Council tax bands explained, including how they’re calculated, how to check them and how to challenge your council tax band.
Your council tax is one of the largest household bills, and the band your property’s in determines your annual payment. That’s why it’s so important to check your council tax band and challenge it if you believe you’re on the wrong one.
Over 51,000 people challenged their council tax band between April 2022 and March 2023, according to the government, with 28% successfully having their band lowered. And it’s thought 100,000s could be in the wrong band, with payouts of £1,000s due for many. We’ve all you need to know about how to check your council tax band.
And if you’re looking for more ways to save on your household bills, see the best broadband deals, how to do an energy comparison to find the cheapest gas and electricity deals, and help with your water bill.
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How are council tax bands calculated?
Council tax bands are based on the value of your home. The higher your council tax band, the more council tax you pay.
However, the ‘value’ isn’t the sale price an estate agent would slap on it today. Rather, it’s based on how much your property was worth at a certain point in time – in some cases over 30 years ago.
For England and Scotland this was 1 April 1991, and in Wales it was on 1 April 2003.
When it comes to the actual banding system, in England and Scotland the lowest council tax band starts at ‘A’ and goes up to ‘H’. In Wales there’s one extra band going up to ‘I’, while the system in Northern Ireland is different (more on that in a moment).
Council tax bands for property values in England
- Band A – Up to £40,000
- Band B – Over £40,000 and up to £52,000
- Band C – Over £52,000 and up to £68,000
- Band D – Over £68,000 and up to £88,000
- Band E – Over £88,000 and up to £120,000
- Band F – Over £120,000 and up to £160,000
- Band G – Over £160,000 and up to £320,000
- Band H – Over £320,000
Council tax bands for property values in Scotland
- Band A – Up to £27,000
- Band B – Over £27,000 and up to £35,000
- Band C – Over £35,000 and up to £45,000
- Band D – Over £45,000 and up to £58,000
- Band E – Over £58,000 and up to £80,000
- Band F – Over £80,000 and up to £106,000
- Band G – Over £106,000 and up to £212,000
- Band H – Over £212,000
Council tax bands for property values in Wales
- Band A – Up to £44,000
- Band B – Over £44,000 and up to £65,000
- Band C – Over £65,000 and up to £91,000
- Band D – Over £91,000 and up to £123,000
- Band E – Over £123,000 and up to £162,000
- Band F – Over £162,000 and up to £223,000
- Band G – Over £223,000 and up to £324,000
- Band H – Over £324,000 and up to £424,000
- Band I – Over £424,000
Domestic rates in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland didn’t adopt the council tax system in the 90s, instead sticking with the system of domestic rates. At the time this was based on rental values, but was updated to reflect individual properties’ capital values in 2007.
What council tax band am I in?
There are several ways to find out which band you’re in.
You can either check your council tax bill, ask your local authority or use a government website.
For properties in England and Wales you can use the postcode checker on GOV.UK, and for homes in Scotland use the Scottish Assessors Association. In Northern Ireland, you can calculate your estimated domestic rates here.
And if you’re not sure how much you pay in council tax, you can check your annual bill on your local authority website.
100,000s are in the wrong band - how to check if you’re on the right council tax band
Hundreds of thousands of homes could be in the wrong council tax band, due to the rushed way valuations for council tax purposes were originally carried out.
If your council tax band turns out to be different from your neighbours’, and properties are of a similar size and design – for example all terraced or semi-detached – it’s worth taking the next step.
This means working out what your property was worth back in 1991 (or 2003 in Wales), when council tax bands were set. There’s several house price number-crunching websites you can use, including Nationwide’s House Price Calculator.
Once you’ve got a rough ‘1991’ valuation, check the value back against the council tax bands to see if it’s the band you’re on. If it’s not, you may have a case.
How to challenge your local authority if you think you're on the wrong council tax band
If you’ve done the checks and think you’re on the wrong council tax band, you can start the ball rolling by challenging your council tax band at GOV.UK.
It’s worth knowing that it is completely free to do this, regardless of the outcome. However, don’t expect a quick answer. Any decision can take up to 90 working days.
How much could I get if I’m on the wrong band?
If you’re successful in dropping a band, you could get a refund worth thousands of pounds. This is because any reduction in your bill is backdated to when you first moved into the property, or when the tax was introduced – whichever is the most recent.
Here’s an example. The exact council tax charged varies depending on your local authority, but let’s say you live in Rother. Annual band D council tax here is £2,068, which is pretty close to the England average of £2,065 in 2023-24. Dropping from band D to band C would mean a reduction to £1,810 – a refund of £258. Not bad.
But let’s then say this is backdated, and you’ve lived in the same property since 1991. This would give you the princely sum of £8,256. Definitely worth doing!
What if my challenge is unsuccessful?
Are there any risks for challenging your council tax band?
Before you start your detective work, it’s worth knowing council tax bands can go up as well as down.
The government’s Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has the power to increase the council tax band if they think you’re paying too little, so you need to be confident you have a strong case for cutting your bill before you start.
However, in reality, less than 1% of challenges in the year 2022-23 resulted in an increase to council tax bands. If this does happen, be aware that the VOA may decide that your neighbours should pay more, rather than you pay less.
More help with your council tax
If you need to know more, find out what council tax is and how much you need to pay.
It’s also worth knowing that – besides challenging your band – there may be other ways to get a council tax reduction. For example, you may get a reduction if you live by yourself, or with people who are ‘disregarded’ for council tax purposes. These include:
- Those aged under 18
- Live-in care workers
- People in prison or in hospital long-term
- Ukrainian citizens who are hosted under the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme
It’s also worth noting that you don’t need to pay council tax if you’re in full-time education.