The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has indicated that he will back local authorities which decide to end council tax discounts for second home owners and empty properties from April 2013.
Second home council tax discount scrapped
At the moment, second home owners receive a discount on council tax of between 10% and 50%. From April 2013, many councils propose to abolish this and charge absentee owners the full rate. The move is a fund raising device adopted as councils take responsibility for council tax benefit. An estimated 255,000 properties in England and Wales could be affected.
When asked in a television interview why councils should not charge second home owners the full rate, Mr Pickles responded: ‘Why not indeed? That’s why we’ve given it for local authorities to decide.’
Empty properties no longer exempt from council tax
Councils are also proposing to end the council tax exemption enjoyed by the owners of empty properties. At the moment this lasts for the first six months, and the tax is discounted by up to 50% thereafter. Around 259,000 ‘long-term empty’ properties fall into this category. Some councils propose a higher rate of council tax for these properties- up to 150%, if they are left empty for over two years.
Cash-strapped councils may levy higher charges on second homes but the 25% discount given to single occupants will not be altered.