Residents of some London boroughs have been spared increases, with some even seeing a small reduction. But many thousands of households could also help themselves to substantial savings by checking their council tax banding and claiming discounts they are entitled to.
Lower your tax band
Council tax bandings are based on property valuations back in 1991. Up to 5 per cent of households could be in too high a band because their property was incorrectly valued, resulting in their paying more council tax than necessary. Bandings could also be out of date where properties have been converted into flats.
There is a free “check and challenge” guide for lowering your council tax band at www.moneysavingexpert.com/council.
A key step is to find out if your band is higher than that of neighbours in similar properties. This can be confirmed online at no charge via the government’s Valuation Office Agency (www.voa.gov.uk).
You could also calculate what your property might have been worth in 1991 and see if that figure is lower than the values given for your band.
If these checks point to you being in too high a band, you could get a reduction by appealing to the VOA. Some households have succeeded in getting properties moved down by two bands, cutting bills by hundreds of pounds a year and reclaiming as much as £5,000 for past overpayments.
Get a discount
There are also a range of council tax discounts and exemptions (see www.direct.gov.uk for a guide).
There’s a 25 per cent discount for people living on their own, and for single-parent households with children who are under the age of 18 or students.
Reductions of 10 to 50 per cent are available on second homes, depending on the council, while properties being renovated can qualify for a full tax exemption for 12 months.