A staggering 97% of all Council Tax payments are collected. But what is the tax and, more importantly, what does it pay for? Find out here.
What is Council Tax?
Council Tax, which was first introduced in 1993, is a local property tax which provides around 25% of a local government’s revenue.
Who pays it?
All households in England, Scotland and Wales, regardless of whether you own your home or rent.
How much does it cost?
This depends mainly on your property’s valuation, but also on your personal circumstances (such as if you are claiming benefits or you live alone) and the budget needs of your local authority.
Did you know? Council Tax Bands in England and Scotland are based on property valuations made in 1991. Welsh Council Tax bands are based on property valuations made in 2003.
How many bands are there?
There are eight Council Tax valuation Bands in England and Scotland (ranging from A to H), and nine in Wales (ranging from A to I). The greater the value of your home in the year it was valued, the higher up the alphabet your Band will be.
For example, homes valued in England up to £40,000 fall under band A, while those over £320,000 fall under band H. To check your valuation Band, visit the Government’s website.
Who values my home?
The Valuations Office Agency (VOA).
What does Council Tax pay for?
It varies from council to council – but your payments will go towards funding services and amenities such as:
The local library: Community classes, special events and computer facilities as well as book-lending services.
Police and fire services: Funding comes from multiple sources, but it’s predominantly from Council Tax.
Street cleaning and waste collection: This includes rubbish collection, recycling, street cleaning and commercial collections.
Parks and recreation: Upkeep of public spaces such as parks, galleries, theatres, museums, leisure centres and community swimming pools. And museums that offer free entry.
Social services programs: Everything from day care for children to assistance for vulnerable individuals, such as those with dementia.
Schools, education and youth services: Council Tax is sometimes used to help boost education and fund programs such as after-school care or at-risk youth services. In Scotland, schools are funded entirely by Council Tax.
Housing provision and advice: Council housing which prioritises those who are homeless or living in unsafe conditions.
Community development: Projects which benefit the growth a community, such as the Riverside Museum in Glasgow which was funded by Council Tax.
Street lighting and road and bridge maintenance: As well as many council car parks.
Administration and record keeping: Local elections and administrative issues, such as registrars of marriages, deaths, and births. Also mortuary and cemetery services.
How can I pay?
As an annual lump sum, in monthly instalments (you can choose between 10 or 12), or in 43 weekly instalments. Payments can be made to your local council via direct debit or standing order. Or you can pay with cash, cheque or debit card at any Post Office.
What if I’m not happy with how my money is being spent?
If you don’t think your council is performing to a high standard, or you disagree with the way it spends your Council Tax, you can get in touch and tell them or issue a formal complaint. If you’re still not happy, contact the Local Government Ombudsman helpline.
Which of these household bills do you feel is most overpriced?— Zoopla (@Zoopla) February 19, 2016
Are discounts available?
Council Tax bills are based on at least two adult occupants. However, discounts can be available if any of the following applies:
- You live alone or just with children under 18 (25% discount)
- No occupants qualify as adults (50% discount applies)
- Everyone in the home is a full-time student (100% discount applies)
- It is an empty property or second home (up to 50% discount applies)
What happens if I can’t pay?
If you miss a Council Tax payment you’ll be sent a reminder notice giving you a week to pay. Fail to make payment again and you’ll have your right to pay in instalments removed and the year’s Council tax will become due immediately. At this point a second reminder notice will be sent out. If a third and final reminder is sent, the council may take legal action against you.
If you are struggling with payments, contact the Citizens Advice Bureau.