HOUSEHOLDS across the country will be stung by with Council Tax hikes in the coming weeks, but some could be eligible for a discount.
Local authorities have been given the green light to raise the levy by as much as 5% from April.
It could mean that the average bill could hit over £2,000 a year next year – the biggest hike since 2018.
It's a bitter blow for families who are already struggling to pay the bill – the latest figures show the total amount of council tax debt owed by households across the country stands at £4.9billion.
But many people may not realise they are eligible for a reduction.
For example, eligible households in Newcastle-under-Lyme could get up to £25 off their Council Tax bill.
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What are councils offering and who is eligible?
What support you can get depends on your circumstances and where you live, as each council decides what help to offer those in its area.
Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council is offering households who receive Council Tax Support an automatic £25 discount off their bill.
This means you won't have to apply to get the discount.
The funding is coming from a £212,000 pot set aside by the Council to help struggling residents.
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Around £4,300 residents will be eligible for the funding from April onwards.
If you live in the area and you think you may be eligible for the Council Tax support, you can apply on the Council's website.
To fill in the application, you will need to have the following documents:
- Benefit award letters, for example Tax Credits, Child Benefit
- Five weekly or two monthly consecutive wage slips
- Bank statements to cover three months for all accounts held
- Savings certificates or premium bonds
- Evidence of occupational pensions
- Student grants/loans award letters
What other support is available?
If you live on your own, you can get 25% off your council tax bill.
This also applies if there is one adult and one student living together in a property, or if there is one adult and one person classed as severely mentally impaired in the home.
If you live with someone who doesn't have to pay council tax, such as a carer or someone who is severely mentally impaired, you could get a larger reduction too, of up to 50%.
And, if you live in an all-student household, you could get a 100% discount.
A full list of circumstances that exempt you from paying council tax can be found on Citizens Advice.
Pensioners may also find themselves eligible for a council tax reduction.
If you receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, you could get a 100% discount.
If not, you could still get help if you have a low income and less than £16,000 in savings.
And a pensioner who lives alone will be entitled to a 25% discount too.
Challenge your band
You might be able to reduce the amount of council tax you pay by challenging your band.
Properties across the UK are put into a band from A to H, and this informs how much council tax you pay.
The bands were created based on property values back in 1991, so many households may find that based on today's prices, they should be in a different band.
It's worth checking yours to see if you could get a discount.
First, you need to find out what band you are in.
You can find this out by checking with your local authority or on the postcode checker.
Use the council tax band checker tool to see which band properties along your street are in.
If they are in a lower band than you are, you could successfully make a challenge and get yours lowered.
How do I challenge it?
Contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) in England and Wales or the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) in Scotland to do this.
Gather together evidence showing you're paying more – this could be having addresses of similar properties to yours in a lower band, for example.
If the VOA agrees that your property is in the wrong band, it will contact you to let you know your band will be changed.
It can take up to two months for the VOA to review your case.
But be warned – challenging your band might not work.
While you could get moved to a lower band and pay less, there's also the chance the VOA could find you're not paying enough.
This could mean you're moved to a higher band – and your neighbours' too.
If you disagree with the VOA's ruling, you can appeal your case – but only if you've been told that you can when you get the decision.
You must appeal within three months of your decision – to do this, get in touch with the Valuation Tribunal Service.
If the Valuation Tribunal agrees with you, it will get the VOA to change your band – and your bill will change.
Section 13A relief
You can make an application for what is called "discretionary relief" for your council tax bill by filling out a Section 13A application.
This means councils can reduce or completely wipe off a council tax debt you might have.
A Sun investigation last year found that councils have been wiping clean a record level of council tax debt in recent years over the Covid pandemic.
Nearly £2.7million worth of council tax debts was scrapped by local authorities over 2020/21.
Ask your council for the Section 13A form.
Once you’ve sent your Section 13A application over to your local authority, you should be told about a decision within 14 days.
Check if you've overpaid
Thousands of homeowners have moved house and are unaware they are still paying council tax bills.
A whopping £33.7million is sitting in closed or dormant council tax accounts, according to data analysed by The Sun.
The highest amount owed back was £27,150 to one household from St Alban’s Council.
Larger councils are likely to have a higher amount of unclaimed credit because of the higher number of people living in their catchment areas.
Contact your council if you think you’re owed.
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Many authorities have different procedures when it comes to dishing out refunds.
While some give them out automatically usually, in some cases you have to apply for a refund.
Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
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