When are council tax bills reduced?
Council tax bills are determined by the property's council tax band, combined with the amount of money your local council needs to raise that year for local services.
Some people are exempt from paying council tax. But even if you're liable to pay, you might be able to decrease your bill in certain circumstances.
You may qualify for discounts (single person or second home), or reductions for low-income earners or for people falling under the disabilities scheme.
Use our 2018 council tax calculator to see how much your local authority charges for each council tax band.
Can I claim a single-person council tax 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 25% - known as the single-person discount.
Some people are not counted as a second resident for the purposes of council tax, even if they live in the property.
You may qualify for a single-person discount if you share your home with one of the following people:
- 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
- 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 do I apply for a council tax discount?
If you think you are eligible for a single-person discount, write to your council when you receive a council tax bill.
Your council will ask you to provide supporting evidence. It must then inform you whether it's decided to grant you a reduction within two months.
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.
Find out more: Disputing a council tax bill
What is the second-home council tax discount?
Councils may give discounts for furnished second homes or holiday homes. The discount will vary, depending on why you have a second home.
Most holiday-home owners get a 10% discount on council tax.
Other people, such as tenant publicans or members of the clergy who are provided with accommodation as part of their work, may qualify for a 50% discount on their second home.
You will need to pay full council tax on the property that is your main home, and apply for the discount in the local authority of your second home.
Do I have to pay council tax on empty properties?
Councils can give a discount of up to 50% for homes that have been empty and unfurnished for certain periods.
However, councils also have the power to charge a premium if a home has been empty for long stretches.
Currently the cap on the surcharge is 50% if your home has been empty for two years or more in England or one year in Wales.
But this cap is set to rise - the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in his Autumn Budget that local authorities will be able to impose a surcharge of up to 100% from April 2018 to encourage owners to bring their properties back into use.
In Scotland, you'll may already need to pay a 100% premium if your home is unoccupied for 12 months.
What is the 'disabled band reduction 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, or extra space inside the property for using a wheelchair.
Households that are eligible get a one-band reduction in their council tax bill. The property must be home to at least one disabled person – either an adult or a child.
To apply for a reduction under the scheme, write to your council and ask for an application form.
Is there a council tax reduction for low income earners?
If you're on a low income, you may eligible for a council tax reduction of up to 100%.
Council tax reduction (also known as council tax support) 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.
Each local authority has different criteria for who is eligible to claim council tax reduction. The size of the rebate depends on your income, your savings and whether you live alone or with other adults in the same property.
To find out whether you're eligible for a reduction, contact your local authority.
Council tax: can I get a second adult rebate?
If you're not eligible for council tax reduction, but you share your home with a second adult who has a low income (and is not your spouse or civil partner), you may be able to claim a second adult rebate.
If you qualify for both council tax reduction and a second adult rebate, your local authority should award you the higher amount.