How to get a council tax reduction

Council tax reduction

If you’re entitled to a council tax reduction or discount, be sure to act on it. Here we look at how you could pay less council tax.

With the cost of living soaring, it’s worth checking to see if you’re eligible for a council tax discount or reduction.

In Wales, the average band D council tax is £1,879 for the 2023-24 tax year. And in England, it’s £2,065. This is a huge ask of households at a time when the cost of virtually everything else ‒ from food to fuel ‒ is also on the rise.

There are ways to lower your council tax bill though. For example, by checking your council tax band. If your band is too high, you could be moved down a band and be due a refund worth £1,000s…

Plus thousands of people are believed to be missing out on valuable council tax reductions, which could be worth £100s. Are you one of these people? Let’s find out.

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How much council tax discount can I get?

The level of council tax reduction varies depending on a host of different factors, but can range from a small reduction to a 100% discount, meaning there’s no tax to pay. We’ll look at the exemptions below.

Am I entitled to a council tax reduction?

You may be able to get a council tax discount if:

  • You’re the only adult in your home
  • If you live with a ‘disregarded person’; ie someone who doesn’t count
  • If you or someone you live with is registered disabled
  • If you’re on a low income
  • If you claim Pension Credit
  • If the property is empty

It used to be the case that you could get council tax reductions for second homes, or properties that are empty long-term. However, this is increasingly falling out of favour, so it’s a good idea to check the rules with your local council.

Can I get a council tax reduction if I’m the only adult?

If you’re the only adult living in your home, you’ll get at least 25% off your council tax bill. The single person discount will therefore cut your council tax bill by a quarter.

Find out more about the single person council tax discount here.

What if I live with a ‘disregarded’ person?

There are certain people that won’t be counted when working out how many live in a property, and these are referred to as ‘disregarded’. For example:

  • Those under the age of 18
  • Live-in care workers
  • Those away from home in prison or in hospital long-term
  • Ukrainian citizens hosted under the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme

If two of you live at the property and one is disregarded, the council tax reduction is 25% ‒ the same as if you were living alone. However, if there are two adults living with a disregarded person, then the property will get a full council tax bill.

If everyone who lives in the property is disregarded ‒ including you ‒ there’s a 50% reduction in council tax. For example, if you’re registered disabled and you live in a flat with your carer.

Some disregarded adults are entirely exempt from council tax, such as:

  • Adults in full-time education
  • Those who are severely mentally impaired (SMI); eg, people with severe learning difficulties, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia

You can apply for a council tax discount or exemption at GOV.UK.

There is also a ‘second adult rebate’, which you may be able to claim if you live with other adults but you’re the only person responsible for paying the council tax.

The size of the discount depends on various factors, such as whether you’ve reached state pension age. Any income the other adults receive, and their benefits, may also be taken into account. The size of discount may be decided by the local council, but typically ranges from 7.5% to 100%.

Is there a council tax reduction for people with disabilities?

If you’re disabled, or someone in your household is, you may be eligible for a council tax discount. The disabled band reduction scheme works by lowering the property’s council tax band; so if your home is in band D, the tax bill would be calculated based on band C.

This is usually the case if more space is required to meet the needs of the person with the disability – such as an extra kitchen or bathroom.

People with learning disabilities or severe mental impairment that are claiming benefits may also be disregarded for council tax purposes.

Modern bathroom adapted for people with disabilities

Is there a council tax reduction for low-income households?

People on a low income may be able to get a discount on their council tax. This will depend on whether you’re receiving benefits, the amount of assets you own, if you have children living with you, and the council’s own criteria. 

Find out what’s classed as low income for council tax purposes.

Is there a council tax reduction for pensioners?

Certain pensioners can save money on their council tax bill. If you’re claiming Pension Credit, you’re likely to get a council tax reduction. If you or your partner claim the ‘guarantee’ part of Pension Credit, you may get a 100% reduction. If you or your partner qualify for the ‘savings’ part, you may get a reduced bill, though not for the full amount.

Find out more about council tax reduction for those claiming Pension Credit.

Do I get a council tax discount if the property is empty?

If the property is empty, then your local council might offer a discount; for example if it needs work carried out in order to make it safe to live in. Alternatively if it has little or no furniture, and there’s clearly no one living there, you may be eligible for a reduction.

Local councils have their own rules regarding discounts for empty properties, so you’ll need to check the rules on their website.

Bear in mind that, if a property is empty long-term, they may incur greater council tax bills. At the time of writing, there are proposals to give local authorities the power to double levies for properties which have been empty long-term, as well as second homes.

This is already the case in Wales, where from 1 April 2023, local authorities have the discretion to impose up to 300% council tax premiums on long-term empty properties or second homes, or both.

Can I get a council tax discount for a second home?

The rules over council tax vary by region for holiday homes and second homes. While you may qualify for a council tax discount, the flipside is you may have to pay an increased rate of tax.

It’s a good idea to check whether the local authority offers a second home council tax discount and, if so, how much it’s worth. However, as mentioned, councils in Wales already have the discretionary power to hike council tax on second homes, and this proposal has been tabled in England also.

Find out more about council tax rules for second homes.

Rye, East Sussex - a nice place to get a second home

Are there any exemptions?

There are certain council tax exemptions for both second homes and those that are empty long-term.

For example, where the property has a pitch with a caravan on it or a mooring occupied by a boat, the council must give you a 50% discount.

If you have an annex – in other words, an extra home that’s connected to your home (sometimes referred to as a ‘granny flat’) – that’s used by immediate family members, such as a teenager or parent, you can also apply for a 50% council tax discount. If it’s used by a dependent family member – for example an elderly parent or someone with a disability – the discount is worth 100%.

If the annex is empty, there is no tax to pay. For other empty properties, there’s usually a council tax reduction. The amount of discount depends on the local authority’s rules. It will often be a temporary discount, so will only apply for a set period of time.

How can I check if I can get a council tax reduction?

The best way of checking to see if you qualify for a council tax discount or reduction is by popping your postcode into GOV.UK, if you live in England or Wales.

Different councils will use different terms for the council tax discounts on offer, sometimes referring to them as council tax support or council tax reduction, so look out for these terms. 

You can also use a benefits calculator to check if you can receive a discount, such as Entitledto.co.uk and Turn2Us.

How do I apply for a council tax reduction?

You can apply for a council tax discount by contacting your local authority. Usually you fill in a form or apply online. It’s best to apply as soon as you can. If you know when you’re going to be eligible, you can even apply in advance; for example, if a housemate is moving out, you’re being made redundant or you’re selling a property and it’ll be empty.

If you’re already eligible for a council tax reduction, you might be able to get it backdated.

You may need to send evidence with the application, such as payslips or bank statements. Your local council will tell you if so. 

If you’re confused by the application process, email or ring your council for guidance. Alternatively, you could speak to Citizens Advice or a relevant charity like Turn2Us for free help.

More help with your council tax

If you’ve ever wondered what council tax is for exactly, read what council tax is and how much you need to pay.

It’s also worth knowing what you need to do if you’re moving home, or how council tax is organised if you live in a rental property.

Finally, as mentioned, you don’t need to pay council tax if you’re an adult student in full-time education. But it’s a good idea to know the exact rules, and what to do if a council tax bill does land on your doormat.