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«WHO PAYS THE BILL? 1. Who has to pay the council tax? 3 2. Are the residents always liable? 4 3. Does only one person have to pay in each dwelling? 5 ...»

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Council Tax

A guide to your bill


Introduction 3


1. Who has to pay the council tax? 3

2. Are the residents always liable? 4

3. Does only one person have to pay in each dwelling? 5

4. Does each liable person get their own bill? 5

5. How does the council know who is liable? 5

6. What if I disagree with the council’s decision on who is liable? 6

7. What happens if I move? 6


8. How much will I pay? 6

9. Can bills be reduced? 7

10. How do discounts work? 7

11. Am I still liable if I am not counted towards the bill? 8

12. Who is not counted? 8

13. How will councils know when to apply a discount? 12

14. What sort of dwellings are exempt? 13

15. Will I get a bill for an exempt dwelling? 15

16. What can I do if the council says my property is not exempt? 16

17. What if a discount or exemption has been awarded in error? 16


18. What is the reduction for disabilities scheme? 16

19. By how much will my bill be reduced? 17

20. How will councils know where a reduction should apply? 18

21. What can I do if the council won’t give me a reduction? 18


22. When will I get my bill and when will I have to pay? 18

23. What if the bill is wrong? 19

24. What if the amount I have to pay changes during the year? 19

25. What if I have trouble paying the bill? 19

26. What if I don’t pay? 19

27. What action can the council take? 20

28. What powers does the liability order give the council? 20

29. What if I still do not pay? 21


30. What if I think my bill is wrong? 22

31. What can I appeal against? 22

32. How do I appeal? 22

33. When can a penalty be imposed on me? 23

34. What if I disagree with a penalty? 24 Further information 24 Introduction The council tax is a local tax set by local councils to help pay for local services.

This booklet is a guide to how the council tax works and how you can make sure your bill is correct. It explains who is responsible for paying the council tax, who may be entitled to a discount, and which types of dwelling are exempt from the tax. It also explains the special reductions for people with disabilities and gives details on how you can pay and what can happen if you don’t. This booklet is intended as a brief and simple guide for the layperson; it should not be regarded as a definitive statement of or complete guide to the law.


1. Who has to pay the council tax?

There is one council tax bill for each dwelling, whether it is a house, bungalow, flat, maisonette, mobile home or houseboat, and whether it is owned or rented. To work out who has to pay for your home (or “dwelling”), look down the list in the box below. As soon as you reach a description which applies to someone in your home, they will be responsible for the bill (and will be the “liable person”).

a. A resident freeholder (so for owner-occupied property the owner is liable);

b. A resident leaseholder (this includes assured tenants under the Housing Act 1988);

c. A resident statutory or secure tenant;

d. A resident licensee;

e. A resident;

f. The owner (this applies where the dwelling has no residents).

A “resident” is a person of 18 years or over who lives in the dwelling as their only or main home.

This means that owner-occupiers or resident tenants (including council tenants) usually have to pay the tax.

If the property is empty, or it is no-one’s main home, the owner is responsible for the bill.

Whether a property is treated as your main home will depend on a number of factors, such as how much time you spend there and whether it is your family home. You cannot have more than one main home for council tax purposes.

2. Are the residents always liable?

In some special cases the owner, not the residents, has to pay the council tax. These are: dwellings occupied by more than one household, where the residents pay rent separately for different parts of the dwelling and where the households perhaps share cooking or washing facilities, for example, some hostels, nurses’ homes or groups of bed-sits;

• residential care homes, nursing homes (such as hospices), mental nursing homes or certain types of hostel providing a high level of care;

• religious communities such as monasteries or convents;

• dwellings which are not the owner’s main home, but which are the main home of someone whom the owner employs in domestic service;

• vicarages and other dwellings where a minister of religion lives and works. (Where the owner-occupier is a Church of England minister of religion, the Church is responsible for the bill.)

• accommodations provided to asylum seekers under Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

If you live in such a dwelling, where the owner is liable, you do not have to pay council tax. If your landlord is the liable person, they might be able to ask you to pay something towards the bill, depending on the terms of your agreement with them.

3. Does only one person have to pay in each dwelling?

In some cases, more than one person is responsible for seeing that the bill is paid. People who are joint owners or joint tenants are jointly liable. Generally, spouses and partners of people who are liable are jointly responsible for paying the bill if they live in the same dwelling.

Students and people who are severely mentally impaired are not jointly liable.

4. Does each liable person get their own bill?

Your council may send the bill to just one of the liable people, to some of them, or to all of the liable people. If your are jointly liable you should ensure that the whole bill is being paid. Even if you have paid your ‘own share’ of the bill, the council may still seek to enforce payment of any balance outstanding from you.

5. How do councils know who is liable?

Councils may send out forms asking for information so that they can tell who should pay. If your council sends you a form, you should complete it and return it to the council. If you don’t return the form, you may face a penalty of £50.

6. What if I disagree with the council’s decision on who is liable?

If you disagree with the council’s decision about your liability, you should write to them, explaining what you object to and why. The council has two months to provide an answer. If you still disagree with the council, or if they have not acted within the two month period, you can appeal to a Valuation Tribunal. How to appeal is explained on pages 20–22. You should continue to pay your original bill whilst your appeal is outstanding.

7. What happens if I move?

The council tax is worked out on a daily basis. If you move home you may stop being the liable person for your old home, and may become the liable person for your new home. You should inform the council about your move so that they can make adjustments to your bill. This is especially important if you move to a new council area as you may be due a refund, depending on the method you used to pay the council tax and how much has already been paid.


8. How much will I pay?

The council tax is set by your local council. The amount set depends on how much it and certain other public bodies in your area spend and how much money they get from elsewhere. The amount you have to pay (before any reductions) also depends on which valuation band your home is in. The lower the value of your home is the less you will pay. There is a separate leaflet which explains how properties are valued and what this means for your council tax bill.

9. Can bills be reduced?

Bills can be reduced by:

• discounts – for example, for homes in which there is only one adult (see pages 6–12);

• council tax benefit – for people on low incomes (a booklet explaining council tax benefit is available from post offices, Jobcentre Plus and social security offices);

• reductions for disabilities – for homes adapted for a person with a disability see pages 16–18;

One or more of these reductions may apply to your home.

–  –  –

10. How do discounts work?

The full council tax bill assumes there are two adults living in a dwelling. If only one adult lives in a dwelling (as their main home) a single person’s discount will apply and the council tax is reduced by a quarter (25%). The bill does not increase if there are more than two adults in the dwelling.

If the dwelling is no-one’s main home, then a discountmay apply.

For furnished second or holiday homes, councils must offer a second homes’ discount of between 50% and 10%. If you have a second home because of the nature of your job, for example because you are a tenant publican or a member of the clergy and are provided with accommodation as part of your work, then the council must give you a 50% discount on your second home.

Councils can offer an empty homes discount of up to 50% for dwellings which have been empty and unfurnished for longer than six months.

Councils also have powers to award discounts in specific circumstances, for example in cases of extreme hardship. It is entirely up to the council to determine whether any local discounts should be awarded and if so on what grounds. You should contact your council to find out whether it offers local discounts and in what circumstances.

Certain people are not counted when looking at the number of adults resident in a dwelling to see whether a discount should apply. For example, if there are two adults in a dwelling, and one of them is in one of the special groups set out in section 12 below, the bill is worked out as if only one adult lives there and is reduced by a quarter. The boxes on pages 7–11 set out the main conditions for each group.

To find out if a discount may apply to your home, you should count the number of adults who live there as their main home, but who are not in one of the special groups.

If you are left with two or more people, there will be no discount. If there is one person, your bill will be reduced by a quarter. If you are left with no-one, your bill will usually be reduced by a half.

11. Am I still liable if I am not counted for the bill?

If you are the liable person and you get a discount or are not counted, your bill may be reduced. But you will still be responsible for paying the smaller amount.

–  –  –


You will not be counted if you are an apprentice employed to learn a job, and, as part of that learning, are undertaking training leading to a qualification recognised by the Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA). You must not be earning more than a set amount per week (before tax).


You will not be counted if you are under 25 and are receiving approved training funded by the Learning and Skills Council.


You will not be counted if you are a student (or an overseas student) on a full-time or qualifying course of education.

You are a full time student if you are:

• attending a university or college course which lasts for at least an academic year, takes at least 24 weeks a year and involves at least 21 hours of study per week during term-time; or

• under the age of 20, and studying for more than three months and at least 12 hours per week for any qualification up to A level or equivalent standard. Correspondence courses, evening classes, or courses taken in connection with a person’s job, such as on day-release, are not included.

Student nurses studying academic courses at universities are classed as students for council tax purposes.

Foreign language assistants registered with the British Council are also treated as students.

You will not be counted if you are the spouse, civil partner or dependant of a student, are not a British Citizen, and are prevented by the terms of your permission to be in the UK either from taking paid employment or from claiming benefits.


You will not be counted if you are a student nurse on a course leading to registration under the nurses’ part or midwives’ part of the Register. Only student nurses studying for their first inclusion on the Register are not counted. Nurses who are already on the Register but are taking further courses are counted. Student nurses studying academic courses at universities are excluded from this definition as they are considered as students.


You will not be counted if you are a patient in a hospital which is your only or main home. If you are in hospital for a short time and you have a home elsewhere, you will carry on paying council tax at your home.




You will not be counted if you live, and are receiving care, in one of these places, as your only or main home.



People who are severely mentally impaired are not counted. For council tax purposes, a person is regarded as severely mentally impaired if he or she suffers, for whatever reason, from severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning which appears to be permanent.

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