Council tax is a charge made by your local authority to cover services which they provide for you. The amount of council tax that you must pay varies from local council to local council but all assessments are based on the property band that applies to your home. Each home is placed in a valuation band, from A (the lowest) to H (the highest). The band that applies to your home will be written on your council tax bill.
There are a number of ways in which people can get help with council tax, including through:
Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTR)
Help for people on low incomes is provided through various Council Tax Reduction schemes run by local councils, they may also be known as Council Tax Support Schemes. This means that each local council designs its own scheme and has the responsibility to decide who it supports with paying their council tax bill. If you are liable for Council Tax you can apply for CTR if you are on a low income. To apply you would need to contact your local council benefits department.
There are a number of circumstances in which homes can be exempt from council tax. The following particularly applies to carers and those for whom they are caring:
- You have left the home empty and it is no longer your main residence because you are providing personal care to someone.
- The only person(s) living in the home is severely mentally impaired and no one else could be liable to pay council tax.
- The home has been left empty by someone who is now living in a hospital, care home or a hostel where personal care is provided (does not apply to temporary hospital stays).
- There are at least two self-contained dwellings within a single home and one occupant is a ‘dependent relative’ of someone else living in another part of the home. The exemption applies to the part of the home where the dependent relative is living.
To apply you would need to contact the council tax department of your local council. You can ask for it to be backdated to the date the qualifying conditions were met.
Council tax bills are generally based on the assumption that there are at least two adults living in the property. If only one person or no-one lives in the property (or it is treated as such) a discount can be applied to the bill.
The following are two examples of people who can be ‘disregarded’. Therefore treated as not living in the property, when it comes to calculating council tax.
To be ‘disregarded’ as a carer, you must meet all the following criteria:
- You must provide care for at least 35 hours a week;
- You must live in the same property as the person you care for;
- You must not be the spouse or partner of the person you care for, or their parent if you care for a child under 18;
- The person you care for must be getting one of these benefits:
- Either the middle or higher rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance;
- The daily living component of Personal Independence Payment at any rate;
- Attendance Allowance at any rate;
- Armed Forces Independence Payment;
- The highest rate of Constant Attendance Allowance.
You do not have to claim Carer’s Allowance to qualify for this discount. Your income and savings will not affect your eligibility. If there is more than one carer in the property, they can both be disregarded for council tax purposes as long as they all meet the conditions.
‘Severely mentally impaired’ people
To be disregarded on the grounds of being ‘severely mentally impaired’ the person will need to meet all of the following criteria:
- Have a certificate from a registered medical practitioner confirming this;
- Be entitled to (but not necessarily claiming or in receipt of) one of a number of specified benefits which include:
- Disability Living Allowance (middle or higher rate care component);
- Daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (either rate);
- Attendance Allowance (either rate);
- Constant Attendance Allowance;
- Employment and Support Allowance.
Other people disregarded for the purposes of council tax include:
- Children under the age of 18 or aged 18 if Child Benefit is still in payment;
- Full-time students (If the property is occupied only by students then it is exempt from council tax altogether);
- Long-term hospital patients or care home residents;
- Live-in care workers;
- People living in a hostel which provides care or treatment.
If, after taking into account disregarded people, there is only one resident in the property who would ‘count’ for council tax a 25% discount is applied to the bill. If there are no residents who would ‘count’ for council tax a 50% discount is applied to the bill.
If a property is occupied by more than one person considered to be ‘severely mentally impaired’ it is also exempt.
To apply for a discount you would need to contact the council tax department of your local council. You can ask for a discount to be backdated to the date the qualifying conditions were met.
Disability Reduction Scheme
You may be able to get a reduction in council tax under the disability reduction scheme if any resident in the home (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;
- There is a room (other than a bathroom, kitchen or toilet) needed by and mainly used by the disabled person;
- There is enough space in the property for the disabled person to use a wheelchair indoors.
A reduction will mean that the council tax bill is reduced to the amount payable for a home in the band below yours. If you are in the lowest band already (Band A) you get a reduction of one sixth of the bill.
To apply for this scheme you need to contact the council tax department of your local council. It may be possible to backdate an application for the disability reduction scheme however the rules are slightly complicated.
There are a number of ways in which you might be able to get help with your Council Tax bill. Download the Council Tax factsheet from CarersUK.