This is when you don’t have to pay council tax - and how to check you are in the right council tax band
Council tax can be an expensive monthly bill, but for two months of the year homeowners can enjoy a brief reprieve.
The cost of a council tax bill is usually split into 10 monthly instalments, meaning there are two months of the year that are completely payment free.
Paying your council tax bill
If you pay your council tax in 10 instalments, you will be granted a tax-break in your bill during February and March.
While most people pay their bill over the course of 10 months, it is possible to spread the cost over 12 months instead.
Those struggling to afford to pay in 10 instalments can contact their local council to adjust their payment plan, spreading the payments across 12 months instead.
Your council tax bill will tell you:
how much you have to pay for the year
how that amount has been worked out
the dates you have to pay
Your council may give you a one-off discount if you still can’t pay what you owe, and you can also check if you are eligible for the following:
Council Tax Reduction - if you are on a low income or get benefits
A reduced council tax bill - if you live on your own, for example
Who has to pay council tax?
You will usually have to pay council tax if you are aged 18 or over, and you own or rent a home.
A full council tax bill is based on at least two adults living in a home, with spouses and partners who live together being jointly responsible for bill payments.
You will receive 25 per cent off your bill if you live on your own, or if no-one else in your home is an adult.
You will usually get a 50 per cent discount if no-one living in your home, including yourself, counts as an adult.
And if everyone in your home, including yourself, is a full-time student, you will not be required to pay any council tax.
A full council tax bill is based on at least two adults living in a home (Photo: Shutterstock)
What are the council tax bands?
Council tax bands are calculated based on the value of your property at a specific point in time.
In England, this band is based on what your property value would have been on 1 April 1991. If your property did not exist in 1991, it will be compared to similar types of properties in the area to determine the band.
The assessments are based on the following criteria of your home:
Change in use (if applicable)
Value on a certain date - depending on its location (1 April 1991 in England)
In England, properties are placed into one of eight bands which range from A to H, and depend on the price they would have sold for in April 1991.
The valuation bands for England are as follows:
Band A - Up to £40,000
Band B - More than £40,000
Band C - Up to £52,000 and up to £68,000
Band D - More than £68,000 and up to £88,000
Band E - More than £68,000 and up to £120,000
Band F - More than £120,000 and up to £160,000
Band G - More than £160,000 and up to £320,000
Band H - More than £320,000
In Scotland, the bands are as follows:
Band A - up to £27,000
Band B - over £27,000 and up to £35,000
Band C - over £35,000 and up to £45,000
Band D - over £45,000 and up to £58,000
Band E - over £58,000 and up to £80,000
Band F - over £80,000 and up to £106,000
Band G - over £106,000 and up to £212,000
Band H - over £212,000
In Northern Ireland, there is a rates system instead of council tax, based on the capital, or market value of homes.
For 2019-2020, there is a district rate increase of 1.98 per cent. This means an average weekly increase of 62p per month, or £7.44 per year, for a house.
How do I check if I’m paying too much?
If you think your property has been incorrectly valued, you can dispute it and apply to get it changed by contacting the VOA for England and Wales.
However, changing your home’s valuation could result in a higher tax bill if the VOA places your property into a higher band.
You can also request a band review from your local valuation office if you think there was a mistake in the original valuation of your home, but you will need to explain why you believe it is wrong.
Improvements to your home won’t increase the amount of council tax you pay, but the band may change if your property is sold, or is the subject of a new lease for more than seven years. In these instances, the VOA would review your band and it could be increased.
In Scotland, households can make a challenge via the Scottish Assessors Association. This can be done by searching for a property under "To Search for a Council Tax" band, selecting the property in question, followed by "Make a Proposal".