What Does Council Tax Pay For?

For so many people, council tax can seem like one of the great mysteries of the modern age. What is it? How does it work? What does it pay for? Why didn’t they teach us about this in school?

But regardless of any continuing confusion, if you rent or own a property, you’re likely to be facing council tax charges that can’t be ignored.

If you’re looking to make sense of the complex world of council tax, then you’re in luck; keep reading for an explanation of all the key details

What is council tax?

Council tax is a taxation system used in England, Scotland and Wales. It’s a tax for each household within a local area, issued by your local authority. 

Council tax is charged in relation to the approximate value of your property, as well as the number of people living in it. 

In England and Scotland, council tax is separated into 8 bands (A-H) and 9 in Wales (A-I). There are some properties and people that are exempt from council tax or are offered a reduction on their council tax payments.  

Ultimately, council tax payments are your direct contribution to the many services your local authority and council provide. It’s your way of paying for the privilege of living in a certain area and benefitting from its services and infrastructure.

Who controls council tax?

As the name might suggest, council tax is charged by your local council.  It’s usually covered through 10 monthly instalments, although some councils offer more flexible options for how frequently you pay. 

If you need to find out about your council tax, or have some more specific questions, then try going on the website of your local council; most authorities have a page or portal dedicated to council tax FAQs and management.

What does it pay for?

Crouch End area guide, property and houses

Council tax pays for a whole host of day-to-day services and infrastructure that most of us take for granted, including roads, libraries, rubbish collection and schools, as well as local public services such as the police and the fire brigade.

Council tax covers the maintenance of roads, transport and highway services, and the servicing of street lighting, cleaning and any necessary construction and repair works.

On top of basic services and infrastructure, council tax also covers the cost of leisure and sports centres, which are often kept to a high standard for local people to enjoy. 

Plus, council tax helps to ensure that your local businesses and organisations are keeping in line with environmental health and trading standards. 

Finally, council tax funds the administrative activities of your local authority, including record keeping of marriages, deaths, births and local elections.

Health services such as the NHS are not typically covered by council tax, but rather by general tax contributions.

Am I eligible for a council tax reduction or exemption?

It’s quite common for some people to get a reduction on their council tax, and you could be eligible for a reduction if you fall under any of the main criteria. 

You may be able to get a reduction on council tax if you are on a low income, or if you live alone or are the only adult in your home. You also might get a reduction if you currently receive certain benefits, if you or a person you live with is physically disabled or if you have a severe mental disability. 

There are a few other niche exemptions or reductions in relation to council tax payments: you can view the full list here.

Full exemption from council tax is currently available to full-time students in higher education. If, for instance, you live in a shared household where all members of the household are full-time students, you will be exempt from council tax. 

Making sense of council tax

You should now have a much clearer idea of what council tax is, how it works and what it pays for.

But if you’re still unsure of the finer details, then make sure to check out the government guidelines on council tax.

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