Challenging Your Council Tax Bill | Changing the Banding of a Property
If you think your Council Tax bill is too high then it may be possible to get it cut. Here’s how to appeal your Council Tax band and challenge your Council Tax bill.
How Council Tax Works
Council Tax is assessed according to the value of your property. Factors that dictate a property’s value for Council Tax include things like size, type of property and location.
Every house or flat is put into a Council Tax valuation band based on its value. The eight Council Tax bands run from A for the cheapest property to H for the most expensive. (A-I in Wales.) The property values for each band are different in England, Scotland and Wales.
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Why Your Council Tax Might be Wrong
Council Tax bills may be too high (or low) because of the way in which houses and flats were originally valued for Council Tax.
Houses in England, Scotland and Wales were originally valued for Council Tax in 1991 according to their nominal capital value at the time. Houses were not individually inspected. Surveyors and estate agents were asked to do a quick ‘drive by’ valuation. This method was not very accurate and it’s believed thousands of properties were placed into the wrong band and have stayed there since.
Houses built since 1991 are still given a Council Tax valuation based on their 1991 value.
The property market has changed a lot since 1991. Many properties have been changed or redeveloped since. This increases the chances that your Council Tax band is wrong.
Properties in Wales were revalued for Council Tax in 2003 so there is less chance they will be inaccurate. It is still possible to appeal against your Council Tax in Wales, however.
Northern Ireland does not have Council Tax but instead has domestic rates.
How to Appeal Your Council Tax
Because it’s recognised that the Council Tax bands are sometimes wrong there is an official system for challenging your Council Tax bill by appealing against your Council Tax banding. You can usually do this if you have been paying Council Tax on a property for at least six months and whether you own the property or rent it.
It is free to appeal against your Council Tax and you can do it yourself. You do not need to pay a lawyer or appeals service to challenge your Council Tax.
Here’s a step by step guide to appealing your Council Tax band:
Step One. Estimate the Value of Your Property in 1991
By estimating the value of your house in 1991 you can get an idea of whether it was placed in the right or wrong band originally.
There are a number of online tools which can help estimate historic house prices including the Nationwide House Price Index.
If the value of your house in 1991 would have put it in a different band to that which it is actually in it is possible (but not certain) that your Council Tax banding may be wrong.
Tip. If anything has changed since 1991 this may mean your banding is not actually wrong. For example if your property has been extended this might explain the higher banding.
The valuation bands for Council Tax based on 1991 values (2003 for Wales) are as follows:
Council Tax Bands in England
|A||Less than £40,000|
|H||Greater than £320,000|
Council Tax Bands in Wales
|A||Less than £44,000|
|D||£91,001 to £123,000|
|I||Greater than £424,000|
Council Tax Bands in Scotland
|A||Less than £27,000|
|H||Greater than £212,000|
Step Two. Compare Your Property’s Band to Others
Find out how your Council Tax banding compares to similar properties in the area. Look for similar properties in your area to see if they are in the same, a higher or lower Council Tax band.
You can find the Council Tax band for any property, here.
If similar properties are in a lower band this might also suggest that your banding is too high.
Step Three. Collect Evidence that Your Property Could Be in the Wrong Council Tax Band
If you think your Council Tax band is too high you will need to have a reason and provide evidence this could be the case.
Officially accepted reasons for challenging a Council Tax banding include that your property or area has changed. For example, your property has been demolished, split into several properties, merged into one or that part of it is now used for business. A new road or commercial development might have been built that has changed the area.
To challenge your Council Tax banding in England or Wales the Government says you will need to give the addresses of up to five similar properties that are in a lower Council Tax band than yours. They must be the same as your property in terms of age, style, design, type and the size must be similar or larger. They must also be either in the same street or estate if a town/city or the same village in a rural area.
You can also use the price that your property or similar properties sold for as evidence if the sales were between 1 April 1989 and 31 March 1993 (England) or 1 April 2001 and 31 March 2005 (Wales).
The system for appealing your Council tax band is different in Scotland. In Scotland, appealing your Council Tax band is known as making a proposal. The Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) provide more information about doing this.
Step Four. Challenge your Council Tax Band
Council Tax is collected by your local council but you cannot ask the council to change your Council Tax banding.
If you decide to challenge your Council Tax banding you can do so by applying to the official Valuation Office Agency or VOA in England and Wales.
You can challenge your Council Tax band online. You can also call or email the Valuation Office Agency. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. 03000 501 501 (England). Tel. 03000 505 505 (Wales).
The VOA may take up to two months to review your challenge. If your challenge is successful they will change your Council Tax banding and your council will amend your bill. If your appeal is unsuccessful they will tell you why.
Reasons Why You Should NOT Challenge Your Council Tax Banding
It is important to realise that if you appeal your Council Tax band it could potentially be increased if the Valuation Office Agency consider it is too low.
There is also a risk that if you appeal your banding your neighbour’s Council Tax could be increased if the investigation finds their bands are too low.
In one well-known case, residents of an entire street faced a Council Tax rise because one of their neighbours complained that their band was higher than everyone else.
How Much Money Could You Save by Challenging Your Council Tax Bill?
If you successfully challenge your Council Tax bill you could make a saving, not only on this year’s Council Tax but every year going forward. You could also receive a refund for every year you have overpaid.
If for example, you are paying band E Council Tax at £2,200 a year when you should be paying band D Council Tax at £1,800 a year (actual amounts vary by council area) you could save £400 each and every year. If you have lived in the property since the tax started in 1993 you could receive a refund of thousands of pounds.