Single person council tax discounts: how do they work and am I eligible?

Council tax is one of the big bills most of us have to pay every month, so it’s useful to see if you are eligible for discounts.

Council tax was just one of a host of household bills which rose in cost last year, with typical bills increasing by an average of 5.1% back on 1 April 2023.

While it’s important to check you’re in the right council tax band, it’s also useful to establish if you qualify for any discounts to your council tax bill, such as the single person council tax discount.

There are other ways to get a reduction on your council tax bill which are worth checking too.

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How does the single person council tax discount work?

The single person discount is a reduction of your council tax bill, applicable to people who live alone in a property.

Council tax assumes that at least two adults live in your property. But if you are living alone, or with someone who may not be counted for council tax purposes, then you could receive the discount.

“Even if you live with other people, they may not be counted for council tax purposes, so you still might be able to claim a discount,” says Laura Suter, head of personal finance at AJ Bell. 

“People living with children could claim the 25% discount – if you live with people under the age of 18, or people older than that but in full-time education, they won’t be counted for council tax purposes”. We explain more about this below.

You must genuinely live alone. You can’t claim the single person discount if, say, the person you live with is working away or gone on holiday.

How much is the single person council tax discount and how far back can I claim it?

The single person discount entitles you to a reduction of 25% on your council tax bill. 

If you think you may be eligible for the single person council tax discount, then you need to contact your local council. You can find their details through GOV.UK to register your claim as soon as you can.

How far you can claim back the single person council tax discount may depend on the council. Some may backdate discounts to the date of your application, while with others, it may be to the start of the current financial year, or for up to three months, in the event there is a good reason for the delay in making your claim. 

This could be in the event of a bereavement in the family or a couple splitting up with one partner moving out.

Who qualifies for the single person council tax discount?

To qualify for the single person council tax discount you must pay council tax and live alone in a property that is your sole (or main) residence.

In some cases, you can still qualify for the discount, even if you have other people living in your home with you.

This is because some people are ‘disregarded’ for council tax purposes. For example, if you have a full-time carer living with you who isn’t your spouse or partner, you can still qualify for the 25% council tax discount.

Other cases where people are ‘disregarded’ for council tax purposes include anyone under 19, full-time students at college or university, and student nurses.

How to apply for the single person discount on your council tax

You’ll need to apply to your council directly for the discount and each council has a different system, but if you look on your local council’s website or call their helpline they’ll be able to tell you how to claim.

If you’re not sure which council area you live in, and can’t find your latest council tax bill, you can find out by using the government’s postcode checker.

Once on your local council website, search for the ‘council tax’ option and find the link to apply for a single person discount.

If you’re in the process of applying for a single person discount, you should keep up your usual monthly payments until you receive confirmation that any discount has been granted by your council, along with the revised monthly payments.

Can I still get the single person council tax discounts if my circumstances change?

If your circumstances change then it’s important to contact your council to inform them. For example, that your child who was in full-time education leaves college and starts working, or a new partner moves in with you.

Failure to do so could mean you are later fined and have to pay back the discount.

Even if the person who moves in is ‘disregarded’ for council tax purposes, you should still inform your council, though you shouldn’t lose any discount.

Don’t be tempted to try to cheat the system. In some cases, councils may carry out regular reviews on those claiming the single person discount to verify details are still correct.

Other council tax discounts

There are other discounts available worth between 25% and 100% of your bill, depending on your financial situation and living circumstances.

If you, or someone you live with is disabled, you may be eligible for the disabled band reduction scheme. This can mean paying a lower band of council tax – for example, being moved from Band D to Band C.

If every adult in the household is a full-time student, you can claim a 100% council tax exemption. Check the rules carefully, as everyone must be taking a full time university or college course and provide proof to claim the exemption.

If you’re on benefits or a low income you may be eligible for a council tax reduction. In some cases this can mean your bill being reduced by up to 100%.

Also, when selling a property after someone’s died, there’s no council tax liability until after probate, providing the property stays empty. Beyond this, some councils may allow a six month council tax exemption if the property is empty and still in the name of the deceased. 

See ways to get a reduction on your council tax bill for more.