Council tax bands determine how much council tax you pay. Here’s a guide for everything you need to know, including how to pay it, how much you’re likely to pay and how to dispute it.
What is council tax?
Council tax is a local property tax, introduced in 1993 to replace the Community Charge.
It’s levied by your local council in order to top up the funds they receive from the government, to allow them to provide you with a number of services.
What is council tax banding?
Council tax bands are calculated based on the value of your property at a certain time. There are 8 of them in England (A-H) and your local council sets the band levels in its jurisdiction. Therefore, how much you owe varies from council to council even if the banding is the same as a different area. Meanwhile, in Wales, bands go from A-I.
How are properties banded?
All properties are banded on the same basis, including those bought under government schemes (e.g. Right to Buy) and new build homes. If a property is converted from non-residential to residential, it will need to be given a banding by the VOA.
What does council tax pay for?
Council tax pays for local services such as police, libraries, leisure and recreation centres, rubbish collection and disposal, environmental health. It doesn’t pay for health services.
How much is my council tax?
This will be calculated based on the valuation of your home and the area it’s in.
You can check how much your council tax is here, simply enter your postcode to get started.
Who has to pay council tax?
There are exemptions, such as students, so check with your local council to find out if you’re eligible or not.
How do you pay council tax?
There are different ways to pay, including:
- Direct debit (e.g. monthly)
- Lump sum
- Pay online
- Telephone payment
- Post office
- BACS and internet banking
It’s worth checking to see the different options available to you.
How do you work out how much you owe?
It is fairly easy to work out how much you owe.
You need to know:
- The valuation band for your home.
- How much your local council charges for that band.
- Whether you’re eligible for a discount.
How to dispute a council tax banding
There are three ways to dispute a council tax banding:
- Have your property revalued
- Dispute the original valuation
- If you think your property has been valued incorrectly, you can dispute the amount you are charged and appeal against it
Have the property revalued
If you think your property is in the wrong council tax banding, you can have it revalued. This typically occurs if there have been serious alterations to the property since the original valuation.
The Valuation Office Agency (VOA), part of HMRC, has a list of reasons why a property might be in the wrong banding, have a look through them to see if your reason falls into any of these categories. For example, if your property’s use has changed, e.g. part of it is now used for business, you might be eligible to challenge how much council tax you pay. Changes to the local area can also have an impact.
It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that if you query the property’s value, you might find it goes up instead of down. In which case the property will move up a council tax banding, but only when it’s sold.
Dispute the original valuation
You will have to talk to the VOA and convince them that their original valuation for the property was incorrect. You will want evidence to support your argument, so check the band of properties similar to yours, in your area and see if they’re on a lower tariff.
Also, you can check to see if the house is in the same band as it was originally put in, based on the original 1991 valuation. However, note that you can only challenge your band if you’ve lived there for less than 6 months.
Appeal against a council tax banding
If you feel it’s necessary to appeal against your council tax banding, here’s how it’s done:
- Write to the council and explain why you’re disputing the bill
- If you disagree with the council’s verdict on reviewing your case, you can appeal to a valuation tribunal
- Write to the valuation tribunal stating your case
- If necessary, your case will go to hearing (this won’t cost you unless you hire a solicitor to represent you)
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