or another occupant were not disabled, your council tax band – the starting figure for how much you have to pay – may be reduced.
2) Who can apply?
If you get the guaranteed credit part of Pension Credit, your income and capital are ignored and you will get full Council Tax Reduction.
If everyone in your home is a full-time student, the home is exempt from Council Tax. To find out about discounts for students go to: https://www.gov.uk/council-tax/discounts-for-full-time-students
The council tax rules say that a person is exempt from council tax if they have a ‘severe mental impairment’. It says that “a person is severely mentally impaired if they have a severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning which appears to be permanent”.
If you are applying on the basis of mental health you will need your doctor to sign a medical certificate that says you are “severely mentally impaired” and get one of the following benefits:
- Disability Living Allowance with the middle or highest rate care component
- Personal Independence Payment Daily Living Component (standard or enhanced rate)
- Attendance Allowance
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Incapacity Benefit
- Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance with a disability premium
- Working Tax Credit with the disability element
To qualify for the disabled band reduction scheme you will have to show that you’ve got either:
• an extra bathroom, kitchen or other room that you need for the disabled person
• extra space inside the property for using a wheelchair
The property must be the main home of at least 1 disabled person. This can be an adult or a child – it doesn’t have to be the person who is paying the Council Tax.
Live-in carers looking after someone who isn’t your partner, spouse, or child under 18 are not included when working out Council Tax.
3) How to apply
Council Tax support schemes are run by local councils – you will need to apply to your local council.
The way the benefit is worked out will depend on the rules your local council has put in place.
Contact your council to apply:
It may be possible to get your claim for a reduction backdated: for example if your circumstances changed but you are applying a few weeks later.
Ask about this when applying.
4) Challenging a Council Tax Reduction decision
If you think a Council Tax Reduction decision is wrong for any reason you can:
• Ask the council for an explanation
• Have the decision looked at again
• Appeal against the decision
For information on how to appeal a Council Tax Reduction decision go to:
5) Appealing a Council Tax bill or fine
Tell your council immediately if you think:
- your home shouldn’t be charged Council Tax
- the bills are being sent to the wrong person for your home
- the amount being charged is wrong
- the council hasn’t reduced the bill even though a disabled person lives there
You can’t appeal just because you think your Council Tax bill is too expensive.
How to appeal your bill
Write to your council, saying why you think your bill is wrong. The council will decide that the bill is either:
- wrong and send you a new one
- right and explain why
If you think the council’s decision is wrong, or you don’t hear back within 2 months, you can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal.
You must appeal within:
- 2 months of the council telling you its decision
- 4 months of you first writing to the council (if you haven’t had a response)
For more information go to:
To appeal to the Valuation Tribunal go to:
6) Getting behind with Council Tax payments
Contact your council as soon as possible if you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax or are behind with your payments.
It is important to act as soon as possible before the payments get bigger. If the Council out-sources the debt to a private debt recovery agency the payments could become huge.
You can choose to spread your payments over 12 months instead of the usual 10 to reduce the amount you’re asked to pay on each bill. Ask your council to set this up for you.
Your council may give you a one-off discount if you still can’t pay what you owe.
If you miss Council Tax payments your Council will send you a reminder notice giving you 7 days to pay. If you don’t pay within 7 days, you’ll have to pay the whole year’s Council Tax instead.
If you don’t pay your whole year’s Council Tax within 7 days, the council may take legal action to get the Council Tax you owe.
Your council can ask a magistrate for a ‘liability order’ if you owe them unpaid Council Tax. This is a legal demand for payment. The council’s legal costs, eg for hiring a lawyer, may be added to the money you owe. You’re allowed to go to the court and give your reasons for not paying if you want.
If you receive a liability order you should speak to your council or your local Citizens Advice bureau about your options.
If you still don’t pay your council can get your employer to pay your unpaid Council Tax directly from your wages or take it out of your benefits of you get any of the following:
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit
If this means you don’t have enough money to pay other bills, you can ask your Council if you can make smaller payments. Your council doesn’t have to agree but will usually try to make an arrangement with you.
Your council can send bailiffs (‘enforcement agents’) to take your property if there’s no other way to recover your debt. They’ll tell you how much you owe before the bailiff visits you. The bailiffs’ costs can be added to the total amount you owe the council.
If you are disabled or ill or have mental health support needs, bailiffs have to treat you with greater care including giving you more time to respond to letters and demands. They should not enter your property if you are alone.
You should tell the bailiffs as soon as possible if you could be considered “vulnerable”. For more information go to: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/action-your-creditor-can-take/bailiffs/how-bailiffs-should-treat-you/how-bailiffs-should-treat-you-if-youre-vulnerable/
Your council can take you to court if the bailiffs can’t recover enough property to cover your debt. The court will consider whether you have a good reason for not being able to pay.
You can be sent to prison for up to 3 months if the court decides you don’t have a good reason to not pay your Council Tax and you refuse to do so. If the court decides you have something to pay back you may be able to make an arrangement to pay your debt over time.
See the links below for help with debt and arrears.