Martin Lewis: Hidden hacks to save thousands on your council tax
- Credit: Getty/Martin Lewis
Over half of all councils are expected to increase council tax by the maximum 5pc this April. Councils have always offered crucial public services, but during the pandemic, they’ve been a lifeline to many.
Yet council tax bills - especially if they increase - are a stretch for many, and while it’s important that people pay their dues, it’s equally worth checking you’re not missing out on legitimate discounts and reductions.
So, let me take you through my key council tax need-to-knows…
1. Up to 400,000 homes in England and Scotland are in the wrong band.
- The Neighbours check: Are you in a higher band than neighbours in similar or better identical homes (see your and their bands at www.voa.gov.uk in England and www.saa.gov.uk in Scotland).
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- The valuation check: Effectively back calculating what your house was worth in 1991 when bands were set. Don’t worry to make this easy I’ve a free tool to help at www.mse.me/counciltax (which also includes far more help on how to do this, and FAQs if you run into problems). Only if BOTH of these stack up then it’s worth asking for them to check if you’re in the right band (for how to do this see the link above).
2. Live alone, with under-18s or full time students?
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There’s a single-person reduction of 25pc. Those under aged 18 and full-time students are disregarded for council tax purposes, so a single parent would be entitled to this. All student households pay nothing. Live-in carers in some circumstances are exempt too.
3. Do you live with someone with a 'severe mental impairment'?
You could be missing discount worth £1,000s. If someone has a diagnosed severe mental impairment, which includes some with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, strokes and more, and are eligible (not necessarily claiming) for some benefits eg disablement allowance or incapacity benefit - they may be disregarded for council tax purposes. Meaning they don't have to pay council tax if they live alone, and get 25% off if they live with one other adult. Plus, some councils backdate it, leading to £1,000s back.
4. Had your home adapted for a disabled resident.
Rather than a discount you may be able to get your council tax band lowered, speak to the council.
5. On universal credit / benefits you could get up to 100pc off.
Council tax reductions are long standing discounts of up to 100%, which you apply for directly with your local council (details of your council is at www.gov.uk/apply-council-tax-reduction). Clearly many more people are now eligible, as so many more are claiming universal credit (do apply for that first, if you’re planning to try both).
This is in addition to any benefits or universal credit you receive, but amounts depend on the individual councils rules. All those on the main guaranteed element of pension credit are due a reduction too, and some on the savings element are too.
6. Struggling financially due to coronavirus - check if you can get a payment holiday from your council.
Last year, many councils were helping residents who were struggling by offering payment holidays, and some councils may be continuing help this year. There’s no one-size-fits-all rule here, and depends widely from council to council and case-by-case.
So, while there's no certainty, it’s definitely worth a conversation.