Help with Council Tax

You may be able to get help with your Council Tax through a Council Tax discount, the Disability Reduction scheme, or through a Council Tax Reduction scheme managed by your local authority.

What is Council Tax?

Council Tax is a charge made by your local council to cover services that they provide for you. It applies to England, Scotland and Wales. There is no Council Tax in Northern Ireland, which still has a system of rates, using the rateable capital valuation of your home as the basis to calculate the amount owed.

The amount of Council Tax that you must pay varies from council to council, but all assessments are based on the property band that applies to your home.

Each dwelling in Great Britain is placed on a valuation list in 1 of 8 broad valuation bands (9 in Wales). The lowest is band A and the highest is band H (A to I in Wales). 

The band that applies to your home will be written on your Council Tax bill.

There are many different ways to reduce your Council Tax bill, which vary depending on your personal circumstances. For example, there are discounts you can get if you have a certain number of people in the house, and there are means-tested benefits that take into account your income and/or savings, such as Council Tax Reduction (which is sometimes called 'Support').

Help when you can't afford it

There are 4 ways to reduce your council tax bill if you have low income and savings:

  • Council Tax Reduction
  • Second Adult Rebate
  • Discretionary Payments
  • Discretionary Relief

Each of these are described in this section (see below). 

Some people may qualify for several forms of discounts at the same time, so it's possible to combine different ways of reducing your Council Tax bill. Your council should explain how to do this on their website. 

Council Tax Reduction

In England and Wales, if you receive 1 of the following means-tested benefits, you'll probably receive a substantial amount of help with your Council Tax bill:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • High levels of Tax Credits

As your income increases, the level of help you receive for your bill decreases. Each council in England and Wales has its own way of calculating how much help you'll get towards your bill. It's best to check with your local council or visit the Council Tax Help website. 

In Scotland there's 1 system that looks very similar to the old Council Tax Benefit, please contact your local council for details.

Pensioners in England, Scotland and Wales can receive 100% help with their bill if they: 

  • receive the Guarantee element of Pension Credit, or
  • have a similarly low income

For all age groups and locations, the amount you get may be reduced if other adults live in the property, such as grown-up children. This is known as a non-dependent reduction. 

Second Adult Rebate

This is aimed at single people who can't claim their 25% single person discount because another adult (who is not their partner) lives at the same address.

This other adult must be on a low income and not liable for the Council Tax bill.

There are different levels of help available depending on the benefits the second person receives or how much income they get:

  • 25% if the other person is on Pension Credit, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or Income Support
  • 15% if the other person has a gross weekly income of less than £193 a week
  • 7.5% if the other person has a gross weekly income between £193 and £249.99

Some councils have chosen not to offer this rebate to people of working age anymore. This means that in some areas, this discount is only available to people who are pension age. 

Second Adult Rebate cannot be claimed at the same time as Council Tax Reduction.

Discretionary payments

You might be able to get a discretionary payment if you're finding it difficult to pay your Council Tax bill

Discretionary payments are means-tested (they take into account how much income and savings you have). You'll be asked for a lot of evidence to prove you can't afford your Council Tax bill.

Discretionary payments are paid as short-term payments to cover up to a year.

Each council has complete discretion (they can decide) on who they offer this support to, and how to offer this support. Each council has its own way of deciding who is given the payment.

If you've been refused a discretionary payment and you think the decision is wrong, you can always ask the council to look at their decision again.

The funding for discretionary payments comes from central government. 

Discretionary relief

The 1992 Local Government Finance Act granted local councils the power to locally finance and pay local relief for your Council Tax bill if paying the bill is causing you 'severe financial hardship'. 

Each Council has complete discretion in how they choose to award this relief, and who they decide to give it to. Most councils do not offer this help. 
 

Help because of your situation

There are 3 ways to reduce your Council Tax bill which look at your personal situation, and not how much income or savings you have. They are:

  • Status Discount (including severe mental impairment)
  • Disability Reduction
  • Unoccupied and exempt accommodation 

Each of these are described in this section (see below). 

Some people may qualify for several forms of discounts at the same time, so it's possible to combine different ways of reducing your Council Tax bill. Your council should explain how to do this on their website. 

Status Discounts

The Status Discount is not means-tested (in other words, it's not affected by your income or savings).

The most common type of Status Discount is the 1-person discount of 25%. This is where only 1 adult lives in the property. Sometimes, other people living there might be ignored too, and a 25% or 50% discount might be awarded.

Adults will be ignored (not counted as living in the property) if they:

  • are living in a shelter, hospital or care home
  • are in prison or detention
  • are a full-time student
  • are aged 18 to 19 and in full-time education
  • are under 25 and in approved training (such as student nurses, youth trainees and some apprentices)
  • are a carer for at least 35 hours a week for someone who lives with you, who is not your spouse, partner or child, and who receives a qualifying benefit (see below)
  • have a severe mental impairment (see below).

Status Discount for carers

If you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week or more, and the person lives at your address, and they are not your spouse, partner or parent, you will qualify for a discount if the person you care for receives one of the following benefits:

  • the high or middle rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance (only the high rate in Scotland)
  • either rate of the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (only the enhanced rate in Scotland)
  • Attendance Allowance (only the high rate in Scotland)
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment, or
  • the highest rate of Constant Attendance Allowance.

Status Discount for severe mental impairment 

A 'severe mental impairment' can be the result of health conditions like dementia. But there are many conditions that can lead to an impairment of cognitive or social functioning that can be described as a 'severe mental impairment'. Some people with Parkinson's may fit this description. Ask the GP if you think this is the case. 

You're eligible for a Status Discount if you have a certificate from a medical professional (such as a GP or consultant) which confirms that you have a permanent ‘severe mental impairment’.

As well as this certificate, you must also receive 1 of the following benefits: 

  • the high or middle rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance
  • either rate of the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support with a disability premium
  • Universal Credit with either of the Limited capability elements
  • Working Tax Credits with either of the disabled workers element, or
  • You're over state pension age and you would get one of the above benefits, but because of your age you don't qualify.

If you live alone and are regarded as ‘severely mentally impaired’, you're completely exempt from paying Council Tax – see the section 'Exempt and unoccupied accommodation' below.

It's possible for more than 1 person in a property to be ignored. For example, if there is a sister who provides 35 hours or more care per week for her brother who has a severe mental impairment and qualifies for the enhanced rate of Personal Independence Payment, both the sister and brother will be ignored.  And if they're the only 2 people in the house then they will get a 50% discount on their Council Tax bill.

The Disability Reduction Scheme

This scheme is not means-tested so it doesn't take into account your income or savings. You also don't have to receive any qualifying benefits to get it. 

If you qualify, the scheme reduces your Council Tax bill by 1 banding, i.e. from Band C to Band B, if the home has been adapted or changed in some way for someone with a substantial and permanent disability.

To qualify, the home should have at least 1 of the following: 

  • an additional bathroom or kitchen (which has been added for the use of a disabled person)
  • a room (other than a toilet, bathroom or kitchen) which is used mainly by a disabled person for treatment or therapy
  • enough space in the property for a wheelchair to be used indoors (the property may have been adapted to cater for wheelchair-use in this way).

Each council has its own application form and assessment is always done by home visit, so they can see the changes that have been made.

Disabled Person's Allowance (Northern Ireland)

Disabled Person's Allowance is Northern Ireland's equivalent of the Disability Reduction Scheme. It gives you a 25% discount in rates for any household where the property has been adapted or has additional facilities added to suit the disabled person's needs.

Exempt and unoccupied accommodation

Some properties and your personal circumstances can mean you are completely exempt from Council Tax liability (meaning you don't have to pay).

You're exempt from paying if you or your property meet 1 of the of the following criteria:

  • All occupants living in the property are under the age of 18
  • You're in prison
  • You're in hospital or a care home
  • You're living away from the property elsewhere to care for someone
  • You're a student studying elsewhere and the property is unoccupied
  • Everyone in the property is a full-time student
  • The only person living in the property has died and probate has yet to be granted (after it's been granted, the property is exempt for the next 6 months too)
  • Occupation of the property is forbidden by law (for example, because of planning restriction or it's derelict) 
  • The property has been repossessed
  • The person living in the property who is liable to pay Council Tax has become bankrupt and the property is part of the bankruptcy
  • The resident(s) of the property are severely mentally impaired 

If everyone living in the property is severely mentally impaired, they must also receive 1 of the qualifying benefits listed under the heading 'Status Discount for severe mental impairment', above.

Secondly, a qualified medical practitioner (usually your doctor) must confirm to the council that in their medical opinion all resident(s) of the property have an impairment of their cognitive and social functioning that appears to be permanent, and they are, as a result, ‘severely mentally impaired’.
 

How can I appeal a decision?

If you need to challenge a Council Tax decision, the appeal goes to your local council ,and then on appeal in England and Wales to the Valuation Tribunal, In Scotland it goes to the Valuation Appeals Committee.

You can appeal against decisions on:

  • Council Tax exemptions
  • Council Tax liability to pay
  • where you are resident
  • whether a Status Discount applies
  • whether a Disability Reduction applies
  • Council Tax Reduction awards
  • discretionary payment award decisions
  • Council Tax banding

You should first go to your local council. There is no time limit for lodging the appeal, but you should put your appeal in writing.

If it is refused, you can appeal to 1 of the following bodies:

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