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Over 10,000 people win a council tax reduction: how can you cut your bill?

How to check whether you're paying too much

More than a quarter of people who challenged their council tax band last year were successful and reduced their monthly bills, according to data released from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

Of the 40,260 people who disputed their council tax bands, 10,120 people had their council tax band reduced, meaning they’ll be charged less.

The numbers are drawn from claims made between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018 in relation to properties in England and Wales.

Which? explains how you can dispute your council tax band, and how much you could save.


How much could you save on your council tax bill?

The success rate of council tax challenges varies by region. In Greater London, just 850 of the 5,580 challenges made resulted in a decrease – meaning just 15% were successful.

In the South West, by contrast, around a third of the 4,900 challenges resulted in a lower bill.

Council tax rates vary depending on parish rates. Those who live in Bodmin, for instance, would have saved £434.66 a year if they were to have their council tax band reduced from band E to band D.

People living in a band H property in Nottingham currently pay one of the UK’s highest levels of council tax at £3,923 a year, meaning they could save £654 a year if their property were revalued to a band G.

According to the data, 20 people in Nottingham had their council tax band reduced last year.

How do council tax bands work?

Council tax bands are used as a way to separate how much council tax people pay, with the logic that those living in less valuable properties will pay less tax.

The bandings are calculated based on the property’s value at a specific point in time. This date is 1 April 1991 properties in England and Scotland, and 1 April 2003 for Wales.

In England and Scotland, properties are split into eight different bands from A to H. In Wales there’s a ninth ‘I’ band.

Northern Ireland uses a different domestic rates system, based on rental values. You can find out more about how the system works in our guide to council tax bands.

If your property is newly built, the VOA for England and Wales will assess it based on the property’s size, layout, character, location and change in use (if applicable).

If the property didn’t exist on the date the banding valuations are set, it will be compared to the same types of properties in the area that already have a council tax band.

  • Use our council tax calculator to find out how much local authorities are charging for each council tax band this year.

How do I appeal my council tax band?

There are certain grounds that the VOA deem acceptable for making a challenge to your council tax band. These include:

  • Changes being made to the property since its original valuation, such as part of it being demolished or converted into flats.
  • Incorrect changes being made to the valuation by the VOA, or changes not being made that have already been agreed.
  • Incorrect date of change by the VOA.
  • Changes to the property or the surrounding area that should be shown in the rateable value – eg long-term roadworks.
  • Property should be removed from, or added to, the rating list.
  • The valuation is wrong due to a legal decision on another similar property in the area.
  • The property details are wrong or incomplete.
  • The valuation was wrong when the rating list was first created.

If you want to challenge the original valuation of your property, you’ll have to persuade the VOA that a mistake was made on their part.

To do this, you should identify similar properties in your area and see if they are in a lower band than yours – you can do this on the VOA’s website.

You should also check the 1991 value of your home and compare this to the range for your current band.

Then, if you still think you’re in the wrong band, you need to contact your local valuation office and explain your reasoning.

If you want to make an appeal due to changes being made to your property – for example, it was initially valuated as a house but has since been made into flats – you should write to your local council explaining why you think your property is in the wrong tax band.

The council tax appeal process should take place as below:

To lodge a dispute, you can visit the Valuation Tribunal website.

In the year covered by the data, 1,650 appeals went to tribunal and were subsequently resolved.

A further 3,650 band reviews and 1,500 appeals were recorded as being unresolved, so the appeals process may have continued in these cases.

Could I end up paying more council tax?

It’s worth being aware that challenging your banding could backfire –  last year, 30 properties saw their council tax bands increased, meaning that residents would have to pay a higher rate of council tax.

If your property is put in a higher band, you could find yourself paying more expensive bills.

Your property could also go up a band if it has been extended or altered where planning permission has been required. In these cases, the new banding applies only when the property is sold to the next owner.

So, if you’re considering asking the VOA to reassess your property, remember that there could be a chance that you’ll end up paying more money.

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