Cut your council tax

You could be eligible for a council tax saving of £325 a year

Tax word on paper cut by scissor, blue background.

How loudly did you gulp (or swear) when your 2019/20 council tax bill thumped onto your doormat?

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This unloved tax has risen by around five per cent throughout Great Britain (in Northern Ireland, householders still pay rates). But millions could pay no tax or get a big reduction. One of the least well known exemptions is for people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia or the after effects of a stroke.

They can all count as “severe mental impairment”, and people with such conditions are exempt from council tax as long as they also qualify for a disability benefit (eg Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance) and the condition has been certified by a doctor (who is not allowed to charge for doing this).

If the exempt person lives alone, their council tax falls to zero. If they live with one other person, that person counts as a “single person” and their council tax is reduced by a quarter – that means an average discount of around £325 a year.

The single person’s discount is for anyone who lives alone, but it often goes  unclaimed. You also count as “living alone” if there are other people living with you who are all exempt. They include full-time students, student nurses and live-in carers – as well as people with mental impairments.

Councils must allow these exemptions to be backdated for as many years as you have qualified, but some try not to. Appeal if yours does.

Claims are made to the council that sends the council tax bill. In Wales there is one form for severe mental impairment, covering all councils.

You may also get a discount if your income is low. It is called “council tax reduction”. The rules differ depending on where you live, but all have one common feature: as soon as you reach state pension age (from 7 May that is anyone born on 5 February 1954 or earlier), you’ll qualify more easily and the reduction will be bigger.

Council tax reduction cannot normally be backdated more than three months, and sometimes less.

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For more information, go to your local council website or visit gov.uk and search “council tax”.