Council Tax Benefit – Low Income

Focus on Disability - For Disabled People, the Elderly and their Carers in the UK

A Guide for disabled people. Applying to your local council for Council Tax Reduction (sometimes called Council Tax Support).

If you are on low income a discount is available if you’re eligible.

Council Tax Reduction replaced Council Tax Benefit in April 2013.

What you need to know

It’s not available in Northern Ireland

There’s a different scheme in Northern Ireland.

You could be eligible if you’re on a low income or claim benefits. Your bill could be reduced by up to 100%.

You can apply if you own your home, rent, are unemployed or working.

What you get depends on:

  • where you live – each council runs its own scheme
  • your circumstances (eg income, number of children, benefits, residency status)
  • your household income – this includes savings, pensions and your partner’s income
  • if your children live with you
  • if other adults live with you

How your Council Tax is worked out

You’ll need to know 3 things:

You may be able to get Council Tax Reduction (this used to be called Council Tax Benefit) if you’re on a low income or get benefits.

You can challenge your Council Tax band if you think your home is in the wrong valuation band.

Changes that may affect your Council Tax band

Your property may be revalued and put in a different band in some circumstances, eg if:

  • you make major alterations to it, such as adding an extension or annexe – the band won’t change until you sell the property
  • you split a single property into self-contained flats
  • you convert flats into a single property
  • you start or stop working from home
  • there are significant changes to your local area, like a new road being built

You may get a separate Council Tax bill if your property includes a self-contained annexe.

Ask your local council if you want to know if changes to your property will affect your Council Tax band.

Who has to pay

You’ll usually have to pay Council Tax if you’re 18 or over and own or rent a home.

A full Council Tax bill is based on at least 2 adults living in a home. Spouses and partners who live together are jointly responsible for paying the bill.

You’ll get 25% off your bill if you count as an adult for Council Tax and either:

  • you live on your own
  • no-one else in your home counts as an adult

You’ll usually get a 50% discount if no-one living in your home, including you, counts as an adult.

You won’t have to pay any Council Tax if everyone in your home, including you, is a full-time student.

Apply for a Council Tax discount online (England and Wales only)

Who doesn’t count as an adult?

These people are not counted as adults for Council Tax:

  • children under 18
  • people on some apprentice schemes
  • 18 and 19-year-olds in full-time education
  • full-time college and university students
  • young people under 25 who get funding from the Skills Funding Agency or Young People’s Learning Agency
  • student nurses
  • foreign language assistants registered with the British Council
  • people with a severe mental impairment
  • live-in carers who look after someone who isn’t their partner, spouse or child
  • diplomats

Contact your local council if you’re unsure about whether you can get a discount or who’s responsible for paying.

People on apprentice schemes

To show that you don’t qualify as an adult for Council Tax, you’ll need a declaration from your employer stating that:

  • you won’t be paid more than £195 a week
  • the training leads to a qualification accredited by a body recognised by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) or the Scottish Vocational Education Council (SVEC)

If you get a Council Tax discount by mistake

You must tell your council. If you don’t, you could get a fine.

The council may ask you to pay back the discount.

Discounts for disabled people

People who are severely mentally impaired, and live-in carers who aren’t family members, aren’t included when working out Council Tax.

Disabled Band Reduction Scheme

You may be eligible for the scheme if you live in a larger property than you would need if you or another occupant weren’t disabled.

You’ll have to show that you’ve either:

  • an extra bathroom, kitchen or other room that you need for the disabled person
  • extra space inside the property for using a wheelchair

The property must be the main home of at least 1 disabled person. This can be an adult or a child – it doesn’t have to be the person responsible for paying the Council Tax.

Paying your bill

Your Council Tax bill tells you:

  • how much you have to pay for the year
  • how that amount has been worked out
  • the dates you have to pay

The cost is usually split into 10 monthly payments. Contact your council immediately if you’re having trouble paying – they can help you, eg by spreading your payments over 12 months instead of 10.

The council can take action to reclaim any debts you owe if you get behind with your payments.

Ways to pay

You can usually pay your Council Tax online.

You can also use ‘Paypoint’, ‘Payzone’ or ‘Quickcards’ for cash payments at post offices, banks, newsagents and convenience stores.

Check your bill to find out which other payment methods you can use.

If you’ve overpaid

Contact your local council if you’ve paid too much Council Tax and haven’t received an automatic refund.