Most of us have no choice when paying Council Tax – but there are ways to make sure you aren’t paying too much.
Last week I received my annual Council Tax bill. It’s gone up – as I’m sure it has for many of you – largely to cover the cost of social care.
For my borough, it’s up by 4.3%, which works out as an extra £75 a year. At just £6.25 a month it’s not a huge amount for me, and I’m easily able to afford it. But I know not everyone will, so I thought it was a good opportunity to share with you ways you might be able to pay less, or at least make how you pay work better for you.
Your Council Tax pays for local services, so the amount you pay is set each year by your local council. It varies all over the country. There are eight ‘bands’ of council tax, all based upon the approximate value of the property in 1991. A is the lowest, H the highest.
Here’s how you might be able to pay less Council Tax:
1. You can get cashback from Santander or Natwest
There are three current accounts you can open which help you save on your Council Tax bill. Though these current accounts have fees, you generally make the money back on cashback from bills, including Council Tax as long as it’s paid by Direct Debit.
- The Santander 123 Current Account will give you 1% cashback on your Council Tax. The money is returned to your account which costs £5 a month. You also get up to 1.5% interest on savings. A cheaper “Lite” option gives the cashback but not the interest for £1 a month.
- The Natwest Rewards account will give you 3% and the fee is only £3. However, there’s no interest available.
You can read my comparison of the three accounts to see which I think is best.
2. There are discounts… if you’re eligible
To be fair, most of you won’t be able to cut the monthly rate unless you fit one of these exceptions:
- Living alone? In which case you’re able to get a 25% discount on the rate. If you’re the only adult but have children under 18 or not in education, then you qualify for the discount too as a sole adult.
- Students pay nothing if they’re in full-time education.
- If you are unemployed or meet other conditions, it’s possible to claim Council Tax Reduction payments.
- Got a second home? You might be able to get a discount too. It’s up to the local council, but if it’s furnished it’s possible to get up to 50%. If it’s empty for two years or more, they can charge more.
- If someone has passed away, there is no charge for six months.
- Disabled people who need a bigger house to accommodate space for wheelchairs or extra bathrooms can also get a cut.
You can read the full criteria for all of these on the government’s Council Tax website.
3. You can check to see if you’re paying too much
Use this government site to see what band houses around you are in. If it looks like houses around you are less, it might be worth appealing. The StreetCheck website is good to find out neighbouring postcodes.
You can also see what neighbouring houses are valued at, to help get a sense of whether yours is worth more or less. Zoopla is good for this.
If both look good, you can try to appeal. Be aware though that the council could also choose to raise your band – and how much you pay.
I’ve taken a look and most of the nearby houses are all on the same band, so it’s unlikely I’d be able to get it changed to a lower band.
4. You can pay Council Tax over 12 months if you’d prefer
Most Council Tax bills are set to be repaid over 10 months, meaning you don’t pay anything in February and March. For some this break gives a little breather after Christmas to pay off extra expenses.
I choose to spread the cost over 12 months instead of 10, so I know exactly what I’m paying each month. You need to ask your council to change this if you want to do the same.