Reducing your council tax bill

Council tax

Reducing your council tax bill

By Joe Elvin

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Reducing your council tax bill

There are many types of people who are eligible for a council tax discount. Read our guide to find out if you're one of them.  

Although council tax bills are based on property values, they are sometimes reduced, depending on the circumstances of the person responsible for paying. 

The main reasons for a reduction are discounts (single person or second home), council tax benefit and the Reductions for disabilities scheme.

This guide explains who might be eligible for a council tax reduction and how to apply for one. 

Find out more: 30 ways to save on tax - reduce your tax bill even further

Council tax: single-person discount

Council tax bills are based on the assumption that two adults occupy the property as their main home. If it's occupied by only one resident, the bill is reduced by a single person's discount of 25%.

Some people are not counted as a second resident, even if they live in the property. You can still get a single person's discount if you share your home with one of the following:

  • an apprentice studying for a recognised qualification
  • a young person (under 25) in approved training
  • a full-time student (attending university or college, or under the age of 20 and studying A levels or their equivalent)
  • an 18 or 19-year-old in full-time education
  • a student nurse
  • resident hospital patients
  • people living in care homes
  • people who are severely mentally impaired
  • people staying in hostels or night shelters
  • carers (providing at least 35 hours' care a week) if they are not the main resident’s husband, wife or civil partner
  • prisoners
  • monks and nuns
  • members of visiting forces
  • individuals with diplomatic privileges and immunities.

Find out more: paying council tax - how to change your details 

How to apply for a council tax reduction

To apply for a single person’s discount, if you have not been given one and think you are eligible, write to your council when you receive a council tax bill. 

It can ask you for supporting evidence and has two months to make a decision. 

If you disagree with the council’s verdict, you can appeal to a valuation tribunal. For the address of the tribunal, contact your council or visit the Valuation Tribunal Service website.

Second-home discount

Councils also give discounts for furnished second homes or holiday homes. These vary, depending on the reason you have a second home. 

Most holiday-home owners get a 10% discount but some people, such as tenant publicans or members of the clergy who are provided with accommodation as part of their work, qualify for a 50% discount on their second home.

Councils can also give a discount for homes that have been empty and unfurnished for longer than six months. This varies from 50% to 10%, and has recently been reduced by some councils.

Find out more: capital gains tax explained - learn what you need to pay if you sell a second property

Reduction for disabilities scheme

Your council tax bill may be reduced if your home has features that are essential for the wellbeing of a person with a disability who lives there. These may include an additional bathroom or specially adapted kitchen. 

Households that are eligible get a one-band reduction in their council tax bill. 

To apply for a reduction under the scheme, write to your council and ask for an application form.

Council tax benefit

Council tax benefit is paid as a rebate on your council tax bill. It is designed to help those with low incomes and little savings, who would otherwise be unable to pay council tax.

You are eligible to claim council tax benefit if you are responsible for paying council tax for the property you live in and are getting income support, jobseeker's allowance or the guarantee element of pension credit. 

Council tax rebates for low income earners

You might also be eligible if you are in full-time employment, or are self-employed, but have a low income. The size of rebate depends on your income, your savings and whether you live alone or with other adults in the same property. In some cases you could get a 100% rebate.

Councils may also award a second adult rebate for those who share their home with a second adult who has a low income and is not their spouse or civil partner.

Claiming a council tax benefit

To claim council tax benefit, get an application form from your local council offices. If you claim pension credit, income support or jobseeker’s allowance you will automatically get a council tax benefit claim form.

Find out more: Department for Work and Pensions website - more information on claiming council tax benefit

  • Last updated: April 2016
  • Updated by: Joe Elvin