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Check if you can pay less council tax

This advice applies to England

You might be able to pay less council tax or not pay it at all depending on your circumstances. 

You might be able to get:

  • discounts - for example, for a single person or an empty property
  • Council Tax Reduction (CTR) if you have low income
  • a different reduction if you can’t get much CTR

Check if you can get a discount on your council tax

You might get a discount automatically on your council tax bill. If you're not sure whether you're already getting a discount, check your bill or contact the council. You can find your council's contact details on GOV.UK.

If you're not getting a discount, you might still be entitled to one. It depends who lives in the property.

Check if you can get a single person discount

If you're the only adult in your home, you’ll get a 25% discount on your council tax bill.

When working out how many people live in a property, some people aren’t counted - they’re called ‘disregarded people’.

If everyone who lives in the property is disregarded there’s still a council tax bill, but it will have a 50% discount. If everyone in your home is a student or severely mentally impaired, you won't pay any council tax.

If you're entitled to a discount because someone has moved out, tell the council. You're entitled to the discount from when the person moved out, even if you told the council later.

A young person living at home

Someone will be disregarded if they’re:

  • aged under 18
  • aged 18 or 19 and someone is entitled to Child Benefit for them
  • aged 18 or 19 and were still in education on 30 April

If they’re a school or college leaver aged 18 or 19 and they left after 30 April, they’ll be disregarded until 1 November.

In education or training

Someone will be disregarded if they’re:

  • a full-time student on a degree level or postgraduate course
  • a person aged 19 or under on a course before degree level - for example A levels or GNVQ level 3
  • a student nurse
  • a young person on a government training scheme
  • following some kinds of apprenticeship
  • a Foreign Language Assistant on the official British Council programme

Someone might also be disregarded if they're related to a student and they aren't a British citizen themselves.

If they're related to a student, they'll only be disregarded if they:

  • are the student's wife, husband, civil partner or dependent
  • can't work or can’t claim benefits in the UK

Temporarily away from home

Someone will be disregarded if they’re:

  • a long-term hospital patient or care home resident
  • living in a hostel which provides care or treatment because of their age, physical or mental disability, past or present alcohol or drug dependence or past or present mental illness
  • staying in a hostel or night shelter
  • a prisoner or someone in detention awaiting deportation or under mental health legislation
  • living in a bail or probation hostel

People with learning disabilities or severe mental impairment

Someone will be disregarded for council tax if their condition is permanent - for example, they have dementia. They’ll need a doctor's certificate, which should be free. The certificate needs to say when their mental health condition started.

They must also be claiming one of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit with limited capability for work or work related activity
  • Employment Support Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • standard or enhanced rate of the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment
  • middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • the disability element in Working Tax Credit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • an increase in Disablement Pension for constant attendance
  • Unemployability Supplement
  • Constant Attendance Allowance paid from industrial injuries scheme
  • unemployability allowance paid from War Pension Schemes
  • Income Support including a disability premium due to incapacity for work

Some other people might also be disregarded - for example, some live-in care workers. Your local council will tell you if they’re disregarded when you apply.

Example 1

Dan has learning disabilities and lives in a property with his carer. They’re both disregarded people. They’re entitled to a 50% discount on their council tax.

If you live with an adult who isn’t disregarded

You might be able to get another discount called a 'second adult rebate’. The person you live with must be on a low income or getting certain benefits.

You can find out more about second adult rebate.

If you have another home

Your local council might give you a discount if you have another home you don't live in - for example, if it's not safe to live in or it's connected to your main home.

If you have an empty property

Your local council might offer a discount on your property if it’s empty for certain reasons - for example, it needs work to make it safe to live in.

If your property is empty and has little or no furniture, your local council might reduce your council tax. The council will tell you how long they'll reduce your council tax for.

If your property is empty because it needs major repairs or alterations to make it safe to live in, your local council might reduce your council tax. The council will tell you how long they'll reduce your council tax for. 

Your local council can choose whether to give you a discount for an empty property. You’ll need to check your local council’s rules on their website.

If you have a holiday home or second home

If you have a holiday home or second home, you need to pay council tax on it. Some councils sometimes offer a 'second home discount' because no one lives there on a permanent basis. This discount might only be for a short time but could save you up to 50%. Contact the local council where your holiday home or second home is, and ask them if you can get a discount.

The council must give you a 50% discount if your second home is either:

  • owned by someone who can’t live there because they have to live elsewhere in England, Wales or Scotland because of their job or their partner's job
  • a pitch with a caravan on it or a mooring occupied by a boat

If your property includes an extra home for a family member

An extra home that's connected to your home is called an 'annexe.'

Local councils give a 50% discount on an annexe within a main property if the annexe is used by people who live in the main property or by their immediate family members, including parents and teenagers.

You won't pay any council tax on the annexe if a dependant family member lives there. Your family member might be dependent if they’re aged 65 or over, or they have a physical or mental disability.

If your annexe is empty, you don’t need to pay council tax on it.

If you or someone you live with is disabled

The council tax bill for the property might be reduced.

You must be able to show that a disabled person lives in the property to claim a reduction. The property must also have either:

  • an extra kitchen or bathroom to meet the needs of a disabled person
  • any other room (except a toilet) which is mainly used by a disabled person to meet their needs
  • enough indoor space for a disabled person to use their wheelchair

The council will charge the rate for a lower council tax band instead. If the property is in band D, the council tax bill will be worked out as if it were in band C. This reduction also applies to dwellings in band A.

Ask your local council if you can get a ‘disabled person’s reduction’. You can find your council's contact details on GOV.UK.

Some local councils ask for extra evidence - for example, a doctor’s letter.

If you think your bill is wrong

If you think you should get a discount and your bill doesn’t show you got one, you should apply to your local council for a discount as soon as possible. You can find your council's contact details on GOV.UK.

If your bill shows that your local council has applied a discount and you think you shouldn’t have had one, you must tell your local council within 21 days. If you don’t, your local council might send you a £70 penalty.

If you have a complaint about your discount

You can write to your local council and explain your complaint. They should get back to you within 2 months. If they don’t agree with you or they don’t reply within 2 months, you can appeal to a valuation tribunal.

You can find out more about how to appeal your council’s decision.

Check if you can apply for Council Tax Reduction

If you’re on a low income you might be able to get your council tax reduced. If you get benefits or have other people living with you, this might affect how much your council tax is reduced by.

Your local council will ask you details about your income and your circumstances, so they can work out if you’re entitled to Council Tax Reduction (CTR). They will then work out your new bill and tell you how much council tax you need to pay.

If you have other people living with you who are aged 18 or over, you might all be responsible for paying council tax. Only one of you needs to apply for CTR.

If you're awarded CTR, you won't normally get an actual payment. The council will reduce the amount of council tax you have to pay.

Check if you can pay less UK benefits

You'll need to show that the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home and you plan to stay - this is known as being ‘habitually resident’.

If you've recently returned to the UK after a period of living or working abroad you might have difficulty showing that you are habitually resident.

If you're from the UK, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland you can check if you have the right to reside for benefits. The EEA includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

If you’re subject to immigration control you need to check if you can access UK benefits and services.

Check which CTR rules apply

Which rules apply usually depends on whether you’ve reached State Pension age. You can check your State Pension age on GOV.UK .

If you’re under State Pension age, the ‘working age rules’ apply.

If you've reached State Pension age, it depends if you or your partner get certain benefits.

The working age rules still apply if you've reached State Pension age and you or your partner get:

  • Universal Credit
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support

If you've reached State Pension age and don't get any of these benefits, the 'pension age rules' apply.

If the working age rules apply

Your local council can make its own rules about who’s entitled to CTR and how much you’ll get.

You’ll need to check with your local council to find out if you’re entitled to CTR. It's likely that you’ll have to pay something towards your council tax bill.

You can find your local council’s website on GOV.UK.

If the pension age rules apply

Your local council will need to work out your income to see if you’re entitled to CTR and how much CTR you might get. If you have a partner, the council will also include their income.

You'll also need to have less than £16,000 in savings and property - this is called 'capital'.

You can get CTR with more than £16,000 in savings and property if you get the guarantee part of Pension Credit.

If you own capital jointly

If you own capital jointly with someone else who isn't your partner, you’ll usually be treated as owning half. For example, if you have a joint savings account with your son worth £16,000, you’ll be treated as having savings of £8,000.

If you share the account with your partner, you’ll be treated as having savings of £16,000.

If another adult lives with you the council might reduce how much CTR you get. This is because some adults are expected to pay towards your household bills.

The council won't reduce how much CTR you get if the other adult is your partner, or if they're also responsible for paying council tax.

Apply for CTR

You can find out about applying for CTR.

If you can’t get CTR

If you’re not able to get CTR, you might be able to apply for another discount called ‘second adult rebate’. 

You can find out more about second adult rebate.

If you’re struggling to pay for essentials

Your local council can still reduce your council tax bill or cancel it altogether, this is called ‘discretionary reduction’. They’ll normally only do this if you can show that you’re suffering severe hardship and can’t afford to pay council tax. If you’re in this situation you should ask your local council for help. You’ll need to show them evidence of your circumstances.

You can find your council’s contact details on GOV.UK.

If you don’t get a discretionary reduction

You might be able to appeal to a valuation tribunal. If the tribunal agree with you they can order your council to reduce or even cancel your council tax bill. 

You can find out more about how to appeal.

If you want to make a complaint about your local council

You should use your local council's own complaints process first. You can find your council’s contact details on GOV.UK.

If you're not happy with the council's response you might be able to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.

You can check the factsheet on complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman about your CTR claim on the ombudsman's website.

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