personal finance

Paying too much council tax? Check your council tax band

Could council tax rebanding help you?

Do you know whether you are paying too much council tax each year?

Each property – whether a house or flat – is placed into a council tax band which determines the level of council tax charged.

Council tax bands are a matter of public record. You can check the banding for your home – and in fact, any address you like – and apply for council tax rebanding.

Am I paying too much council tax?

Over the years, it has come to light that many households have been wrongly banded along the way, prompting many people to question their own banding.

There is a seemingly arbitrary and secret way in which council tax rates are decided. A rule of thumb is that unless there is something unique about your property, it will be in the same tax band as your neighbours’ homes, and an appeal to be placed in a cheaper council tax band is unlikely to succeed.

However, homes are forever being extended and improved, which means houses on a street are not necessarily the same.

What benefits could you be eligible for?

Check your council tax band

You can check the council tax band for your property on this government website: Check your Council Tax band – all you need is your full address. 

The council tax band of every house in England and Wales is listed on the Valuation Office Agency  – or, in Scotland, the website of the Scottish Assessors Association

Once you know which band your house is in, check that of neighbours with similar-sized properties. You will need to know how much your house was worth back in 1991, the year on which council tax banding is based, for those in England. In Wales properties are banded based on 2003 numbers.

Check out house prices on property websites such as Zoopla and Rightmove that provide free historic sales information.

Use our equity release calculator to see how much money you could potentially release from your property…

Challenge your council tax band

To challenge your council tax banding, write to your local listing officer at the Valuation Office Agency or fill in a form on its website.

If your challenge is rejected, you have three months to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal. If you win, you will get a sum backdated to your first payment for that property.

Find out about challenging parking tickets

A few words of caution when challenging council tax banding

Watch out for doorstep salesman who might offer to take on the task on your behalf. Why pay someone, when you can do it yourself, free of charge, direct with the Valuations Office Agency?

If it agrees your band is wrong, the council will change your council tax band and will then update your tax bill. Any previous overpayments will be refunded.

Many people get told they can’t challenge their banding, as they’ve lived in the property more than six months. Ignore this, as the Local Listings Office has a legal obligation to ensure all properties’ bands are correct.

And remember, your council tax band can be moved up as well as down, so it could work against you and cost you extra each year. 

Equally, it could draw attention to the fact your neighbours are not in the correct band and they will end up paying more as a result of your enquiries.

Read our guide to beating nuisance callers

An end to council tax?

Your 2018-19 council tax bill may have been a bit of a shock, says Paul Lewis. A think-tank, the Resolution Foundation, has called it a dog’s dinner and says it is very unfair. People in Purbeck, Dorset pay a maximum of £3,747, while those who live in much more valuable homes in the London Borough of Wandsworth cannot pay more than £1,433.

The Foundation wants council tax replaced by a levy on the current value of a property. It reckons an annual charge of 0.5% of the value of each home would raise more money and be fairer. A £100,000 home in Newcastle would be charged £500 a year, a similar-sized home in London worth £1 million would be taxed at £5,000. Do not expect change soon. It would require a major commitment from a government with a big majority.

Next article: Can you beat the rising TV costs?  >>>

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