April’s council tax rise will be as unpleasant as it was predictable.
The Chancellor of the United Kingdom Jeremy “Scavenger” Hunt looked for every possible dark corner for the additional tax that could be increased without causing too much political backlash. Council tax was always there because central government and councils can blame each other for the increase, to escape the wrath of the voters.
As a result, from April 2023 your council tax will rise by anything up to 5%, so the bill for a Band D property could rise from an average of £1,966 to an average of £2,064.
Back in 1990, people rioted in the streets at the thought of a poll tax of £357 per person – which with two people in the family comes to £714. Taking inflation into account that is the equivalent of £1,613 today.
We passed that level in 2018, and next year we will leave it in the dust.
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Meanwhile, of course, our finances are stretched to breaking point on all sides. In April, when these higher tax bills come in, we will be burdened with even higher energy bills – up to an unimaginable £3,000 a year.
It means that while we are happy to pay our fair share to support local services, none of us are in a position to pay more than the odds.
There are a couple of things you can do that can help cut your bills.
See if you can get a discount
Some people are “disregarded” when you calculate how many people are at home. This includes under 18s and students.
If ignoring these people leaves no one in the house, you can get a 100% discount – so student families don’t have to pay anything.
If you leave one person, they can get the single person discount of 25%. You won’t get this automatically – you need to ask for it.
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There are also discounts for those with a severe mental impairment such as Alzheimer’s, some full-time carers for people with disabilities on specific benefits, and people with pension credit.
The discount will depend on who lives in the house, so you may need to check if you qualify, and how much you can save. The best place to start is the government website.
Check if you are paying too much
You may also pay too much because you are in the wrong council tax band.
These were established at a specific moment in time, and because many properties were evaluated simultaneously, some corners were cut.
If it turns out they overvalued your property, you could end up paying lower bills – and get a refund in the bargain.
Do lumber work
It is worth knowing in advance that the challenges do not always work, and in the worst case, they can mean that your assessment is high, so that your bill ends up even higher. It means you need to do some work first.
The easiest approach is to ask neighbors in similar properties what they pay, because if it is very different, you may have found a mistake. Not everyone feels comfortable with these questions, so if you prefer, you can check the website of the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
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Next, you need to have an idea of what your property was worth in 1991. Zoopla has a record of previous sales prices in each area. Even if your property was not sold in 1991, you may be able to provide an appraisal.
You can then compare this to the list on the VOA website and see which band should have been put on the first day. The idea is that this will show if it is you or your neighbors in the wrong band.
If you are sure that your home is in a band that is too high, you need to contact the VOA, either through the government website or by calling 03000 501 501.
There is a bit of work involved, and there are no guarantees, but as council tax continues to rise, checking if you can cut your costs could end up being an incredibly rewarding hour of your time.