Council tax - Trouble paying council tax

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You can pay council tax in 10 or 12 monthly instalments. If you miss a payment, the council should send you a reminder giving you seven days to pay the outstanding amount. The reminder should state:

  • the outstanding amount to be paid;
  • that if you do not pay the outstanding amount within seven days, you will lose your right to pay in instalments and become liable to pay the outstanding amount for the whole financial year.

If you pay the outstanding amount but miss a payment later in the year, your next reminder should state that if you miss a third payment in the same financial year, you automatically lose your right to pay in instalments without a reminder being sent out.

Second reminder

You lose your right to pay by instalments if you have already received a reminder, but have not paid the missing instalment. Your second reminder will state that you have 14 days to pay the whole amount outstanding for the remainder of the financial year. Some councils might still accept payments in instalments, but this is at their discretion.

Contact your council if you cannot pay

Contact your council as soon as possible if you're having difficulty paying your council tax. Make an offer of regular payments that you can afford.

In cases of extreme hardship, you could ask your council if it would consider a one-off payment to help with the costs of the council tax arrears.

Court action

Your council can apply to the magistrates court for a liability order if you do not pay your council tax.

You can attend the court and explain why you should not be liable for the debt. You can also contact your council at this stage to see if it will agree to an arrangement with you for payment. 

Get advice if you need help going to court - contact your local Shelter advice centre, Citizens Advice, or another local advice service for assistance.

You should know

  • All occupied homes are subject to council tax
  • Certain properties are subject to a discount. This includes homes that are empty, undergoing refurbishment or are second homes - but this is subject to your local council’s discretion 
  • You cannot appeal your council tax if you think it is too high
  • However, you can appeal your council tax if you think your home’s banding is incorrect. 

 

Council tax is a system of local taxation collected by local authorities. It is a tax on domestic property. Some property is exempt from council tax. Some people do not have to pay council tax and some people get a discount.

Council tax banding

All homes in the UK have a council tax banding that is determined by the Valuation Office. The bands are based on the value of the property in April 1991.  For Wales, the value is based on prices in April 2003. The bands are:

A  Up to £40,000

B  Over £40,000 and up to £52,000

C  Over £52,000 and up to £68,000

D  Over £68,000 and up to £88,000

E  Over £88,000 and up to £120,000

F  Over £120,000 and up to £160,000

G  Over £160,000 and up to £320,000

H  Over £320,000

When do you pay council tax?

You’ll usually have to pay Council Tax if you’re 18 or over and own or rent a home.

A full council tax bill is based on at least two adults living in a home. Spouses and partners who live together are jointly responsible for paying the bill. You’ll get 25% off your bill if you count as an adult for council tax and either live on your own or no-one else in your home counts as an adult

Council tax discounts

You’ll usually get a 50% discount if no-one living in your home, including you, counts as an adult.

Full-time students

You won’t have to pay any council tax if everyone in your home, including you, is a full-time student. 

Who doesn’t count as an adult?

These people are not counted as adults for council tax purposes:

  • Children under 18
  • People on some apprentice schemes
  • 18 and 19-year-olds in full-time education
  • Full-time students 
  • Young people under 25 who get funding from the Skills Funding Agency or Young People’s Learning Agency
  • Student nurses
  • Foreign language assistants registered with the British Council
  • People with a severe mental impairment
  • Live-in carers who look after someone who isn’t their partner, spouse or child
  • Diplomats

Homes exempt from council tax

Properties which may be exempt include:

  • Condemned property
  • Property that has been legally re-possessed by a mortgage lender
  • Property is unoccupied, see below for more details
  • A holiday caravan or boat that's on a property where council tax is paid
  • Property which is occupied only by people with severe mental impairment
  • A self-contained annex or ‘granny flat’ where the person who lives in it is a dependent relative of the owner of the main property.

Second homes and empty properties

You may be able to get a discount if you have a second home or an empty property - it's up to your council to decide. Councils can charge extra council tax for empty properties.

Second homes

You may pay less council tax for a property you own or rent that’s not your main home.

Councils can give furnished second homes or holiday homes a discount of up to 50%. Contact your council to find out if you can get a discount - it’s up to them how much you can get.

Empty properties

You’ll usually have to pay council tax on an empty home, but your council can decide to give you a discount - the amount is up to them. You’ll need to contact your council to ask about a discount.

Your council can charge up to 50% extra council tax if your home has been empty for two years or more (unless it’s an annexe or you’re in the armed forces). 

If you’re selling an empty property on behalf of an owner who’s died, you won’t have to pay council tax for up to six months from the day you get probate (the right to deal with the estate).

Some homes don’t get a council tax bill for as long as they stay empty. They include homes:

  • of someone in prison (except for not paying a fine or council tax);
  • of someone who’s moved into a care home or hospital;
  • that have been repossessed;
  • that can’t be lived in by law, for example if they’re derelict;
  • that are empty because they’ve been compulsory purchased and will be demolished.

You might get a discount if your home is undergoing major repair work or structural changes, for example if your walls are being rebuilt.

If your property’s been refurbished

Your council will tell you when you have to start paying council tax if you’ve been carrying out major home improvements on an empty property or building a new property; you’ll receive a ‘completion notice’ that tells you the date you must start paying.

If your property’s derelict

Your property is only considered derelict if it:

  • isn’t possible to live in it, for example because it’s been damaged by weather, rot or vandalism;
  • would need major structural works to make it ‘wind and watertight’ again.

You can apply to get a derelict property removed from the council tax valuation list. Follow the process for making a formal challenge to the Valuation Office.

Appealing your council tax bill

You should tell your council immediately if you think that your council tax bill is wrong, for example if you think:

  • the bills are being sent to the wrong person for your home;
  • the property doesn’t require you to pay council tax;
  • the amount being charged is incorrect;
  • 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

Write to your council, saying why you believe that your bill is wrong. The council might either decide that the bill:

  • is incorrect and send you a new one;
  • is correct and explain why.

If the council decides that your bill is incorrect, you must continue to pay the amounts listed in your original bill until the new one arrives. The council has two months to reply.

If you are not satisfied you can make a council tax appeal.

Council Tax Appeals

All houses in England and Wales are allocated a council tax banding. This is based on the value of the property in April 1991; for Wales the value is based on prices in April 2003.  

If you feel that the valuation of your property is incorrect, you must carry on paying your council tax bill but in the meantime ask the Valuation Office to check the banding. 

If the issue is still not resolved, you can make a formal challenge of the Valuation Office. 

Reasons for changes to your property’s valuation 

Your property might be revalued and put in a different band if certain circumstances have occurred. These could include if:

  • you make major alterations to the property, such as adding an extension or annexe - the band won’t change until you sell the property;
  • you split a single property into self-contained flats;
  • you convert flats into a single property;
  • you start or stop working from home;
  • there are significant changes to your local area, such as a new road being built.

How long it will take

A valuation appeal will take up to four months to be recalculated. If it is, the council will be informed so that your bills can be updated. 

If you disagree with the revaluation

In England, if you make a formal challenge and disagree with the Valuation Office’s decision, you can appeal to the independent Valuation Tribunal. You must appeal within three months of getting the Valuation Office’s decision. The tribunal is free and can make the Valuation Office re-examine your challenge.

In Wales, if you and the Valuation Office can’t agree, your challenge will be heard by a local Valuation Tribunal. If the tribunal agrees with you, the Valuation Office will change your band and the council will update your bill.

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