Over 130 councils set to raise tax by 4% this year – see if you can cut yours
Almost 90% of local authorities in England which provide care services are looking to raise council tax this year by the maximum permitted amount of 4%, according to new analysis.
All 133 English social care authorities which have published draft budgets are planning to raise council tax from April, according to research from the County Councils Network (CCN), which represents 37 county councils and unitary authorities in England.
And 116 of the 133 councils plan to raise council tax by 3.99%, which is the maximum hike these local authorities can impose during the next financial year without holding a referendum. A further 18 English social care authorities hadn't yet published their draft budgets when the CCN checked.
Local authorities in England can raise council tax by up to 2% in April, while councils with adult social care responsibilities can raise rates by up to 4% (including 2% which is ring-fenced for social care services).
The CCN analysis only looked at social care authorities, meaning many councils in England aren't included in the data – but most English authorities raised council tax last year.
Many can cut or manage their council tax bills using the tips below – see our Council Tax Bands guide for full help.
In England you can pay your bills over 12 months
Council tax payments are often made over 10 months, but in April 2013 the Government announced that all councils in England must allow you to pay your council tax over 12 months.
If you live in England, contact your council and tell it you want to change to the 12-month payment schedule.
Check you're in the right council tax band
Up to 400,000 households in England and Scotland could be overpaying on their council tax bills because they're in the wrong band.
If you successfully challenge your council tax band, you could slash the cost of your current bill and even get a rebate for what you've overpaid in previous years – we've seen payouts of £1,000s, and one MoneySaver recently managed to get the council tax band lowered for him and his 29 neighbours, saving £10,000s collectively.
You can do this by asking your council for a reassessment of your tax band. But remember that if you do this your band – and your bill – could go up as well as down, so make sure you've done the full checks before challenging.
We've full info on how to check and challenge your council tax band in our Council Tax Bands guide.
Live alone? Get a 25% discount
If you live alone or are classed as the only adult in your home in England, Scotland or Wales, you may be eligible for a single person's discount, meaning a 25% reduction.
Full-time student? You are exempt
If you're a full-time student living alone or with other students, you don't need to pay council tax, no matter how many of you live together.
If you're a full-time student living with a non-student, you're disregarded, so the non-student is treated as though they live alone and can claim the 25% single person's discount.
If you're a full-time student living with more than one non-student, you're still exempt, but because there are two non-students the house has to pay the full 100% charge.
Are you eligible for a 'severe mental impairment' discount?
If someone's medically certified as being 'severely mentally impaired' (SMI) – if they have Alzheimer's or learning difficulties, for example – they'll be disregarded for council tax purposes in England, Scotland and Wales.
So if you're diagnosed as SMI and live alone, you won't need to pay any council tax.
And if you don't have SMI yourself, but live with someone who's diagnosed as SMI and no other adults (or only other adults who have also been disregarded for council tax purposes), you'll get a 25% discount.
See our Council tax discounts for 'severe mental impairment' guide for full information.
Moved home since 1993? Check if you're due a council tax refund
As council tax is paid ahead of time, it's common to be in credit with your council when you move – but many don't know to claim this money back.
A MoneySavingExpert.com investigation last year found that there's over £230 million in 1.7 million closed or inactive council tax accounts.
If you've overpaid council tax, you can claim it back by getting in touch with your local authority. See our Reclaim overpaid council tax guide for more info.