Council tax payments make up a significant proportion of the average household’s monthly expenditure. In some cases, a household’s council tax payment can represent about 10 per cent of its total outgoings. But if your home is in the wrong council tax band, then it’s possible that you may be paying far too much every month and you could be in line for a refund. If you think that you are paying too much council tax each month, what can you do about it?
What is council tax?
Any home that is classed as a residential property and a primary residence is subject to council tax – that includes houses, flats, permanent caravans (statics) and even houseboats.
Council tax is used to fund your local authority, police and fire service expenditure. That includes your county and district or unitary authorities as well as your parish council.
The amount of council tax you will actually pay depends on the value of your home. Every property in England and Scotland is put in one of eight council tax bands from A to H with the amount owed rising with each letter.
The council tax was introduced in 1993 to replace the ill-fated poll tax. And in the 23 years since its introduction, the average council tax bill has more than doubled.
Is your home in the wrong band?
The vast majority of homes in England and Scotland were ‘banded’ when the council tax was launched in 1993 and they have remained in the same band ever since. That means that while your house’s value may have changed dramatically over the last 23 years, the valuation given to it almost a quarter of century ago has not. But the change in value will not have been reflected in the amount that you pay in council tax.
You might think that the rise in house prices over those 23 years means that your house should be in a higher band but this is not necessarily true. If your home’s value has risen by less than the national average – and that is more likely away from London and the South East – then there is an equally high likelihood that you are paying too much in council tax.
Am I paying too much
This will depend on how much council tax is being charged in any particular area. For example, if your home is in band F but should actually be in band E because the average house price rise has been lower than the national average, you might be paying as much as 20 per cent more than you should be.
What can I do?
The first thing to do is to research whether any application to have your home rebanded is likely to be successful. First of all, check which band your home is in on the government’s website. This should also tell you whether your home’s banding has been reassessed since 1993. Finally, check the banding of other homes close to yours, particularly those that are of about the same age and size.
You should also research what the value of your house was in 1991 when the first banding assessment was carried out. If it was in the wrong band then, it is likely to still be wrong and you may have grounds for an appeal.
A house price calculator will help you decide whether the original estimate was correct – many of these will allow you to research historic house prices. You’ll need to take into account whether your house has been improved in some way including the addition of an extension or a loft conversion.
If your banding is wrong
The first thing to do is contact the regional Valuation Officer. The officer is duty bound to consider your reasons for an appeal and you will be told in writing of their decision. If you are not happy with the outcome, you can appeal to an independent valuations tribunal.
Other ways of reducing your council tax
You may be able to apply to your council for a reduction in your council tax if one of the following apply:
- You live alone and are the only adult living in the property
- You have a physical or mental disability
- The property is currently empty
- You are student, live with other students or in a house where only one adult is in full-time employment.
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