Everything you need to know about your rights and responsibilities when it comes to paying tax on the roof over your head.
In a nutshell
Council tax is a tax on domestic property that is collected by your local authority. Generally, the bigger the property, the more tax is charged. Methods of payment vary, so it's worth checking out your options and choosing the one that suits you.
Your local authority keeps a list of all the domestic properties in the area. Each property is placed in a band, depending on how much it was worth when the list was drawn up. This is called the valuation list.A different amount of council tax is then charged on each band.
If the property was not built or converted until after the valuation was made, then the band is based on the value the property would have had, if it had been built then.
Northern Ireland currently has a rates system whereby domestic rates are calculated on the value of a property.
Valuation band and values, based on 1991 valuations:
- A - Up to £40,000
- B - Over £40,000 and up to £52,000
- C - Over £52,000 and up to £68,000
- D - Over £68,000 and up to £88,000
- E - Over £88,000 and up to £120,000
- F - Over £120,000 and up to £160,000
- G - Over £160,000 and up to £320,000
- H - Over £320,000
Valuation band and values, based on 2003 valuations:
- A - Up to £44,000
- B.- £44,001 up to £65,000
- C.- £65,001 up to £91,000
- D - £91,001 up to £123,000
- E - £123,001 up to £162,000
- F - £162,001 up to £223,000
- G - £223,001 up to £324,000
- H - £324,001 up to £424,000
- I - £424,001 and above
Valuation band and values, based on 1991 valuations:
- A - Up to £27,000
- B - Over £27,000 and up to £35,000
- C - Over £35,000 and up to £45,000
- D - Over £45,000 and up to £58,000
- E - Over £58,000 and up to £80,000
- F - Over £90,000 and up to £106,000
- G - Over £106,000 and up to £212,000
- H - Over £212,000
To find out what band you're in, inspect a copy of the valuation list. This is kept at the local authority's main offices. If you live in England or Wales, you can find your council tax band on the Valuation Office website It may also be available to view at your local library.
In some cases, you may not have to pay council tax at all. Students living in halls of residence are exempt, for example, and if your place is empty for six months you won't have to pay for that period.
Usually one person, called the liable person, has to pay council tax. Nobody under the age of 18 can be a liable person. Couples living together will both be liable, even if there's only one name on the bill. This applies whether the couple is married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership. Usually, the person living in a property will be the one who has to pay.
If more than one person lives there, a system called the hierarchy of liability is used to work out who is the liable person. The person at the top of the hierarchy, for example the owner, is the liable person. Two people at the same point of the hierarchy, for example the tenants, will both be liable.
Each year, your local authority will set a rate of council tax for each valuation band. Not everyone will have to pay the full amount of council tax. There are three ways in which your council tax bill may be reduced:
- The reduction scheme for disabled people. If someone is living in the house who is substantially disabled the council tax is reduced by one valuation band.
- Discounts. A 25% discount applies if only one person lives in the property. Also, some individuals are discounted from paying council tax (e.g. anyone age 17 or under, or on a government training scheme).
- Council tax benefit and second adult rebate. If you're on a low income, you may be entitled to council tax benefit. If you're not claiming this, but also living with someone who isn't liable to pay council tax on your property, you may qualify for a second adult rebate.
For more details, visit your nearest CAB or council office.
How do I pay?
Council tax bills should be sent out in April. You have the right to pay by 10 instalments. Local authorities may also accept weekly or fortnightly payments. Some may also offer a reduction in the total bill if it is paid all at once, at the beginning of the year.
Help, I'm a student!
If you're a full-time student in advanced education then you'll have to pay council tax if you're the liable person for a property. However, if all the people living in the property are students no council tax will be payable. If just some of the residents are students the council tax may be reduced.
Can I appeal?
Appeals can be made about a range of issues about the council tax. If it concerns the valuation banding, an appeal must be made to the valuation office (Assessor's Department in Scotland). The local authority may consider any other case, such as issues concerning discount or disabilities appeal.
What happens if I don't pay?
In England and Scotland, if you fail to pay the local authority has the power to eventually deduct council tax from your income support, jobseeker's allowance or wages. They can also order bailiffs to seize your goods to the value of the amount owed. If this is unsuccessful then the council could apply to the Magistrates Court for you to go to prison for up to three months.
Thanks to Citizens Advice Bureau for help with this article.
Written by Matt Whyman
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