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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Council Tax: discounts and exemptions

Homes in the UK receive a Council Tax bill each year. In some situations, you may be entitled to a discount, or even be exempt from paying the bill at all. Find out about discounts and exemptions you may be able to claim.

Ways to pay less Council Tax

Your Council Tax bill can be reduced in one or more of the following ways:

  • the reduction for disabilities scheme - if your disability means you need more living space
  • Council Tax Benefit - for people on low incomes
  • discounts
  • exemptions

To find about the reduction for disabilities scheme and Council Tax Benefit, follow the links below.

The rest of this page is about Council Tax discounts and exemptions.

Who can get Council Tax discounts?

A full Council Tax bill is based on at least two adults living in a home. Certain groups of people don't pay Council Tax. So, if you live with any of them, they won’t be counted as an adult for Council Tax purposes.

These people include:

  • children under 18
  • people on apprentice schemes
  • 18 and 19-year-olds who are in full-time education
  • full-time college and university students
  • young people under 25 who receive funding from the Skills Funding Agency or Young People’s Learning Agency
  • student nurses
  • foreign language assistants registered with the British Council
  • people who have a severe mental disability
  • live-in carers who look after someone who isn't their partner, spouse or child (up to 18 years)
  • diplomats

To find out if you should get a Council Tax discount, count the number of adults who live in your home as their main home. Don't count anyone who is in one of the above groups.

If you are left with no one who counts as an adult, your Council Tax bill will be halved.
If one adult lives in your home, your Council Tax bill will be reduced by 25 per cent.

For houses that contain full-time students only, the bill will be reduced by 100 per cent (see ‘Council Tax exemptions’ below).

Discounts and second homes

You may pay less Council Tax if you own or rent a property that isn’t the home where you usually live.

Some councils give furnished second homes or holiday homes a discount of between 10 and 50 per cent.

Discounts and empty homes

You may pay less Council Tax if you own an empty property where no one lives.

Homes that have been empty and unfurnished for longer than six months may get an empty homes discount of up to 50 per cent.

If your bill doesn’t show a discount

If there is no discount listed on your Council Tax bill and you think you should get one, write to your council explaining why. Some councils also let you apply for Council Tax discounts online.

The council has two months to respond. If you disagree with the council's decision or don't hear back within this time, you can appeal.

If you get a Council Tax discount by mistake

If your Council Tax bill shows a discount that you shouldn't get, you must tell your council. If you don’t, you could get a fine.

The council may also ask you to pay back the discount. If the discount has been given over many months or years, you could face a large bill.

You should also write to your council if you are no longer entitled to a discount.

Council Tax exemptions

Some properties are classed as 'exempt' from Council Tax. This means they won't receive a Council Tax bill. They include:

  • student halls of residence and houses lived in only by full-time students
  • armed forces accommodation
  • annexes such as a garden flat if it is lived in by the children of the main home's owner

Exemptions and empty homes

There are limits on how long empty homes won't be charged Council Tax:

  • unfurnished homes where no one lives are exempt for up to six months
  • homes undergoing major repair work or structural changes (eg rebuilding walls and floors) are exempt for up to 12 months
  • homes where the owner has died are exempt for up to six months after probate is granted (your legal right to sell the home)

After this time, the property may qualify for an empty homes discount.

Some homes are exempt for as long as they remain empty. They include homes:

  • of someone in prison (except for not paying a fine or Council Tax)
  • of someone who has moved into a care home or hospital
  • that have been repossessed
  • that cannot be lived in by law
  • that are kept empty because they have been compulsory purchased and so will be demolished

Completion notices

Local councils usually send completion notices to new homes and properties that have had major home improvements (eg rebuilding walls, floors and rooms).

A completion notice gives the day the council thinks your property was finished. You will have to start paying Council Tax from this date.

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