Are you paying more council tax than you should be?

If your property is in the wrong council tax band, you could be eligible for a backdated rebate from as far back as 1993. Here is all the information you need.

Council tax bill

See also: 66 money saving tips for buying, selling and moving home

What is a council tax band?

A council tax band is the category your house has been placed in that dictates how much council tax you pay, and is based on the value of the property.

The valuations used to allocate council tax bands were made in April 1991 (or 2003 if you live in Wales), and in 1993 council tax bands were set in England and Scotland.

Why might you be paying too much?

The valuation made to calculate your property’s council tax band in 1991 may be inaccurate, or may have changed.

When the council launched the current council tax system all those years ago, they were short on time and valuations were rushed. Some were made by a person in a car simply assessing properties from the outside as they drove past.

The Welsh government has reassessed these valuations, but no reassessment has been made in England and Scotland. Alongside this, if your property has been drastically altered or rebuilt, its value may have been affected.

How much could you save?

This will depend on the charges of your local council, but moving to a lower band could save you £100 to £400 each year.

If you have lived in your property since 1993, you may be able to claim a rebate dated back as far as the day you moved in, which could stretch to thousands of pounds.

How do you know if you are paying too much?

This will take a little homework, and it is important you don’t just rush to contact your local council without knowing enough about your property. Having your council tax band reassessed could mean you discover you ought to be paying more, so do the following before pursuing a case.

1. Find out the council tax band of your property, and those of your neighbours.

The Check your council tax band page on the Gov.uk website can be used to check the banding for any address.

This will help you in discovering whether you pay more council tax than neighbouring properties that are the same value, age and size to your own. If you do, this is an important element in building a case to lower your payments.

Be careful...

Remember that it could be the case that all the other properties in your road are in the wrong bracket and should in fact be 'upbanded' to pay as much as you do. If you alert the council and this is discovered, all your neighbours’ council tax bills will go up, so make sure you take the next step as an indicator as to whether you should go ahead. 

2. Find out what your home was worth in 1991

Online tools such as Nationwide’s House Price Calculator can help you with this. You need first to ascertain how much your property is worth now, then use this to calculate what it was worth in 1991 and cross check this with its banding. If your house was given an inaccurate valuation when the bands were set, the council tax on it could have been too high ever since.

It is important to investigate the selling prices of neighbouring properties that are identical or similar to yours too (sites such as Zoopla and Rightmove offer sold house prices), and calculate their worth in 1991 to check for consistency. 

These historic valuations will give you a strong indication as to whether or not it is worth pursuing a case.

The two key things on which to build a case:

  • That neighbouring properties equivalent to yours are on a lower council tax band 
  • That there is no reason (such as major improvements or extension) to justify your property having a higher valuation / band.

How do I challenge my council tax band?

You can go to Challenge your council tax band on the Gov.uk website for full guidance on this, but there are two possible steps to take: 

1. Contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA)

Contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to explain why you think your council tax band is wrong, and provide evidence to back up your claim. This should include:

  • The addresses of up to five properties the same as yours in age, style, design, size and type (eg semi-detached) that are in a lower band to your property and located in the same street or village.
  • Evidence of house prices. The Gov.uk site states that you can use the price of your house or similar others as evidence if they were sold between 1st April 1989 and 31st March 1993 (in England), or 1st April 2001 and 31st March 2005 (in Wales). 

This may be enough to lower your band without having to pursue a formal challenge.

2. Make a formal challenge

You may still be able to challenge your band online if the VOA make a decision you disagree with.

On the Check your council tax band on the Gov.uk pages, you can check whether you are able to make a formal challenge once you have found your property on the council tax valuation list.

If you are eligible, you can pursue the process online and will be asked for appropriate evidence. If you are based in Scotland, you will need to go through the Scottish Assessors site. 

Final things to consider…

If your challenge is unsuccessful, you have three months to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal.

  • You cannot request that your council tax band be lowered, only reassessed: it may be put up if you are unsuccessful, so be sure to gather strong evidence concerning houses as similar to yours as possible.
  • Any rebate will be from the time you moved in to your property (whether you rent or own it) or from 1993, whichever is later.
Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

About the author

Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.

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