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Council tax

Council Tax is an essential cost that features in everyone’s monthly budget. It’s a priority to make sure this is paid, but, if you’re struggling with footing this regular bill, it’s important to check whether you could be receiving some extra support.

Check whether you’re entitled to a council tax reduction

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to pay less council tax or not pay it at all.

Discounts are available in certain circumstances, for example, if you’re caring for someone, if you’re disabled or have a health condition, if you’re looking for work, temporarily unable to work or on a low income, if you’re a single person or if you have an empty property.

Can you get Single Person Discount?

If you’re the only adult living in your property, you can apply for a Single Person Discount to reduce your council tax bill by 25%.

Can you get an exception or discount?

Some households are eligible for a 50% discount. If this applies to you, you’ll need to apply to get the discount.

Consider which payment options are best for you

You can choose to spread your payments over 12 months (instead of the usual ten) to reduce the amount you have to pay monthly. To arrange this, you’ll need to speak to your council.

Are you in the correct council tax band?

Your council tax band is based on its rateable value – which means the more expensive the property, the higher the council tax band. If you feel you’re being wrongly charged, you’ll be asked for evidence that supports your challenge. Here’s the evidence you’ll need.

If you’re a full-time student

If everyone who lives at your property is a full-time student, you don’t have to pay council tax. To qualify, your course must last at least one year and include at least 21 hours of study per week. If anyone who isn’t a student lives in your property, you won’t get free council tax, however, you may be able to qualify for a discount.

Available support

Help if you’re struggling with arrears

All local authorities must have a Section 13A scheme through which any person can make a request for an amount of council tax to be reduced or written off. Contact your local council to find out if you meet the criteria.

If you’re on a low income

If you’re on a low income, then you may be able to get help paying for your council tax. You’ll need to apply for a scheme run by your local council.

If you want to make a complaint about your local council

You can contact your local council directly and, if you’re not happy with their response, you might be able to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman. Here’s a fact sheet to help you start the process.

What happens to council tax after someone passes away?

You should get in touch with your local council as soon as possible. council tax arrears are a priority debt if the council have secured a charge on the property and the respective council will want the ongoing council tax paid, plus an extra amount to clear any arrears.

If the rental property was solely occupied by the person who has passed away, liability usually falls to the owner or leaseholder. Alternatively, if the property was solely owned by the person that has passed away, it will be exempt from paying council tax, on the assumption it remains unoccupied until probate is granted. Once probate is granted, a further six months’ exemption may be possible if the property remains unoccupied.

If the person who has passed away lived on their own, any arrears will be paid out of the estate. If there isn’t enough money to do this, the money will no longer be owed.

A partner of the person who has passed away will be responsible for the ongoing bill but can claim a 25% discount if they are the only adult in the house.

They will also be liable for any council tax arrears if they were living in the house, even if their name is not on the bill. If the person wasn’t named on the bill, the council will have to send a new bill in their name before they can recover any outstanding council tax.

Dealing with finances whilst also coping with a loss can be overwhelming, and along with the National Bereavement Service, we’re here to help you. You can get in touch with us for further support by contacting us.

Template documents

Section 13A template letter

A Section 13A helps you apply for discretionary council tax reduction.

Here’s a handy template letter to help you with applying for discretionary council tax reduction.

Credit: Alan Murdie

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