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How to get a council tax refund

Find out how to make an appeal against your council tax bill and the process for reclaiming overpaid council tax

In this article
Council tax rebate 2022 What is a council tax appeal? Can I make a council tax appeal?
Step-by-step: how to make a council tax appeal  How to reclaim overpaid council tax

Council tax rebate 2022

In April 2022, thousands of households are set to receive council tax rebates to offset the rising costs of energy. 

In England, those living in council tax bands A to D will receive a £150 council tax rebate, which will not need to be repaid. Those who don't qualify may benefit from the £144m discretionary fund for local authorities to give to vulnerable residents and those with low incomes.

In Scotland, £150 will go to those who are part of the council tax reduction scheme, plus anyone in Scottish council tax bands A to D.

In Wales, £150 will be paid immediately to those in council tax bands A to D, and those who are part of the council tax reduction scheme.

You can find out more in our dedicated news story, plus our tips from across Which? on how to ease the squeeze during the cost of living crisis.

What is a council tax appeal?

Sometimes, you might receive a council tax bill that you don't believe is fair or accurate.

If this is the case, you might be able to appeal it. If you're successful, this would mean your council tax bills would be reduced – and you may even get a refund for the overpaid council tax you've already paid. 

We explain the process for making a council tax appeal below. 


Can I make a council tax appeal?

You can lodge an appeal if you think your bill is incorrect.

Inaccuracies can include not being given a discount that should apply, or if you are being sent bills but are not the person liable to pay council tax – for example, if you are a landlord and your tenants should be paying council tax.

You can also make an appeal if you think your property has been placed in the wrong council tax band, and if you think you've been unfairly issued with a penalty notice.

Finally, you might be able to make an appeal if your home should be an exempt dwelling – ie it's occupied exclusively by full-time students or is armed-forces accommodation etc.

You can’t appeal just because you think your council tax bill is too expensive. Our guide to paying council tax can help if you're struggling to pay your bill.

Step-by-step: how to make a council tax appeal 

Step 1: Check your council tax bill

Your council should send your bill for the year in writing through the post.

You can check it by entering your postcode into our council tax calculator. This tool can also help you see what's being paid by those in other postcodes and different council tax bands.

If you think you might be eligible for a council tax reduction or exemption, check our guide to reducing your council tax bill.

Step 2: Write to your local council

If you're sure you want to appeal your bill, you should write to your local council to explain why you think it's incorrect. This is called the 'representations stage'. 

You should try to include as much detail as possible, and any supporting evidence that you think will help your case.

Relevant evidence will depend on what you're appealing. If, for instance, you're appealing being turned down for a council tax discount, you may want to submit documents that prove the circumstances you believe entitle you to a discount. 

Your council usually has two months to respond. 

If it rules in your favour, your council will adjust your council tax bill and monthly payments accordingly. 

If it rejects your appeal, or doesn't respond in two months, you can go on to step 3.

Step 3: Appeal to the valuation tribunal service

If your council did not give a response you're satisfied with, you can apply in writing to the valuation tribunal service to request a review – you can visit its website here.

After reviewing the information from both you and your local council, the valuation tribunal service may ask you to appear at a court hearing to settle the case. There is no charge for this, unless you decide to employ a solicitor or legal representative. 

The tribunal shouldn't take any longer than a day. 

The outcome from this will either be that the case is ruled in your favour, and your local council will be told to change your council tax bill, or that you do not have grounds to change your bill, in which case it will remain as it is. 

How to reclaim overpaid council tax

There are several reasons why you might have overpaid your council tax.

The first is that most people pay for their council tax in advance; a year's council tax is often split into 10 instalments, so if you've paid up to April but move out earlier in the year, your council tax account will be left in credit.

Most councils will give automatic refunds before closing your account, but not all of them. 

Another reason is forgetting to cancel a direct debit or standing order after you've moved out of the property.

You may also be due a refund if your property has been moved to a lower council tax band after you've moved out of it. 

To find out if you're owed money, see if the local council in question has a council tax refund form on its website. You may need to provide your old council tax reference number, which should be on any old bills or email correspondence. 

If there's no online form, or you don't have your council tax reference number, try calling or email the council instead. You'll need to give your name, old address and may be asked some security questions to check your identity.