Martin Lewis explains how to save £1,000s on your council tax bills ahead of 5% hikes

Martin Lewis explains how to save £1,000s on your council tax bills ahead of 5% hikes

MARTIN Lewis has revealed how Brits can save thousands of pounds on their council tax bills.

It comes as many households face tax hikes of up to 5% from April as many local authorities look to raise funds to spend on rising police and social care costs.

The consumer guru explained bill payers could be forking out too much cash on the tax because they've been paced in the wrong band.

The MoneySavingExpert founder issued a reminder about checking your band in his ITV Martin Lewis Money Show last night.

"Council Tax – over 50% of the councils in England are doing the maximum rise they can, and the rest of the UK is going up in many places too," he told viewers.

"That's £90 for a year for the typical Band D property on April 1."

How to check your council tax bill and whether it’s going up

MANY local authorities will be hiking council tax bills from April – here’s how to check if you’ll be paying more.

You'll first need to find out what council tax band your home is in to work out how much you have to pay.

This can be done on Gov.uk for homes in England an Wales, or on the Scottish Assessors website if you live in Scotland.

You'll need to enter in your postcode and scroll through the listed addresses to find yours.

Local councils must contact you directly to let you know if your bill is going up or down, for example, via a letter or email.

If you still haven't heard from your council, you should contact them directly.

The contact details of your local council can be found on the Gov.uk postcode checker.

Martin also urged watchers to check to see if they're entitled to any discounts.

He continued to explain that if you're a single person, or you're the only adult living with under 18-year-olds you will be entitled to a 25% reduction.

If you're living with full-time students, you can get the same discount.

You are also entitled to money off the bill if you have a severe mental impairment or are on a low income.

Martin then tweeted about how to check – and challenge – your council tax band.

But before you get started, it's worth noting that challenging your council tax doesn't always work.

It can also end up with you, and your neighbours, paying more if you're bumped up to a higher council tax band.

As many as 400,000 homes are potentially in the wrong council tax band.

What you need to know before challenging your council tax band

The first step is to check what council tax band your neighbours are on – you can then see if it matches your band.

Martin says you should try and compare homes that are similar in size and value.

You can check council bands online for free, so you don't need to ask your neighbours in person if you're not on friendly terms.

Use the GOV.uk website to do this for houses in England, or the Scottish Assessors Association for properties in Scotland.

If you find your property is in a higher council tax band compared to your neighbours, you might have a successful challenge.

However, it should be warned again that your entire street might just be in the wrong council tax band – so you could ended up pushing up everyone's bills.

What help is available if you’re struggling to pay your council tax?

IF you are over the age of 18 and either own or rent your own home, you must pay council tax.

But there is help available if you're struggling to pay your bill.

You get 25% off if:

You live on your own.

You also qualify for this discount if there is one adult and one student, or one adult and one person who is classed as severely mentally impaired.

You get 50% off if:

When working out how many people live in a property, some people are not counted – they are called "disregarded people".

You can get a 50% discount if everyone in your home is "disregarded" from paying council tax.

For example, if there is a live-in carer and one person who is severely mentally impaired.

Check out the Citizens Advicewebsite for a full list.

You get 100% off if:

You’re living in an all-student household, or if you have a severe mental impairment and live alone or with a student.

A full reduction is also possible in households where someone under 18 is living with someone who is severely mentally impaired.

Claim benefits?

You could be entitled to a 100% reduction on your council tax bill if you receive certain benefits.

Check with your local council to see what help you can offer.

Own a second home?

You’ll usually have to pay council tax on an empty home.

But councils can give furnished second homes or holiday homes a discount of up to 50%.

Talk to your local authority to see what help they can offer.

Is there help during the coronavirus crisis?

Struggling households can also get their council tax bills reduced by up to £150 this year due to the coronavirus crisis.

The council tax hardship fund, which was first announced in March, is available to working-age people who get council tax support.

This is a benefit to help people who are on a low income or claiming certain benefits to pay their council tax bill.

Can I pause my payments?

A new scheme is launching this year that will see struggling households pause their payments for 60 days.

First announced in June 2019, the breathing space scheme will protect hard-up Brits from bailiffs and prosecution for two months.

The scheme won't come into force until May 4, 2021.

Finally, you'll also need to work out how much your property was worth in 1991, as this is when council tax was launched by the government.

MoneySavingExpert has a free calculator tool to help you do this, as well as a table on what band you should have been put in.

This information can't be used when you challenge, but it'll give you a better idea of whether you'll likely be successful.

How to challenge your council tax band

If you want to go ahead with a challenge, you can contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) in England and Wales or the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) in Scotland.

You should have your evidence on hand to back up your claim, which could include addresses of neighbours in similar properties that are in lower bands.

The addresses you send must be on the same street or estate you live on, or in the same village if you live on the countryside.

If you're successful, the valuation office will contact you and the band will be changed.

If you're moved to a lower band, you'll get a refund of council tax going back to the date you moved into the property.

But if you're moved to a higher band, you'll start paying an increased rate of council tax straight away.

If it disagrees that you're in the wrong band, nothing will change.

You can appeal to an independent valuation tribunal if you're not happy with the decision.

There are details on how to do this on the VOA and SAA websites.

Worried about how much your bill might be going up by? Here's how to check.

Meanwhile, millions of struggling households can get their council tax bills reduced by £150 this year due to the coronavirus crisis.

You may also be able to pause council tax payments and other bills for 60 days under a separate scheme.

 

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