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Financial Services > Mortgages > Moving Home > Council Tax Valuation and Council Tax Bands in England and Scotland

What is Council Tax?

Council Tax Guide

Council tax is one of the major bills that homeowners and some renters have to pay. Council tax becomes increasingly expensive every year, and although some people are exempt (such as students) the reality is that most people must pay it either annually or monthly.

Within this Council Tax guide:

Council tax is collected by each local authority - the local level management teams who deal with administration in your community.

Council tax is levied on all domestic properties, and it varies in price considerably - all properties are valued at April 1991 prices.

For instance, if you live in a large property with lots of rooms and land, it is likely that you will pay more council tax than those living in a standard house. UK properties are 'banded' - divided into groups depending on several factors such as size and location, with each band linked to a set price.

Council Tax valuation bands

Residential property in the UK is grouped into eight different Council Tax bands. Each local authority holds a list of all local domestic property, and each property is put into a certain valuation band. For each band, a certain amount of council tax is charged.

The current Council Tax bands are as follows:

In England:

Range of Values
(Applicable to England only)
Up to £40,000
Over £40,000 - £52,000
Over £52,000 - £68,000
Over £68,000 - £88,000
Over £88,000 - £120,000
Over £120,000 - £160,000
Over £160,000 - £320,000
Over £320,000

In Scotland:

Range of Values
(Applicable to Scotland only)
Up to £27,000
Over £27,000 - £35,000
Over £35,000 - £45,000
Over £45,000 - £58,000
Over £58,000 - £80,000
Over £80,000 - £106,000
Over £106,000 - £212,000
Over £212,000

Which band does my property fall into?

Your council tax bill will show which valuation band your property falls into, or alternatively you can check with your local authority before you receive your first council tax bill.

Another useful link for those consumers wondering which council tax band their property falls into is www.voa.gov.uk.

Properties exempt from Council Tax

Some properties are completely exempt from council tax. Exemption from council tax may be temporary – such as students living in the house, or more permanent. The reasons why a property may be exempt from council tax can include:

  • Empty houses or flats. Such a property needs to be unoccupied or mainly substantially unfurnished. This exemption is applicable for a maximum period of six months, with the property being vacant for the entire period (up to six weeks of occupation within this period is allowed)
  • Property that is vacant due to a need for major repairs or alterations to render it habitable. Exemption of this type is applicable for a maximum of 12 months whether work is finished or not by that time
  • Property that has been condemned is exempt from council tax.
  • Property that has been legally re-possessed by a mortgage lender is also exempt from council tax.
  • Property that is unoccupied as the occupant who lived there presently lives somewhere else due to a necessity for long-term care elsewhere.
  • Property that is unoccupied as the occupant has gone to had to go into care elsewhere.
  • Property that only students occupy. This could be a hall of residence, or a house
  • A caravan/ boat that is used as a main residence yet is unoccupied. Such an exemption lasts for up to six months. A holiday caravan/ boat is exempt given it is on a property where council tax is paid
  • Property inhabited entirely by people under the age of 18.
  • Property in which all inhabitants are seriously mentally impaired,
  • Property where the person living in a self-contained ‘granny flat’ is a dependent relative of the owner living in the main property.

In Scotland, the legislation regarding council tax exemption is slightly different, and the following properties may be exempt:

  • housing association ‘trial’ housing
  • agricultural dwellings that are unoccupied
  • buildings is owned by a registered social landlord and awaiting demolition
  • unoccupied property that is difficult to let separately.

Many people believe that they pay too much council tax, or that their property should be exempt. To find out whether your property could be exempt, contact your local authority of the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Who has to pay Council Tax

By law, the ‘liable person’ has to pay council tax for each property, although this is misleading, because in shared accommodation several people may be liable. For people under the age of 18, this does not apply.

Couples living together are both liable to pay, whether they are married, in cohabitation or living in a civil partnership. Although the liable person is usually whoever inhabits the property, in some instances it is the owner of the property who is liable.

This situation exists when:

  • the property is in multiple occupation, e.g., is a house shared between several different households who pay rent separately
  • those living at the property are all aged less than 18
  • the people living in the property are asylum seekers and are not able to claim benefits including council tax benefit
  • the people staying in the property are living there temporarily and have their main homes elsewhere
  • the property concerned is a care home, hostel, hospital, or women's refuge.

Should there just be one person living in a property they will be the liable person. Should there be more than one person living at the property, the system is called the hierarchy of liability and is used to work out who is the liable person. The person at the top, or nearest the top, is the liable person. Two people who are at the same point of the hierarchy are both liable.

In England the hierarchy of liability, as defined by the Government, is as follows:

  • The resident owner-occupier of the property who owns either the leasehold or freehold
  • a single resident tenant
  • a resident who lives in the property and who lives in the property but is not a tenant
  • any resident living in the property, with permission or not
  • an owner of the property where no one is resident

In Scotland, the hierarchy of liability is slightly different, and is defined by the government as:

  • a resident owning all or part of the property
  • a resident tenant of all or part of the property
  • a resident sub-tenant of all or part of the property
  • a resident without security of tenure
  • a non-resident owner of any part of the property unless there is a non-resident tenant or sub-tenant with a lease (or sub-lease) of six months or more.

How much does Council Tax cost?

The Council Tax rate is decided on every year by each local authority. The amount of council tax that you pay will depend on which valuation band your property falls into, and it is worth remembering that not everyone has to pay the full council tax amount.

The most common reasons for a discount in Council Tax are as follows:

Disabled person reduction scheme

The council tax bill for a property in which an adult or child lives with a sever disability may be reduced. In this instance, council tax can be reached by dropping the valuation bands to a lower level.

To demonstrate to the local authority that you are eligible for a council tax reduction, you need to show that the property meets the needs of the disabled person adequately.

To show this, your property may need:

  • an extra kitchen/ bathroom to meet a disabled person’s needs
  • another room, apart from a toilet, which is primarily used by a disabled person
  • enough indoor space for a disabled person to use a wheelchair

To apply for a council tax reduction, the property owner or person who is eligible for council tax should send a letter to their local authority, or in some cases fill in a special application form. Some local authorities require additional supporting evidence.

Discounted Council Tax rates

If an adult lives alone in a property, hw or she will be given a 25 per cent discount on the council tax bill. However, even if a person does not live alone, the other people in the house may not be counted for council tax. These people are known as disregarded people, and this group includes:

  • long-term hospital patients as well as care home residents
  • those living in a hostel that provides care or treatment due to person’s old age, physical/mental disability, past or present alcohol or drug dependence or past or present mental illness and in England bail or probation hostel
  • care workers and some live-in carers
  • those staying in a hostel/night shelter, e.g. in a Salvation Army or Church Army hostel
  • school/college leavers aged less that 20 who have left school or college after 30 April. They are treated as disregarded until 1 November of the same year whether or not they get a job
  • those aged 18 and those entitled to Child Benefit for them
  • members of religious communities
  • members of visiting armed forces and their dependants
  • those aged 17 or less than 17
  • those living temporarily in the property and for whom this property is not their normal home
  • prisoners/those in detention awaiting deportation/ under mental health legislation
  • people with severe mental impairments
  • full-time students who are on a qualifying course of education; this includes student nurses
  • a spouse, partner or a dependant of a student who is a non- British Citizen and who is not allowed under immigration rules, either to work in the UK or claim benefit
  • young people who are on government training schemes and certain apprentices

The discounted rate of council tax should be clearly stated by the local authority on your council tax bill. If you believe that you are eligible for a discount, and your bill shows that you do not have one, you should apply to the local authority as soon as possible.

If you have a discount, but think you are not eligible, contact the local authority as soon as possible, as this will be considered your fault and could attract a fine at a later date.

Holiday homes in England and Scotland

Many people in England and Scotland own holiday homes, and although these are eligible for council tax, most attract a discount of between 10 and 50% due to lack of permanent habitation.

Council Tax benefits and rebate scheme for second adults

Some people liable to pay Council Tax may be eligible for council tax benefit. For instance, should you have someone living with you who does not have to pay council tax, you can claim something called ‘second adult rebate.’ Check the specifics of this with your local authority.

Paying for Council Tax

Bills for council tax are sent out every April, and it is possible to pay by 10 monthly instalments. Some local authorities accept weekly or fortnightly payments, and others will give a discount if the amount is paid in full.

Payment methods inlude: at your local bank, post office or paying online at your local authority's website.

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