Hundreds of thousands of households have reclaimed overpaid council tax over the past 13 years, figures show.

Official data reveals over half a million people in England alone have had their home rebanded in that time.

The majority are thought to have had their bills lowered and received a rebate for overpaid tax in previous years, sometimes running in thousands of pounds (see the Council Tax Rebanding guide).

The amount of council tax you pay depends on the band your property was placed in 1991 but these were often calculated on what is known as 'second gear valuation' because assessors literally drove by your home in second gear to make their judgment.

That means hundreds of thousands more could be paying too much.

Half a million rebanded

Since the 1997-98 financial year, at least 513,801 properties have been given the CL26 code by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), according to government data. The true total will be higher as figures for the 2009-10 tax year, which ended earlier this month, are still unknown.

The CL26 code is used where a property has had its council tax band corrected, but only where an error has been flagged up.

There is a large spike in the 2007-08 financial year after the council tax rebanding campaign began.

It not only featured on this site but on ITV1 and on several national newspaper front pages.

Council tax rebanding history
Financial year Number of homes rebanded
1997-98 60,365
1998-99 53,811
1999-2000 50,844
2000-01 39,010
2001-02 27,724
2002-03 31,002
2003-04 36,652
2004-05 29,928
2005-06 31,147
2006-07 39,017
2007-08 63,233
2008-09 51,068

Martin Lewis, creator, says: "This is yet more proof that everybody, everybody, everybody should check whether they are in the right council tax band.

"It only takes about ten minutes and if you're in the wrong band, not only can you have it lowered, you can get a backdated payout from the date you moved in.

"It's possible many hundreds of thousands in England and Scotland could be paying too much."

How to check your council tax band (find relevant links in the Council Tax Rebanding guide)

  • Step 1: Compare your banding to your neighbours by entering your postcode on the VOA website if you live in England or Wales, or the Scottish Assessors' Authority. If they are in a lower band but your property is similar, it will help your case for rebanding.

  • Step 2: Check house price values in your area. Go to one of the free websites that allow you to check the prices of all properties sold in your street since 2000. You want to find the most recent sale price of a similar property to yours.

  • Step 3: Use a house price calculator and input the price you got from step 2 to estimate your home's value at 1991 levels.

  • Step 4: Use the 1991 estimated value to work out your correct band (full details in the Council Tax Rebanding guide).

  • Step 5. If your property band's unfair, contact the VOA or SAA. But remember you could also be placed in a higher band so only challenge if you're convinced you're paying too much.

The technique is most likely to work in England and Scotland as homes were revalued in Wales in 2003. Northern Ireland has a completely different system.

Further reading/Key Links

Reclaim: Council Tax Banding
Cut home costs: Home Insurance, Cheap Mortgage Finding