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Can you get Council Tax Reduction

This advice applies to Scotland

Coronavirus – council tax reduction

If you have less money because of coronavirus, check if you can pay less council tax. You might be able to get a council tax reduction.

Use our check my council tax tool to see if you can get any help with your council tax.

Also check to see if you can get any other help to pay your bills if you’re struggling because of coronavirus.

Who can get council tax reduction

Check if you’re eligible for a council tax reduction (CTR), for example if you’re getting certain benefits. This can lower your council tax bill and stop you building up arrears. 

There are eligibility criteria that everyone must meet in order to get a council tax reduction. You must:

  • live in the property as your main home - sometimes you may have to work elsewhere but the property where you pay council tax is your main home
  • be liable to pay council tax - usually the person named on the bill 
  • have income below a certain amount - what this is can depend on who is applying
  • have capital below a certain amount - capital is savings and some types of property and it has to be worth £16,000 or less
  • meet the residence rules - be in Great Britain with the correct rights to be here.

The three schemes you might be eligible for are:  

  • you have a low income - you may get certain benefits or your age and what capital you have keep your income low. This is sometimes called the 'main' council tax reduction (CTR) scheme. It’s worth checking if your income has dropped recently as you might qualify for help.
  • you don’t get benefits but pay council tax in Bands E-H - if you have a low income and you live in a home in council tax band E-H you may be able to get a council tax reduction (CTR)
  • your household circumstances may mean you can get Second Adult Rebate. If you are eligible for this your council tax bill is reduced.

If you are eligible for more than one scheme you are awarded a reduction on the one which gives you the largest reduction on your council tax bill. 

You are getting certain benefits 

If you get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, or income-related Employment Support Allowance you are entitled to maximum council tax reduction. This means you do not pay any council tax, unless there are deductions from the maximum reduction because you have someone living in the property who is not dependent on you. A calculation will be done to make a 'non-dependent' deduction. You still have to pay the water and sewerage charges but they are reduced. 

If you get Universal Credit the calculation to work out your income is more complicated than these other benefits. Working out what council tax reduction you might be entitled to based on your income might mean you need advice from an experienced adviser for example at your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

If your home is in Bands E-H for council tax

You will be eligible for this form of council tax reduction (CTR) if all of the following criteria apply:

  • your home is in bands E-H (this will be stated on your council tax bill)
  • you live in the property as your main home
  • you are liable to pay council tax
  • your capital is below a certain amount
  • you meet the residence rules
  • your income is below a certain amount.

There are special income rules for bands E-H relief CTR and your reduction is calculated in a different way than main CTR. 

Find out more about the income rules for bands E-H relief CTR and how your reduction is calculated.  

Can you get the Second Adult Rebate

You might be able to claim Second Adult Rebate if you have to pay council tax and you live with someone else, other than your partner.

The other person must:

  • have income below a certain amount
  • be 18 or over
  • not pay rent
  • not be responsible to pay council tax in their own right in your property, for example, joint tenant
  • not be someone who would be exempt if they lived on their own, for example, a student or care leaver.

To claim the Second Adult Rebate, you’ll need information about the income of the other person.

If you don't give information about the other person's income the local authority won't be able to work out if you are able to claim the rebate. 

If you want more information about Second Adult Rebate and how it is calculated, you should consult an adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

Find out more about other ways to have your council tax bill reduced from discounts.

Check the basic rules for a council tax reduction

Step 1 - do you live in the property

You can only be eligible for a Council Tax Reduction (CTR) if you are resident, or are treated as if you were resident, in the property. For example, you may work abroad sometimes but the property must be your sole or main residence. You must be liable for the council tax bill.

If you occupy more than one property, for example because you have a large family, you may be liable to pay council tax on both properties.

Find out more about Council Tax Reduction and temporary absence from home and who has to pay council tax.

Step 2 - are you liable to pay council tax

You can only apply for a Council Tax Reduction (CTR) if you’re responsible for paying part or all of the council tax bill. 

If you are under 18 you are not responsible for paying council tax and so can’t be eligible for a CTR. Find out about who is liable for council tax.

Step 3 - do you have too much capital

If you have too much capital, you will not be entitled to a Council Tax Reduction (CTR). Capital means things like savings and some types of property. If you are part of a couple or a polygamous marriage, the capital of both, or all of you is taken into account.

It can be complicated to know what counts as capital, for example, a lump sum from your employer for backpay can be treated as capital. If you want more information about how capital and income are treated for CTR, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

If your capital is over £16,000 you are not entitled to a CTR. An exception to this is if you have reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit and are entitled to the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit. If this is complicated for you, consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

If you have some capital under this amount, it may be treated as a type of income to calculate CTR. Find out more about how your Council Tax Reduction is worked out.

Step 4 - residence rules

To be eligible for a CTR you must:

  • have the right to reside, and
  • not be subject to immigration control, and
  • satisfy, or be exempt from the habitual residence test (which can apply to British citizens), and
  • be present in Great Britain.

You are also eligible if you:

  • have refugee status
  • have humanitarian protection
  • have discretionary leave or exceptional leave to remain, granted outside the immigration rules.

You are away from Great Britain

You are treated as present in Great Britain if you are:

  • a member of HM Forces or a Crown servant posted overseas
  • an aircraft worker or a mariner with a UK contract of employment
  • a continental shelf worker in designated EU or Norwegian waters, for example on an oil rig.

If you are the partner of someone treated as present in Great Britain due to their employment and you are with them, you are also treated as being present in Great Britain for a CTR.

If you are away from Great Britain but intending to return, you can still get a CTR if you are away:

  • for any reason for up to one month, so long as you have not been absent on more than two occasions in the previous 52 weeks, or
  • for the second month that you are away if it is due to the death of a close relative of you or your partner, and your local authority is satisfied that it would be unreasonable to expect you to return within the first month, or
  • for up to 6 months if your absence is due to treatment by an appropriately qualified person, or medically approved convalescence or care, for you or a close relative for an illness, or physical or mental disability.

You should tell your local authority about changes in your circumstances that may affect your CTR. Find out more about reporting changes in your circumstances that may affect CTR, about immigration control and habitual residence.

Step 5 - is your income below a certain amount

There are different rules for working out how much income you have if you are a pensioner or non-pensioner. Pensioner has a particular meaning for council tax. The local authority looks at income differently if you or a partner have reached the qualifying age for pension credit. Find out about how your income is worked out if you are a pensioner or about how your income is worked out if you are a non-pensioner.

Discounts if you live alone, are disabled or you are exempt

You should check if you qualify for discounts, for example, because you live on your own, or qualify for a reduction in your bill because you are disabled. In certain circumstances, for example, if you are a student and live only with other students, the property you live in should be exempt from paying council tax. Check your liability to pay council tax.

Council Tax Reduction and water and sewerage charges

If you get council tax reduction (CTR) you should also get up to a maximum of 25% reduction on your public water and sewerage charges on your council tax bill if you are not getting any other discount. This means you still need to pay up to 75% of the charge for water and sewerage. There is a leaflet called Council tax benefits and water and sewerage services [ 0.68 mb] that gives more information.

The amount of reduction on your bill depends on the amount of CTR you get. The local authority should apply this automatically to your bill. 

Example: If you get 50% council tax reduction you will have a reduction applied to your water and sewerage charges. You will get 25% reduction on the water and sewerage charges because that is the maximum possible reduction.

If you are a student, special rules apply to you. Find out more about Council Tax Reduction and students.

Next steps

Council tax reduction - who can apply
Council tax reduction - when to apply

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