Home Insurance

How to challenge your council tax band

With household bills rocketing, families are looking for ways to cut their spending. NimbleFins explains how Britons could be missing out on huge yearly savings by not challenging their council tax band.

Homes are classified into bands from A-H and this is based on the value (or estimated value of the property if it wasn't built then) in 1991 for England and Scotland and 2003 for Wales.

But the problem is that when assessments were made in 1991 there was a mad rush to get the valuations done ready for the implementation of council tax and some were made by estate agents simply driving down the street and looking out their car window.

And as previously reported on NimbleFins, landlords of houses of multiple occupancy are also being referred for re-evaluation by cash-strapped councils. Authorities are hoping each room can be classed as an individual property sending the tax skyrocketing without a successful appeal.

Homeowners could be in line to save hundreds of pounds every year (enough even to cover their home insurance!), and the saving is even backdated to when they moved into the property as far back as 1993, so the reward could actually be worth thousands of pounds.

The Valuation Office Agency is responsible for bandings and also look at appeals, with assessments based on the:

  • Size
  • Layout
  • Character
  • Location
  • Change in use
  • Value on April 1 1991 (England and Scotland) or April 1 2003 (Wales)

How to appeal your council tax band

Do your research

Before jumping in to an appeal straight away, find out if there are any discrepancies on your street. All bands are public. You can check for properties in England and Wales here and Scotland property council band search to see if a similar property to yours is in a lower band.

Next you need to try and work out the value of the property in 1991. You can look at house sales for your home or other identical properties on your street on sites like Zoopla, or you can use Nationwide's house price estimation tool. Key in the last known value for the property (eg the date it was purchased) then compare it to April 1991. Be aware this is just an estimation and it can't be used as evidence. But it does give an idea of if a property is in the wrong band.

Council tax bands in England for April 1 1991 values

  • A - up to £40,000
  • B - £40,001 to £52,000
  • C - £52,001 to £68,000
  • D - £68,001 to £88,000
  • E - £88,001 to £120,000
  • F - £120,001 to £160,000
  • G - £160,001 to £320,000
  • H - More than £320,000

Council tax bands in Wales for April 1 2003 values

  • A - up to £44,000
  • B - £44,001 to £65,000
  • C - £65,001 to £91,000
  • D - £91,001 to £123,000
  • E - £123,001 to £162,000
  • F - £162,001 to £223,000
  • G - £223,001 to £324,000
  • H - £324,001 to £424,000
  • I - More than £424,000

Council tax bands in Scotland for April 1 1991 values

  • A - Up to £27,000
  • B - £27,000 to £35,000
  • C - £35,000 to £45,000
  • D - £45,000 to £58,000
  • E - £58,000 to £80,000
  • F - £80,000 to £106,000
  • G - £106,000 to £212,000
  • H - Over £212,000

If you've found a neighbour in a similar property in a lower band, and you've seen the value of your property in 1991 is lower than the band you're currently in, you have a strong case of winning an appeal. However, beware that assessments can see bands be increased, so if you're on the fence over whether your valuation is at the right level, and your neighbours are on the same band as you, it might not be worth the risk.

If you're still wanting to proceed, read on.

Collect evidence

The Valuation Office Agency needs certain types of evidence to legally be able to look at an appeal. It needs five examples of similar properties in a lower council tax band and some details about them - you can find more information here.

For Scotland, find your property and its council tax band here and select 'Make a proposal' on the website to fill in a form to start the process.

What to do if you've lived in your property for more than six months

It is more straightforward for the VOA to agree to look at a challenge if the applicant has lived in the property for six months or less.

For those who have lived in the property for longer, the above work is not wasted. Call the VOA on 03000 501 501 if you're in England, or 03000 505 505 in Wales and explain the reasons you believe you should have your council tax band reviewed. They will be able to explain the next steps.

The six month rule is the same in Scotland.

What if your challenge is rejected

You can appeal the decision within three months—if you've lived in the property for six months or less. However, if you've lived there for longer there is only grounds to appeal if new evidence which hasn't yet been assessed is discovered.

Other ways to save on council tax

Do you actually have to pay?

The following people do not have to pay council tax:

  • Those under 18 years old
  • Those on certain apprentice schemes
  • Those 18 or 19 years old and in full-time education
  • Full-time students at college or university
  • Those under 25 years old and get funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency
  • Student nurses
  • Foreign language assistants registered with the British Council
  • Severely mentally impaired
  • Live-in carers for someone who is not your partner, spouse, or child under 18
  • Diplomats

The following people can get discounts:

  • If everyone in the household falls into the above groups, a 50% discount is applied.
  • For those who live on their own or is the sole person not in the groups above, a 25% discount is applied. (Eg. if you have a live-in carer who would fall into the exempt group above).
  • Those with low income or on benefits may be entitled to a council tax reduction up to 100%. Each local authority sets their own rules.
  • Those on pension credit can apply for a discount which could be up to 100% depending on the type of pension credit.
  • If you have an annexe you will be charged two council tax bills, but if it is being used by the main homeowner (such as for a granny flat) you can get a 50% discount for the annexe.
  • Those living in properties that have had to be adapted for someone with a disability can get either a 25% discount, or drop a band.
  • If the property is empty for a number of reasons - you're in long-term care or hospital, in prison, the owner has died - you could get a discount of up to 100%.
  • Those who are being charged for a second home they don't normally live in - this is becoming increasingly uncommon, especially with the boom in holiday homes. But at a council's discretion, you could get up to 50% off the bill.

Apply here for a discount or exemption.

Are you self-employed and work from home?

You can claim some of your bills, including council tax, as allowable expenses. With council tax, this is calculated by the percentage of your home used for business, and the percentage of time. Find out more here.

Do you want your bills evenly spread out?

Many authorities charge their council tax over 10 months and give a two month ‘holiday’ from payments. This can sometimes throw some people off and put pressure on them for 10 months when the bill could be paid in smaller instalments over 12 months. Ask your local authority to change how you pay.

Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the Founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.