If you think you’re paying too much council tax it could be because your property is in the wrong council tax band. How can you challenge it? What are the pros and cons?
How council tax bands are calculated
The council tax banding system varies depending on whether you live in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.
If you pay council tax in England:
- The bands run from A-H, with properties in band A being worth up to £40,000 and properties in band H being worth over £320,000.
- Council tax band A:
SAVVY TIP: These bands came into effect on April 1st 1993 and the band you are in is based on the price your property would have been sold at on April 1st 1991. There’s more information about council tax in England on the Gov.uk website.
If you pay council tax in Wales:
- The bands run from A-I, with properties in band A being worth up to £44,000 and properties in band I being worth over £424,000.
SAVVY TIP: Wales had a revaluation of council tax bands which came into force on April 1st 2005. The band you are in is based on the price your property would have been sold at on April 1st 2003.
If you pay council tax in Scotland:
- The bands run from A-H, with properties in band A being worth up to £27,000 and properties in band H being worth over £212,000.
SAVVY TIP: These bands came into effect on April 1st 1993 and the band you are in is based on the price your property would have been sold at on April 1st 1991.
When you can challenge your council tax band
You can’t simply challenge your council tax band because you think you’re paying too much, but the council does have an obligation to make sure your property is in the right band.
SAVVY TIP: Everyone has an automatic right challenge their council tax band within the first six months of moving into the property. After that period, you can still appeal but the process is different.
These are the steps you should follow for England or Wales:
Step 1. Check your property’s council tax band if you don’t already know it. You can check your council tax band on the Gov.uk website.
Step 2. See if you can challenge your band. When you check your council tax band there’s a question that asks you ‘do you think this council tax band is wrong?’. If you click on that, the next page is headed ‘If you think your council tax band is wrong’. There are two headers, one lets you contact the Valuation Office and the other lets you check if you can formally challenge your council tax band.
Step 3. Answer the questions on the list and this will tell you whether or not you can formally challenge the council tax band.
- If you want to challenge your council tax band in Scotland, there’s no centralised number to contact, but you can find a list of valuation authorities and contact numbers on the SAA website.
Will it cost me anything?
You don’t have to pay anything to challenge your council tax band and it’s something you can easily do yourself.
SAVVY TIP: There are some companies that have been offering council tax rebates — for a fee. Don’t take these companies up on their offer as you can challenge your band yourself. There are also some fraudsters who are contacting people, pretending to be from the council, saying they’re due a refund because they’ve been paying too much council tax. In this case the fraudsters are after ID information (such as your name and date of birth). Don’t give them any information.
Challenging your council tax band
Option one: You can ask for a review. What you have to do in this case is to come up with evidence that your neighbours are in a different band to you (assuming that they live in similar properties) and the local valuation office should assess your property.
SAVVY TIP: You can easily check your council tax band in England or Wales on the VOA website (this is the valuation office agency, which has responsibility for compiling council tax information in England and Wales). In Scotland you have to use the Scottish Assessors’ Association (or SAA) website to check your band. You can also check the band of neighbouring properties to make sure you’re all in the same band.
Option two: You can make a ‘proposal’ It’s simply the official term for a challenge when you don’t fall into the category for asking for a review.
There are over half a dozen different reasons why you can make a proposal, including:
- Having moved into the property in the last six months
- Altering the property to accommodate someone with disabilities
- Experiencing a change in your area that could affect property values — for example a road or supermarket appears nearby.
SAVVY TIP: You can find more information about challenging your council tax band on the GOV.UK website for England and Wales, including a useful checklist of when you can appeal and on the SAA website for Scotland. You can download a proposal form from the SAA website.
What may happen next
If the valuation office agrees that your property is in too high a band it will write to you and tell you. There are three possible outcomes.
1. It agrees that your property is in too high a band.
SAVVY TIP: You will also receive a refund of the council tax you’ve paid going back to the date you moved into the property.
2. It disagrees that your property is in too high a band.
SAVVY TIP: If this is the case, you can appeal to an independent valuation tribunal. There are details on how to do this on the VOA and SAA websites.
3. It believes your property is in too low a band.
SAVVY TIP: If that’s the case, you can still appeal — as above — but if your appeal is rejected you have to start paying the higher council tax immediately. Normally if your property moves into a higher council tax band such as, for example, if you’ve extended it, you don’t pay the higher level of council tax until you’ve sold it.
Providing the evidence
If you’re in the same band as your neighbours but you believe that either you alone or you and your neighbours are in the wrong band, you’ll need to come up with evidence that the valuations weren’t accurate in 1991 (or 2003, for Wales). In this case you need to come up with evidence of the price your property would have sold for on the valuation date.
SAVVY TIP: The easiest way to do this is to look at house price indices from major lenders such as Nationwide and Halifax. However, according to the VOA, evidence from a house price index is not enough on its own – that’s because there tend to be strong regional, and even local, differences in house prices. You’ll have a stronger case if you can come up with evidence of what houses in your area sold for at the time the council tax band was set.
There’s information about challenging your council tax band on the Gov.uk website.
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