How are council tax bands worked out?
Your council tax band determines how much council tax you pay.
It's calculated based on the value of your property at a specific point in time. For instance, in England your council tax band is based on what the value of your property would have been on 1 April 1991.
Council tax bands are calculated differently in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – we explain the bands for each below.
If you don't think your property has been valued correctly, you can dispute your council tax bill.
Properties in England are put into one of eight bands (A-H), depending on the price they would have sold for in April 1991.
The valuation band ranges for England are as follows:
|Council tax band||Ranges of value|
|A||Up to £40,000|
|H||More than £320,000|
Use our council tax calculator 2021 to see how much your local authority charges for each council tax band.
Council tax bands in Scotland
Properties in Scotland are also put into one of eight bands (A-H), based on their value in April 1991. But the band ranges are different than those in England.
The valuation band ranges for Scotland are as follows:
|Council tax band||Ranges of value|
|A||Up to £27,000|
|H||More than £212,000|
Council tax bands in Wales
Properties in Wales were revalued in 2003, meaning council tax bands are based on their market value on 1 April 2003.
There are nine valuation bands (A-I), which are as follows:
|Council tax band||Ranges of value|
|A||Up to £44,000|
|I||More than £424,000|
Domestic rates in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland did not switch to council tax in the 1990s, but kept the old system of domestic rates. These are based on rental values.
In 2007, Northern Ireland changed to a modified system of domestic rates, based on the capital value of individual properties.
Domestic rates are worked out by multiplying the rateable capital value of your property by the domestic regional rate and domestic district rate added together. This gives the ‘domestic rate poundage’ for your council area.
The rateable capital value is specific to your home. The domestic regional rate is the amount of pence in every pound you pay to the Assembly for regional services.
The domestic district rate is the amount of pence in every pound you pay to your District council for local services.
As an example, if the capital value of your home is £80,000 and you live in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council area, your calculation would be: £80,000 x 0.009081 = £726.48.
Here are the Northern Ireland domestic rate poundage levels for each council area in 2021-22:
|Council area||Total domestic rate poundage|
|Antrim and Newtownabbey||0.008223|
|Ards and North Down||0.008095|
|Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon||0.009081|
|Causeway Coast & Glens||0.008563|
|Derry City & Strabane||0.009677|
|Fermanagh & Omagh||0.008292|
|Lisburn & Castlereagh||0.007732|
|Mid & East Antrim||0.008988|
|Newry, Mourne and Down||0.008641|
|Source: finance-ni.gov.uk. Correct as of May 2021.|
How is a new property given a council tax band?
If your property is newly built, the Valuation Office Agency for England and Wales (VOA) will automatically assess it in order to place it in a council tax band. For properties in Scotland, this is done by the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA).
The assessments are based on the property’s:
- Change in use (if applicable)
- Value on a certain date – depending on its location (eg 1 April 1991 in England or 1 April 2003 in Wales).
If your property didn’t exist in 1991 (or 2003 in Wales), it will be compared to the same types of properties in the area.
Reasons for a council tax band challenge
The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) for England and Wales deems the following reasons acceptable for making a challenge:
- There have been changes to your property since the original valuation, such as part of it being demolished, or if it has been converted into flats.
- A change made to the valuation by the VOA is wrong or hasn't been made.
- The date of a change made by the VOA is wrong.
- There's been a change to the property or surrounding area that should be shown in the rateable value.
- A property should be removed from, or added to, the rating list.
- The valuation is wrong due to a legal decision on another property.
- The property details are wrong or incomplete.
- The valuation was wrong when the rating list was created (more on this below).
You can’t usually make a challenge on the same grounds more than once, although it can be possible if it has a different effective date.
For example, if nearby long-term roadworks have affected the rateable value of your property, you can submit one challenge for works that started on 31 December 2020, and a new challenge for roadworks starting on a different date.
How to challenge your council tax band
There are instances where people think their property has been put into the wrong council tax band.
If there have been changes to the property, such as being converted into flats, you can request a revaluation from the VOA or SAA. Be aware that changing your home’s valuation could result in a higher council tax bill if your property is put in a higher band.
If you think there was a mistake in the original valuation of your property, you can request a band review from your local valuation office. You’ll need to explain to them why you think your banding is wrong.
If you want to make a challenge to your council tax band, you should follow these steps:
Step 1: check with your neighbours
If nearby properties are around the same size, age and style as yours, you should be in the same council tax band as them. If you know your neighbours well, you could ask them about it. If not, the VOA and SAA websites should hold this information.
Step 2: check your property's value
As your council tax band is based on your property's value in 1991 in England and Scotland, or 2003 in Wales, you'll need to find this out to gauge whether or not you should make a challeng, even if the property didn't exist at the time.
To find out its current value, check house price websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla which offer free historic sales prices information. Note down the most recent sales price and date of similar properties to yours in your street.
You can use this to estimate what your property would have been worth in 1991 or 2003 by using tools such as the Nationwide House Price Calculator.
With this estimated property price, you can roughly see which band your property would have been placed in, according to the bands below:
|Band||Council tax bands in England on 1 April 1991||Council tax bands in Scotland on 1 April 1991||Council tax bands in Wales on 1 April 2003|
|A||up to £40,000||Up to £27,000||up to £44,000|
|B||£40,001 to £52,000||£27,001 to £35,000||£44,001 to £65,000|
|C||£52,001 to £68,000||£35,001 to £45,000||£65,001 to £91,000|
|D||£68,001 to £88,000||£45,001 to £58,000||£91,001 to £123,000|
|E||£88,001 to £120,000||£58,001 to £80,000||£123,001 to £162,000|
|F||£120,001 to £160,000||£80,001 to £106,000||£162,001 to £223,000|
|G||£160,001 to £320,000||£106,001 to £212,000||£223,001 to £324,000|
|H||more than £320,000||more than £212,000||£324,001 to £424,000|
|I||n/a||n/a||more than £424,000|
Source: gov.uk; saa.gov.uk
Step 3: make a challenge
If, after working through the steps above, you're still sure your property is in the wrong band, it's time to make a challenge.
If you think the original valuation was wrong, you should go directly to the VOA or SAA and ask for a band review. State your case, explaining the checks you've carried out in steps 1 and 2 above, and why you think your property is in the wrong band.
If you think your band has changed since its initial valuation, you should write to your local council and explain why you think the band should be changed. The council will either accept or reject this claim. If it's rejected, you can make an appeal to the valuation tribunal – follow the steps outlined in our guide on how to get a council tax refund.
Property improvements won't increase your council tax, but your band may change if the property is sold or the subject of a new lease for more than seven years. In these cases, your council tax band would be reviewed by the VOA or SAA and may increase.
Before buying a new home, it's worth checking the VOA's council tax list to see if it's pending a band review. The list includes all properties that are known to have been improved.
Video: how to challenge your council tax band
Watch our short video below to find out how council tax bands work, and what you can do if you think your property is in the wrong council tax band.
What about the council tax I've overpaid?
If your challenge finds that your property has incorrectly been put in a higher band, not only will your council tax bills be lowered in the future, but your council will refund you the money you've overpaid.
This should be backdated to whenever you began paying for the wrong band; usually when you moved into the property.
Repayments will be backdated to 1993 at most, as this is when council tax payments were first introduced.
Can I get a council tax discount?
If you can't change your property's council tax band, another way to reduce your council tax bill is to apply for a discount.
Many types of people are eligible for a council tax discount, including full-time students, who usually pay no council tax at all, and people living in a property by themselves, who receive a 25% discount.
Our guide provides an extensive list on who is eligible for a council tax discount, and how to apply for one.