If you're on a low income, you may be entitled to some help towards paying your council tax. This is called Council Tax Reduction (CTR).
Although each local authority in England has its own CTR scheme, there are some general rules about who can apply for CTR. These rules apply both to pensioners and to people of working age.
Read this page to find out about who can apply for CTR.
You must live in the property where you're applying for CTR
You will only be entitled to apply for CTR for a property if you actually live there. It must be your only or main residence.
If you're temporarily away from home, your local authority may ignore your absence. If you're a pensioner, the Government has said exactly which periods of absence must be ignored under a CTR scheme.
If you live in two properties which are next door to one another and you're responsible for council tax on both properties, you may be entitled to CTR for both properties.
You must be responsible for paying council tax
Before you apply for CTR, you should make sure you're the person responsible (liable) for paying council tax on the property. You may be responsible for the council tax even if your name is not on the bill. In some cases, you may be jointly responsible for the council tax with someone else.
You should also check whether the property is exempt from council tax or whether there are discounts that apply.
If you're subject to immigration control
You won't normally be allowed to apply for CTR if you're subject to immigration control, although there are some exceptions to this rule.
Are you habitually resident in the UK?
You won't be allowed to claim CTR if you don't satisfy the habitual residence test. You must show that you have the 'right to reside' in the UK and also that you are habitually resident in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, or the Republic of Ireland. The right to reside part of the test applies only to EEA nationals. From 1 April 2014, if you are an EEA national who is a jobseeker, you are not treated as having the right to reside for the purposes of claiming CTR simply by being a jobseeker, although you might be able to show a right to reside on some other basis, for example, as a family member of a worker. You should be treated as habitually resident if you're receiving income support, income-based JSA or income-related employment and support allowance or if you're a Croatian national treated as a worker under the worker authorisation scheme for Croatians. However, from 1 April 2015 you won't be able to claim CTR if you're receiving income-based JSA but your only right to reside is as a jobseeker or the family member of a jobseeker, although this change won't apply to you if you're already receiving CTR on this date. However, you will lose your CTR if you make a new claim for it after 1 April 2015 or if you stop receiving income-based JSA.
The need to show that you are habitually resident applies to British citizens as well as to EEA nationals. If you are a British citizen who has recently returned to the UK after a period of living or working abroad you may have difficulty showing that you are habitually resident.
Showing that you have a right to reside and that you're habitually resident can be difficult. If you're unsure about anything, seek the help of an adviser.
If you need more help
Do you have too much capital?
Your local CTR scheme is likely to exclude some people from applying because they have too much capital. Capital means things like savings and some types of property.
If you have too much capital to be entitled to CTR you may be able to claim a second adult rebate instead.
If you're a pensioner, you should be able to get CTR if you've got less than £16,000 worth of capital. However, unless you get the guarantee part of Pension Credit (in which case your capital is ignored) you won't be able to get CTR if you've got capital of over £16,000.
People of working age
Your local authority can set its own capital limit for people of working age. This is likely to be £16,000 or less.
Under council tax legislation, your local authority has the power to reduce or cancel your council tax bill, even if you're not exempt from paying or entitled to a discount or reduction. This power is called discretionary, because your local authority can choose when, if and how to use it.
This power is normally only used in exceptional cases.