Advice Column: Council Tax

Thursday 14th March 2024

As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo weekly advice column this week we focus on Council Tax bills.

 

My council tax bill is coming out in March and I am dreading opening it as it always goes up. My income has stayed the same but everything else seems more expensive and I have hardly anything left over – how will I cope if my payments for this year go up?

Many of us are feeling overwhelmed as we see our basic bills and essential costs go up. You’re not alone in finding things difficult and, crucially, there’s support available.

First off, there are discounts available to some people depending on their circumstances. You can check your bill or contact your council to find out if you might be eligible for an automatic reduction to your council tax.

 

If you’re not getting a discount, you might still be entitled to one. It depends who lives in the property. So, if you’re the only adult in your home, you’ll get a 25% discount on your council tax bill.

 

When working out how many people live in a property, some people aren’t counted – they’re called ‘disregarded people’ and include under 18s, a student nurse or someone on an apprenticeship scheme and many more. Checking the government website for more details. If everyone who lives in the property is disregarded, you will still receive a council tax bill, but it will have a 50% discount. However if everyone in your home is a student or severely mentally impaired, you won’t pay any council tax.

 

Additionally, if someone has moved out, tell the council as this might change your eligibility. If you are entitled to a discount as a result, it will be valid from the date when the person moved out, even if you told the council after the event, and the reduction may be backdated.

 

If you think you might be eligible you should apply to your local council for a discount as soon as possible. You can find your council’s contact details on GOV.UK.

 

You mention that your income hasn’t increased. If you are on a low income you might be able to get your council tax reduced. If you get benefits or have other people living with you, this might affect how much your council tax is reduced by.

 

Your local council will ask you details about your income and your circumstances, so they can work out if you’re entitled to a council tax reduction. They will then calculate your new bill and tell you how much council tax you need to pay.

 

If you have other people living with you who are aged 18 or over, you might all be responsible for paying council tax. Only one of you needs to apply for a council tax reduction. The council will make a decision and reduce the amount of council tax you have to pay accordingly. You may also be eligible for additional support if you’ve reached State Pension age which you can check on the government website can GOV.UK If you’re under State Pension age, the ‘working age rules’ apply and if you’ve reached State Pension age, it depends if you or your partner get certain benefits.

 

The working age rules still apply if you’ve reached State Pension age and you or your partner get:
● Universal Credit
● Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
● Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
● Income Support

If you’ve reached State Pension age and don’t get any of these benefits, the ‘pension age rules’ apply.

 

Even if none of the reduction criteria applies to you, your local council can still reduce your council tax bill or cancel it altogether, this is called ‘discretionary reduction’. They’ll normally only do this if you can show that you’re suffering severe hardship and can’t afford to pay council tax. If you’re in this situation you should ask your local council for help. You’ll need to show them evidence of your circumstances. If your immigration status doesn’t let you claim public funds, you can still apply for a discretionary reduction. A discretionary reduction doesn’t count as public funds.

 

We know that times are incredibly tough and council tax is a priority bill so it’s important to keep in contact with your council if you can’t keep up payments. Citizens Advice is here to help you find a way forward, without judgement, working with you side by side.

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Exeter is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk