IF money is tight, then every little saving counts – especially when it comes to knocking some cash off your council tax bill.
Households could see their council tax bill jump by up to 5% in April after the Treasury gave the green light for the tax hike in last year’s spending review.
It could push up bills for millions of families by over £100 a year.
If you’re worried that your cash won’t stretch that far, you might be able to apply for a reduction to your council tax bill. Here’s everything you need to know.
Who can get a council tax reduction?
You could be eligible for up to 100% off your council tax bill if you’re on a low income or on benefits, including Universal Credit.
But how much your bill could be slashed by depends on where you live, as each council runs its own tax reduction scheme.
How to check your council tax bill and whether it’s going up
LOCAL authorities will be able to increase council tax bills from April.
So you should be able to check then to see how much more you might be paying.
You can check on the gov.uk website to see how much your council tax is by looking at which band you’re in.
You might also want to ask your local council ahead of April to see whether they are planning a tax hike.
Some authorities, such as Bristol City Council, are holding consultations on how much extra people are willing to pay for their council tax bill – so you can have your say on whether paying more would be a struggle.
And others, such as Newcastle City Council, have announced that they’ll be cutting council tax bills for thousands of households instead.
It’s not clear exactly how local councils will alert you if you’ll have to pay more.
But we’ve asked the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for more information and will update you as soon as possible.
You can find your local council through the gov.uk website.
Other factors which will affect your discount includes your earnings, household income, the number of children you have and how many people live with you, whether you’re on benefits, and your residency status.
You may be able to get a council tax reduction in certain circumstances even if you’re not on a low income, Universal Credit or benefits.
Those living on their own can get 25% off their tax bill. This includes where one adult and one student are living together, or one adult and one person who is classed as severely mentally impaired.
If you live with someone who officially doesn’t have to pay council tax, such as a carer, or someone who is severely mentally impaired, you can get 50% off.
For the a full list of circumstances that exempt you from paying council tax can be found on Citizens Advice.
If you live in an all-student household you can get 100% off your council tax.
A full reduction is also possible in households where someone under 18 is living with someone who is severely mentally impaired.
How do I apply for a council tax reduction?
You can apply for a council tax reduction through Gov.uk.
There’s a different scheme you’ll need to apply to if you live in Northern Ireland.
You’ll need a few documents to hand when you’re applying for a discount.
Have your National Insurance card, bank statements, a recent payslip or a letter from the Jobcentre or Tax Credits showing your NI number, and a passport or driving licence at the ready.
If you live with other adults, then they may also have to provide documents showing their income, such as payslips.
You might also be able to get £150 off your council tax bill due to the coronavirus crisis.
The council tax hardship fund, which was first announced in March, is available to working-age people who get council tax support.
You’ll get the reduction through your local council.
What if I think I’m overpaying tax?
You might find that you’re already paying more for your council tax anyway even before the price hike, according to Martin Lewis.
The consumer guru urged Brits to check their council tax band last month to see if they’ve been paying more than they should be.
As many as 400,000 homes are potentially in the wrong council tax band.
Martin tweeted a guide on how to check if you’re paying the right amount.
The first step is to check what council tax band your neighbours are on – you can then see if it matches your band.
Finally, you’ll also need to work out how much your property was worth in 1991, as this is when council tax was launched by the government.
MoneySavingExpert has a free calculator tool to help you do this, as well as a table on what band you should have been put in.
If you want to go ahead with a challenge, you can contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) in England and Wales or the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) in Scotland.
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