What To Expect For Your Council Tax
As we all know, council tax keeps rising year after year. It's a constant bone of contention for householders and tenants, since there seems to be no increase in services.
What do we get for our money? Our rubbish and recycling is collected on a regular basis, we receive essential services such as the service, and the roads are maintained. The thing about council tax is that it has to be paid, whether in a lump sum or by monthly instalments, which can be paid online, by cheque or direct debit.
There's one bill for each property (in some cases council taxes are reduced for a property that's not occupied all the time), and the liable person is the owner-occupier or the tenant.
Fail to pay an instalment on time and you'll receive a reminder from the council, giving you seven days to make the payment. If you don't do so, you'll lose the right to make instalment payments, and have to pay the full yearly amount when it's due, which is impossible for many people.
But are you paying too much council tax? Many people are.
Challenging Council TaxThe amount you pay in council tax depends on the band you're in, which runs from A to H. The initial valuations were performed in 1991. Each year your local council sets tax levels for the B and D bands and the others are adjusted accordingly.
To discover if you're in the wrong band and possibly paying too much, you should go to the Valuation Office Agency website (www.voa.gov.uk), where you can see the banding of your neighbours, especially if their properties are very similar to yours.
From there, you need to go to a House Price Calculator - Nationwide Building Society has one, for instance. You can reverse the process to see what your property was worth in 1991, when the assessment was done, and whether it was allocated the right banding.
If you find that your house should have been assessed in a lower band, or that the houses around you are in a lower band challenge it with your council. If they approve the challenge, you could save a lot of money, and they may even backdate the savings.
However, be warned that it can backfire, and in some circumstances you might end up in a higher tax band.
Who Should Pay Less Council Tax?Not everyone has to pay the full amount of council tax. If you're disabled, for instance, or someone else in the house is, you can apply for a reduction in tax, although most councils will ask for evidence of disability.
If there's only one adult in the property, the tax should be reduced by 25%. There are some instances where those over 18 can also be living there and the reduction still applies.
Council Tax BenefitA number of people qualify for council tax benefit, under which the council pays your council tax in its entirety. A student in a property, and not sharing with a non-student, qualifies. So do those receiving Income Support, the guarantee credit of Pension Credit, or an income-based Jobseeker's Allowance. In all those cases, your benefits will include having your full council tax paid.
In some instances, even if you're not on any of those benefits, you might qualify for a reduction, although your savings will need to be under £6,000 and income under certain levels.
If you believe you qualify, or that you have reasonable grounds for challenging the council tax banding, do so. The savings can be excellent.