Council Tax is the money you pay your local council for the services they provide in your community. But how do you work out your Council Tax, and who decides how much you owe? Let’s take a look.
What is a Council Tax band?
Your Council Tax band determines how much Council Tax you pay. The band you’re in depends on the value of your property at a certain point in time. This is why, for example, homes in the same street often pay the same – or very similar – Council Tax rates, but homes a few streets away might be in a different band.
Council Tax bands are set by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
What are the Council Tax bands?
It all depends on where you live in the UK.
- There are eight property bands in England and Scotland (from band A to band H).
- The bands are based on how much your property was worth in April 1991 (i.e. how much you could sell the property for back then).
- Band A is the lowest category for homes worth up to £40,000 back in 1991. At the other end of the scale, band H covers homes that were worth over £320,000.
- Again, there are eight bands from A to H. The values are slightly different, though.
- Band A covers homes worth up to £27,000. Homes worth over £212,000 fall into category H.
- The bands are based on a property’s sale value in April 2003, not 1991.
- Homes fall into one of nine bands from A to I.
- Homes worth up to £44,000 fall into category A. If your home was worth over £424,000 in 2003, it’s in category I.
Northern Ireland uses domestic rates, not Council Tax bands. Check out the nidirect.gov.uk website for help working out your property rates.
For homes built after 1991 (or 2003 in Wales), assessors compare the property to similar homes in the surrounding areas to find the right band.
How do I know which Council Tax band I’m in?
It’s easy to find your Council Tax band.
- If you’re in England or Wales, simply follow the step-by-step guide on the gov.uk website.
- For Scottish homes, visit the Scottish Assessors website and type in your postcode to view a list of properties with their relevant bands.
You can also ask your local council to tell you your Council Tax band.
What if I don’t agree with my Council Tax band?
First, compare your band to that of your neighbours’. If your properties are similar but you’re paying more than your neighbours and you think this is wrong, you can request a band review.
Contact the VOA and explain why you think your Council Tax band is wrong. Reasons include:
- The VOA made the wrong valuation at the outset
- the property has been substantially changed
- Changes in the surrounding area have affected the property’s rateable value
You can always appeal the decision if the VOA reject your proposal.
A word of caution: there’s a chance you’ll end up in a higher tax band than you’re in right now, which means you’ll actually pay more in Council Tax. Be aware that this is a possibility before you ask for a review.
Welsh homes were all revalued in 2003, so errors are fairly unlikely. However, you can still request a review.
In Scotland, find your local assessor on the Scottish Assessor website and request a band review. They can often do this informally and get back to you quickly.
You can ask for a formal review if you moved into the property less than six months ago, or you recently received word that your band is changing. Your local assessor can give you the form for this.
Remember: if you ask for a review, you could end up paying more Council Tax than before. Bear this in mind before challenging a decision.
Can I get a Council Tax discount?
Maybe. If you can’t change your band, you might be eligible for a discount if:
- You’re a student living alone or with other students
- You live alone or with under-18s
- You receive Pension Credit. Check with your local authorities to see if you’re eligible.
If you’re on certain benefits or a low income, you might qualify for a Council Tax reduction, but it depends on your circumstances.
Your Council Tax band determines how much Council Tax you pay. It’s easy to find out your Council Tax band and you can apply to get it changed if there are reasonable grounds to do so. Just remember that if you apply to change your band, you could end up paying more Council Tax.
If you’re worried about paying your tax bill, or you’re struggling with debt and want to apply for help with your Council Tax, contact your local council or HMRC for more information. You can also reach out for debt advice.
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