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Council Tax Guide UK

This guide explains how Council Tax works and who has to pay it. There is further information about Council Tax discounts for students and disabled people. Find out whether your property is exempt from a Council tax bill.


You will need to know 3 basic pieces of information for working out your Council Tax bill:

1. The Council Tax valuation band for your property in England and Wales. (Contact the Scottish Assessors Association for Scotland).

2. The amount your local council charges for that tax band.

3. Whether you qualify for a discount, disregard, or exemption from the total bill.

You could also be eligible for Council Tax Reduction if you are on benefits or a low income. The new scheme replaced Council Tax Benefit in 2013.

Note: Use the Council Tax appeal process if you are challenging your Council Tax band. It is for those who think their home got placed in the wrong valuation band.

Reasons Your Council Tax Band Might Change

In some cases your property may get revalued and placed in a different tax banding. Your local Valuation Office Agency (VOA) can give more information about what property changes might affect your Council Tax band.

Some examples could be if:

  • You demolish some of your property and then decide not to rebuild it.
  • You alter your property and create 2 or more self-contained units. For example: building an annexe means each unit will have its own band.
  • You divide a single property into self-contained flats or you convert flats into a single property.
  • You start or stop working from a domestic home.
  • The previous owner made some changes to the property you now live in.
  • There are significant changes made in your local area (e.g. building a new road)
  • A similar property in your area gets its Council Tax band changed.

Note: You should contact your local VOA office if you keep horses. You may need to pay business rates on horse stables unless you use the horses for farming.

Who Has to Pay Council Tax?

Most people who are 18 or over and rent or own a home will have to pay Council Tax.

A full Council Tax bill gets based on there being at least two adults living in a home. Spouses and partners who live together are jointly responsible for paying the Council Tax bill.

You can get 25% deducted from your bill if you count as an adult for Council Tax and either:

  • You live on your own.
  • There is no-one else in your home who counts as an adult.

As a rule you get a Council Tax discount of 50% if no-one living in your home, including you, counts as an adult. No Council Tax is due if everyone in your home, including you, is a full-time student (see below).

Who Does Not Count as an Adult for Council Tax?

These groups of people do not get counted as adults for Council Tax purposes:

  • Children under 18 years old.
  • Teenagers of 18 and 19 who are in full-time education.
  • People enrolled on certain schemes as apprentices.
  • Full-time college and university students.
  • Young people under 25 who get funding from the Young People’s Learning Agency or Skills Funding Agency.
  • Student nurses.
  • Foreign language assistants who got registered with the British Council.
  • People with a severe mental impairment.
  • Most live-in carers who take care of someone (not their spouse, partner, or child under 18).
  • Diplomats.

Note: Your local council can give further guidance on discounts and who is responsible for paying full Council Tax.

People on an Apprentice Scheme

Those on an apprentice scheme need to show that they do not qualify as an adult for Council Tax. You will need a written declaration from your employer stating that:

  1. You will not get paid more than £195 a week.
  2. The training leads to a qualification accredited by a body recognised by either:
    1. The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual).
    2. The Scottish Vocational Education Council (SVEC).

What If You Get a Council Tax Discount by Mistake?

If you get a Council Tax discount by mistake you must inform your local council. Failing to notify them means you could get a hefty fine. The council may also ask you to repay the discounted amount.

Council Tax Discount for Students

You do not have to pay Council Tax if everyone in your household is a full-time student. You should apply for a Council Tax exemption if you do get a bill.

To qualify as a full-time student your education course must:

  1. Continue for at least 1 year.
  2. Involve a minimum of 21 hours study per week.

If you are under 20 and study for a qualification up to A level your course must:

  1. Continue for at least 3 months.
  2. Involve a minimum of 12 hours study per week.

If someone in your household is not a full-time student you will still get a Council Tax bill. But, your household may still qualify for a Council Tax discount.

Council Tax Discount for Disabled

People with a severe mental impairment are not included when working out Council Tax. The same exemption applies if you are a live-in carer taking care of someone providing they are not your spouse, partner, or child under 18.

Disabled Band Reduction Scheme

Do you live in a larger property than you would need if you or another occupant were not disabled? If so you may qualify for the Disabled Band Reduction Scheme.

To qualify you will have to show that you have either:

  1. An extra bathroom, kitchen, or other room that you need for a disabled person.
  2. Extra space inside the property for the use of a wheelchair.

The said property must be the principal domestic home of at least one disabled person. The disabled person can be an adult or a child. Note also that it does not have to be the person who is responsible for paying the Council Tax.

Second Homes and Empty Properties

Having a second home, or an empty property, means you may qualify for a Council Tax discount. But, it is your local council who makes the decision. In fact, councils can charge extra Council Tax on empty properties.

Second Home

In most cases you pay less Council Tax on a property that you own or rent if it is not your main home.

Local authorities can give up to 50% discount on furnished holiday homes or second homes. Your regional council will give you more information about getting a discount.

Empty Property

As a rule Council Tax is due even on an empty home. But, you may get a concession from your council. They also determine the amount of discount, if any, on empty properties.

If your home is empty for 2 years or more you may get charged up to 50% extra in Council Tax. Exceptions apply for people in the armed forces and if the empty space in an annexe.

Note: Different rules apply for Council Tax discounts, exemptions, and reductions in Scotland.

When You Do Not Pay Council Tax

There are special rules when you sell an empty property on behalf of an owner who has since died. In this case you start paying Council Tax 6 months after you get probate.

There are some homes that do not get a Council Tax bill even when they stay unoccupied. These situations include homes:

  • Of someone who is in prison (unless for not paying Council Tax or a fine).
  • Of someone who got placed into a care home or a hospital for treatment.
  • That got repossessed.
  • That are unfit for living in by law (such as derelict properties).
  • That are empty because of a compulsory purchase and will get demolished.

Note: A discount may occur if your home undergoes major repair work or structural changes. An example could be while house walls are being rebuilt.

Completion Notice for Refurbished Properties

The council will inform you when you must begin paying Council Tax. It will follow situations where you carry out major home improvements. This applies to an empty property or when building a new property.

You will receive a ‘completion notice‘ which informs you the date you must begin paying Council Tax.

Derelict Properties

A property gets considered as derelict only if it:

  1. Is not possible to live inside it. Examples include when it got damaged by rot, severe weather, or vandalism.
  2. Needs significant structural works to make it ‘wind and watertight’ for habitation.

You can apply to remove a derelict property from the Council Tax valuation list. You should follow the process for making a formal challenge to the Valuation Office Agency.

Paying Your Council Tax Bill

There are 3 main things your Council Tax bill shows you:

  1. The total amount you have to pay for the year.
  2. How that amount got calculated.
  3. The dates when you must pay.

As a rule the cost of Council Tax gets split into 10 monthly payments. Always contact your council without delay if you have trouble paying the bill.

They can often help you repay any Council Tax arrears if you have them. They may spread your payments over 12 month installments instead of 10. If you see CR on your bill it stands for credit (e.g. a discount reducing the amount you have to pay).

Note: If you fall behind with your payments the council can take action to reclaim any debts you owe.

Ways to Pay Council Tax

Your Council Tax bill shows you which payment methods you can use. As a rule you can pay Council Tax online using the government facility.

In most cases you can also pay using ‘Paypoint’, ‘Payzone’ or ‘Quickcards’ for cash payments. You can pay at banks, post offices, newsagents, and many large convenience stores.

What If You Have Overpaid Council Tax?

If you overpay your Council Tax you should contact your local council if you do not get an automatic refund.

Council Tax Guide and Information for the United Kingdom