Communities Secretary Eric Pickles today announced the Government has shelved Labour's plans to revaluate every property in England's council tax band.
The coalition says this would be intrusive and cost families up to £320 a year in tax hikes. Around 400,000 homes could be in the wrong band, it is estimated.
While many people will be better off thanks to the Government action, others are currently paying too much so will miss out on a cut in payments unless they appeal, though not everyone is successful when challenging (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. In England & Scotland, they've not been revalued since.
Martin Lewis, creator of MoneySavingExpert.com, says: "I remember sitting opposite Eric Pickles on TV where he decried Labour for covering up that 400,000 people were in the wrong council tax band.
"Yet this means those people will remain in the wrong band, still based on valuations done by estate agents driving past homes. The system is flawed, and was never meant to last this long.
"Millions have tried our council tax rebanding system, found their band is too high, but been wrongly told they can't appeal because they moved into the property more than six months before.
"At the very least, Mr Pickles, please launch a straightforward and simple appeal process, open to everyone."
Pickles says: "We have cancelled Labour's plans for a council tax revaluation which would have hiked up taxes on people's homes.
"The new Government will protect the privacy of law-abiding citizens from intrusive spies-in-the-sky and halt state inspectors from barging into England's bedrooms and gardens."
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 Valuation Office Agency (VOA) website if you live in England or Wales, or the Scottish Assessors' Authority (SAA). 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.
Does this really work?
While not everyone is successful, half a million households have reclaimed overpaid council tax over the past 13 years, government data has shown (see the Council tax rebanding MSE News story).
Rebates often run into thousands of pounds.
The risk is that as you are asking for a rebanding you could be placed in a higher band and therefore pay more.
Since the 1997-98 financial year, at least 513,801 properties have been given the CL26 code by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), the data shows. The CL26 code is used where a property has had its council tax band corrected, but only where an error has been flagged up.
The true total now will be higher as figures for the 2009-10 tax year, which ended earlier this year, and for the early part of the current tax year, are still unknown.
Further reading/Key Links