Key Council Tax Information Revealed

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We explore the most important Council Tax rules and where in England, Scotland and Wales has the cheapest and most expensive Council Tax.

The rules surrounding Council Tax in the UK are a minefield of information so here at Mashroom we want to make all the rules as simple as possible to understand.

Check out our Council Tax map to see how where you live measures up against the rest of the country.

What is Council Tax exactly and what is it used for?

Council Tax is the money you are required to pay to your Local Council and is different depending on the Council, the money then goes towards funding local services. 

The local services that are funded by your Council Tax include but are not limited to police and fire services, leisure and recreation projects, libraries and education services, rubbish and waste collection, transport services, street lighting and cleaning, road maintenance, environmental health and administration and record-keeping.

It is important to note that your Council Tax isn’t used to pay for health services.

What are Valuation Bands?

All properties in the UK are given a Council Tax valuation band by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) which is based on the value of your home on the 1st of April 1991The amount of Council Tax you will pay depends on the band.

The valuation bands are:

Valuation BandRange of Values
AUp to £40,000
BOver £40,000 and up to £52,000
COver £52,000 and up to £68,000
DOver £68,000 and up to £88,000
EOver £88,000 and up to £120,000
FOver £120,000 and up to £160,000
GOver £160,000 and up to £320,000
HOver £320,000

What happens if you don’t pay your Council Tax?

Not paying your Council Tax and ignoring letters you receive about not paying can become a serious problem.

The first letter you’ll receive is a reminder from the Council that your Council Tax is late by two weeks. If you pay the Council Tax you owe within seven days, there’s nothing else you need to do.

However, if you don’t pay within seven days of the letter, the Council can then send you a ‘final notice’. If you don’t pay within seven days of when you receive the final notice, your Council will then apply to the courts for authorisation to collect the debt directly from you which is known as a ‘liability order’.

If failing to do this, the Council can then get your employer to pay the Council Tax directly from your salary. They can also take money from your benefits if you are claiming any, such as Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit and Universal Credit.

If this isn’t possible, the Council may even send a bailiff to your home. You’ll also be required to pay any court fees and bailiff costs on top of the debt you owe.

If you live in England, it’s possible to get a prison sentence for not paying your Council Tax.

Where are the cheapest areas in the UK for Council Tax?

The analysis shows the cheapest areas for Band A Council Tax in the UK per year (amounts have been averaged, where there are multiple parishes): 

Westminster, London (South East of England)£551.71
Wandsworth, London (South East of England)£559.41
City of London (South East of England)£699.62
Pembrokeshire (South West of Wales)£793.13
Hammersmith and Fulham, London (South East of England)£797.08
Angus (East of Scotland) £804.36
North Lanarkshire (South of Scotland)£814.17
Northampton (East Midlands)£856.95

Where are the most expensive areas in the UK for Council Tax?

The analysis also shows the most expensive areas for Band A Council Tax in the UK per year (amounts have been averaged, where there are multiple parishes): 

Nottingham (East Midlands of England)£1,483.84
Bristol (South West of England)£1,442.43
West Dorset (South West of England)£1,439.46
North Dorset (South West of England)£1,439.46
Purbeck (South West of England)£1437.00
Ashfield (East Midlands of England)£1,435.52
Gateshead (North East of England)£1,432.97
Oxford (South East of England)£1,426
Wealden (South East of England)£1,421.74

Why is Council Tax so cheap in London in comparison to the rest of the UK?

It is absolutely ludicrous to think that a person in a £12 million mansion in Westminster, London, would pay less Council Tax than a pensioner in a bungalow in Leeds, but this is the reality.

Westminster in London has the second cheapest Council Tax in the UK. Westminster Council leader Rachael Robathan said: “We have a proud tradition of offering a low council tax simply because we always bear in mind it is residents’ money, and any increase hits those lower down the income scale hardest”.

The reason that Council Tax is so cheap in rich London boroughs like Westminster is that a large quantity of revenue in these rich areas comes from other sources, such as business rates.

Raj Dosanjh added that “In addition, parking is a major factor that determines council tax rates in Westminster.

On-street parking charges in Westminster range from £1.70 to £4.90 per hour. Westminster made the most from parking tickets and fines in the entire UK, with £78 million in profits pre-Covid years.

“Finally the expenses of the council play a major role in the council tax levels. Westminster has less social care expenses than outer areas (which have more older people and families), less expense means less needs to be raised.”

When is it possible to not pay Council Tax or get a discount?

Even if your home is empty you’ll still usually have to pay Council Tax on it, but some Councils do offer discounts, though the amount is at their discretion.

It’s important to note that you could be charged up to double your Council Tax if your property has been empty for more than two years.

When don’t you have to pay Council Tax?

If you’re selling a property for an owner that has passed away then you won’t be required to pay Council Tax until after you get probate, as long as the property remains unoccupied. 

Once probate has been granted, you might be able to get a Council Tax exemption for an extra 6 months if the property is unoccupied and still in the name of the person who’s died. 

Some homes do not receive a Council Tax bill while they’re empty. Examples of such homes are a home of someone in prison, a home of someone who’s moved into a care home or hospital, a home that’s been repossessed or a home that cannot be lived in by law.

You will also not be required to pay Council Tax if your property is derelict, it is classed as derelict if it is not possible to live in and if it needs major structural work.

When can you get a discount on your Council Tax?

It’s also possible to get a discount on your Council Tax if your property is undergoing major repair work or structural changes or if your home is being refurbished.

You’ll receive a ‘completion notice’ which tells you the date you have to start paying full Council Tax again.

Additionally, you can also get a discount on your Council Tax known as the single-person discount if there is only one adult living in the property. The council assumes that there will be two adults occupying your home, but if there is only one, the bill is reduced by 25%.

What about the Council Tax increases across the UK and how could these affect the country’s lowest earners?

Current government spending plans are speculated to increase Council Tax bills by at least 3.6% per year.

However, data from Which? has found that every local authority in England and Wales has increased its council tax rates for 2021-22 and that 83 councils are increasing their rates by more than the 5% cap recommended by the government.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank, this is to keep local services running and help pay for social care reforms.

This increase by 3.6% every year for the next three years would mean a £36.76 increase in the first year of Council Tax for a Band A property in Wolverhampton, where nearly one third of children live in poverty.

Moreover, in Swansea, where 11.5% of neighbourhoods are in the most deprived 10% in Wales, and 45.9% are in the top 50%, this increase would mean a £48.52 increase in Council Tax in the first year.

In Hackney, where there remains high levels of poverty and inequality, this Council Tax increase would mean a £44.86 increase in the first year in Council Tax for a band B property.

Additionally, in Wigan, where research by Loughborough University shows that levels of child poverty increased from 17,541 (29.1 per cent) in 2014/15 to 18,780 (30.8 per cent) in 2018/19, there will be an increase of £54.04 Council Tax in the first year for a Band C property.

Finally, according to the organisation ​​End Child Poverty, 23.8% of children in Inverclyde were living in poverty at the time of the latest available full year data in 2018/19. With nearly a quarter of children officially living in poverty here, for a Band C property, the 3.6% increase in Council Tax would mean an extra £57.31 in the first year.

The average household income in the UK in the financial year ending in 2020 (the period leading up to the coronavirus pandemic) was £29,900, based on estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Household Finances Survey.

So with the 3.6% increase, for a Band C property in South Oxfordshire it would cost £1840.50 in the first year in Council Tax, this is 6.15% of the average household income.

We hope that we have made some of the rules surrounding Council Tax in the UK slightly easier to get your head around and aided your understanding of your individual rights. We also hope that you have a more in depth knowledge about the potential Council Tax increase.

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