Council Tax is a local tax and only applies to England, Wales and Scotland - the information below relates to those nations.
In Northern Ireland rates are payable and you may be able to get help through Housing Benefit (Rate Rebate).
There are different ways in which you may be able to get help with your Council Tax bill and some people may be eligible for more than one type of help:
- The property itself may be exempt from Council Tax, or
- You may get a discount on the Council Tax bill if residents within the property fall into certain categories, and/or
- You may qualify for the disability reduction scheme if space within the property is used in a certain way, and/or
- You may qualify for Council Tax Reduction if your income is relatively low and your savings are not more than ¬£16,000. Even if your savings are more than ¬£16,000, you will still qualify if you qualify for Pension Credit Guarantee Credit.
- You may be able to apply for help towards your Council Tax bill through your local authority's discretionary funds.
There are a variety of ways in which properties can be exempt from Council Tax; the following are particularly relevant for carers and those for whom they are caring:
- If you have left the property empty for the purpose of receiving or providing personal care due to old age, disablement, illness, past or present alcohol or drug dependence, or past or present mental disorder.
- If the property is wholly occupied by a person (or persons) who is severely mentally impaired and no one else could be liable.
- If the property has been left empty by persons now resident in a hospital, a care home or a hostel where personal care is provided.
- (In England and Wales only) where there are at least two properties (self contained units) within a single property and one occupant is a 'dependent relative' of someone resident in another part of the property. The exemption applies to the part of the property where the dependent relative is resident and that dependent relative must be aged 65 or over, severely mentally impaired or 'substantially and permanently disabled'.
Council Tax is paid at a flat rate regardless of how many people live in the property. However, if only one person or no-one lives in the property (or is treated as such) a discount can be applied to the bill. There are a number of people who are 'disregarded' (treated as not living in the property) when it comes to calculating Council Tax.
If, after taking into account disregarded people, there is only one resident in the property who would 'count' for Council Tax a 25% reduction is applied to the bill
If, after taking into account disregarded people, there are no residents who would count for Council Tax a 50% reduction is applied to the bill
To be 'disregarded' as a carer, you must:
- provide care for at least 35 hours a week, and
- live in the same property as the person you are caring for, and
- not be the spouse or partner of the person you care for, or their parent if you care for a child under 18, and
- the person you care for must receive either the middle or highest rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance, the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (either rate), Attendance Allowance (either rate) or Constant Attendance Allowance.
You do not have to claim Carer's Allowance to qualify for this discount, and your income and savings will not affect your eligibility. If there is more than one carer in the property, they can both be ignored for Council Tax purposes as long as they both meet the conditions.
Other categories of people who are disregarded for Council Tax include the following:
- A person who is 'severely mentally impaired'. A person is considered 'severely mentally impaired' if s/he has a severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning and this impairment appears to be permanent. To qualify for the discount s/he will need a certificate from a registered medical practitioner confirming this and s/he must be entitled to one of a number of specified benefits which include the middle or highest rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance, the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (either rate), Attendance Allowance (either rate), Constant Attendance Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Income Support where a disability premium is included.
- Anyone under the age of 18 or up to 19 if Child Benefit is still in payment.
- Full time students.
1. Fred and Jean are liable for Council Tax on the property in which they live. Jean's mother, Alice, who lives with the couple is suffering from dementia and is receiving the higher rate of Attendance Allowance. Jean cares for her for at least 35 hours a week. Fred also cares for Alice for 35 hours a week, during weekends and before and after his paid work. The only other person in the household is Fred and Jean's 15 year old son, Bob.
All the residents in this property can be disregarded so the Council Tax discount is 50%.
NB. It doesn't matter whether or not Fred or Jean receive Carer's Allowance.
2. Bill spends 35 hours a week looking after his son, Adam, who is 23, has severe learning disabilities and receives the highest rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance. Bill's mother Jenny also lives in the house but does not spend 35 hours a week looking after Adam.
Bill and Adam are disregarded but not Jenny, so the Council Tax discount is 25%.
You may be able to get a reduction in Council Tax under the disability reduction scheme if anyone resident in the property (adult or child) is 'substantially and permanently disabled'. In addition, one of the following conditions has to be met:
- there is an additional bathroom or kitchen in the property which is needed by the disabled person or
- there is a room (other than a bathroom, kitchen or toilet) needed by and mainly used by the disabled person or
- there is enough space in the property for the disabled person to use a wheelchair indoors
There is no general test of who is considered 'substantially and permanently disabled'. Cases have clarified that if an extra room is required it means that it is additional, ie it would not be required for the relevant purpose if the person were not disabled.
A disability reduction will mean that the Council Tax bill is reduced to the amount payable for a home in the valuation band below yours. If you are in the lowest band already (Band A) you get a reduction of one sixth of the bill.
Mina has a home which is placed in Council Tax Band C. She has to pay ¬£800 a year. She qualifies for a disability reduction because there is an additional bathroom in the home which is required by her disabled mother. So Mina is placed in Band B, paying only ¬£500 a year.
Some local authorities are setting up their own local discretionary funds for Council Tax. You may be able to apply for help towards your Council Tax bill through this fund although this will be a limited pot of money. Contact your local council to find out if they are offering a fund such asthis. It may be given a different name such as a Resident Support Scheme or Hardship Fund.
How to apply for Council Tax exemption, discount and/or disability reduction
You should check your Council Tax bill to see if these have already been awarded and, if not, should contact your local authority as quickly as possible to ask for them to be applied. Your local authority may have special forms which you will need to complete and you will need to provide appropriate evidence.
Backdating council tax exemption, discounts and disability reduction
Council Tax exemption, discounts and disability reduction can be backdated to the date you should have received them (as far as April 1st 1993 when Council Tax was introduced) but you will need to produce evidence of eligibility for previous years. You do not have to show any reason for failing to apply earlier. If your local authority insists on this you should consider appealing agains the decision (see below).
Failing to report a change in circumstances which affects your Council Tax liability
You are obliged to promptly report changes in circumstances which affect your entitlement to an exemption, discount or disability reduction. If you fail to do so, the local authority may impose a penalty.
What to do if refused an exemption, discount or disability reduction
You can appeal most of these decisions by writing to the Local Authority and you should expect a reply from them within two months. If this appeal is also refused (or they do not reply within two months) you have two months to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal in England and Wales, or the Valuation Appeal Committee (via your local council) in Scotland.
The Valuation Tribunal/Appeal Committee hearings are relatively informal, free of charge and held at different venues across the country.
Some decisons about property exemption cannot be dealt with by the Tribunal and you may need legal advice.
Local Authorities often fail to understand the various types of help with Council Tax they are obliged by law to offer and their written or online information can be confusing. You may need to be persistent with your appeal.
Factsheet: Help with Council Tax