What is council tax?

Council tax is a tax you pay each year for local services in England, Scotland and Wales. 

Northern Ireland has a similar tax where you pay rates based on the current value of your property.

Council tax is normally paid by whoever lives in the property. This might be either the owner occupier or the tenants.

How much council tax you’ll pay depends on the value of your home and where you live. 

Depending on your circumstances, you might not have to pay council tax, or you may be able to get a discount.

Council tax discounts and exemptions

Single person discount

You can get a single person discount if you’re the only person over 18 living in your home. 

This discount means you get 25% off your council tax bill.

Full time student

Households where all the occupants are full time students do not have to pay council tax. 

If you do get a bill, you can apply for an exemption via the Gov.uk website.

Discounts for disabled people

People who are severely mentally impaired are not included when working out council tax.

Live-in carers looking after someone who is not their partner, spouse, or child under 18 will not have to pay council tax either.

What does council tax pay for?

Council tax pays for local services such as:

  • planning

  • transport

  • police

  • fire services

  • libraries

  • leisure and recreation

  • parks

  • street lighting

  • road maintenance

  • rubbish collection and disposal

  • environmental health

  • trading standards

How is council tax worked out?

How much council tax you pay depends on:

  • the valuation band your property falls into

  • your local authority

Every property’s council tax band based on its value on 1 April 1991 for England and Scotland, and 1 April 2003 for Wales.

England and Scotland have 8 council tax bands ranging from A to H.¹ 

Wales has 9 bands – from A to I.

What are the council tax valuation bands?

Below are the tax bands for England, Scotland and Wales.

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) decides which band each property falls into.

The VOA also looks at renovated or redesigned and new build properties and puts them into the right council tax band.

The VOA will also reconsider a property when there’s a council tax band appeal.

England

Value at 1 April 1991

Band A

up to £40,000

Band B

£40,001 to £52,000

Band C

£52,001 to £68,000

Band D

£68,001 to £88,000

Band E

£88,001 to £120,000

Band F

£120,001 to £160,000

Band G

£160,001 to £320,000

Band H

more than £320,000

Band I

n/a

Scotland

Value at 1 April 1991

Band A

Up to £27,000

Band B

£27,001 - £35,000

Band C

£35,001 - £45,000

Band D

£45,001 - £58,000

Band E

£58,001 - £80,000

Band F

£80,001 - £106,000

Band G

£106,001 - £212,000

Band H

more than £212,000

Band I

n/a

Wales

Value at 1 April 2003

Band A

Up to £44,000

Band B

£44,001 -£65,000

Band C

£65,001 to £91,000

Band D

£91,001 to £123,000

Band E

£123,001 to £162,000

Band F

£162,001 to £223,000

Band G

£223,001 to £324,000

Band H

£324,001 to £424,000

Band I

more than £424,000

What is my council tax band?

If you live in England or Wales you can find out your council tax band by looking up its postcode on the government website, Gov.uk.²

Information about homes in Scotland is on the Scottish Assessors website.³

Your council tax band will also be on your council tax bill or online account.

How much is council tax?

Each year, your local authority will set a rate of council tax for each valuation band. 

How much the tax is for each band will vary between local authorities.

For example, a Band D property in the City of Westminster will pay £780.28 for 2020-21.⁴

A Band D property in Durham will pay £2,071.⁵

The average Band D council tax set by local authorities in England for 2020-21 is £1,817.⁶

You can check which local authority your home is in by entering your postcode on the Gov.uk website.

Your local authority’s website will list the council tax amount for each band.

Can I challenge the band my property is in?

If you want to challenge the council tax band your property is in, you can challenge it with the VOA.

You can do this on Gov.uk.

If your property should’ve been placed in a cheaper band, you may get a refund of some of the council tax you’ve paid while you’ve lived there.

How to pay council tax

Your local authority will send you a council tax bill each year showing how much you need to pay. 

The bill will also include your address and your council tax number.

There are a few ways you can pay your council tax.

  • online using a debit or credit card

  • over the phone using a debit or credit card

  • cheque

  • cash payment in shops that accept Paypoint, Payzone or Quickcards

  • monthly direct debit

People generally pay their council tax in 10 monthly payments. But you can contact your local authority and spread the cost over 12 monthly payments instead.

There may also be the option to pay your year’s council tax bill in two payments, rather than every month.

Whichever way you want to pay, contact your local council for information. They’ll explain what you need to do to set up your payments.

Council tax is charged per property, so if you live with other people you’ll need to decide how the payment will be split between you. 

Everyone named on the council tax bill will be responsible for the total cost.

Make payments on time

It’s important to make sure you pay your council tax bill on time. 

If you miss a monthly payment, some authorities might ask for the full year’s payment upfront.

If you fall behind on your council tax, your local authority will contact you to remind you to pay.

If you still don’t make a payment following the reminder, you may be taken to court.

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Sources

¹ Gov.uk: Understand how council tax bands are assessed

² Gov.uk: Council tax bands

³ Scottish Assessors Association: Council tax bands

⁴ Westminster.gov.uk: Council tax bands and rates

⁵ Counciltax.info: 2020/21 Durham Council Tax Band Charges

⁶ Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government: Council tax levels set by local authorities: England 2020-21

⁷ Which?: Council Tax Calculator

Gov.uk: Challenge your council tax band