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Council Tax Bands

Lower your band & save £1,000s

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Updated July 2018

House conntected to the internet

The average council tax bill in England rose by 5.1% this year, so now more than ever, it's worth checking if you're in one of up to 400,000 households in England and Scotland who've overpaid.

In 10 minutes, at no cost, you can check and challenge your council tax banding, not only potentially slashing what you pay now, but getting a backdated rebate stretching to 1993. Thousands have tried and succeeded, and payouts in the £1,000s are commonplace. Here's our step-by-step guide to see if you can join 'em.

Why you may be overpaying – home valuers who drove by in second gear

Many homes are in the wrong council tax bands, and have been since 1991. The story:

Once upon a timence upon a time, way back in 1991, in time for the launch of its new council tax system, the Government needed every property in the land to be put in a valuation band. But time was short, and the job large, so the people in charge asked estate agents and others to help.

Yet even with all the estate agents' help, they didn't have time to get the detailed information together, so they set about doing it quickFairytale castlely by pairing up and driving down countless streets, allocating each property a band with just a glance. They became known as "second-gear valuations" as they mostly never even stopped their cars, never mind got out of them.

Many years passed, and still nobody came to rescue the poor valuations in England and Scotland, though the Welsh Government reassessed all homes there. So the flawed old valuation still dictates much of the kingdom's banding, which is why you could be paying more than your neighbour even though you live in exactly the SAME size property.

This may sound like a fairytale, but every word is true.

How much can you expect to get?

Boxer uppercutIt's well worth asking "What council tax band am I in?" Get your banding decreased and as well as paying £100 – £400 less each year, the repayment should be backdated to when you moved into the property, as far back as when the tax started in 1993. Here are some MoneySavers' success stories:

"Went through the mechanism of checking my council tax banding, via the Valuation Office etc. Discovered that I'd been in the wrong Band since 1993! Got back from holiday recently to find I'd got a refund in excess of £2k!! Thanks."

"Refunded £5,110, annual saving £344. The whole process has taken about three months, but it has been well worth the wait."

"Applied on behalf of my partner to appeal against his council tax banding. After 20 years in band F, now reduced to Band E and received refund from local council of £3,680. Thank you, Martin Lewis."

Council tax cashback in the news!

Council tax article on the front page of the Daily Express

When we first launched this system in 2007 it hit the headlines in a big way, making the front page of scores of newspapers on the same day Martin presented a prime-time ITV show on how to do it.

The Government's Valuation Office Agency website, which is a key part of the technique, crashed for a week under the traffic.

We believe over three million people have now tried this system, and the successes have been huge.

In 2008 the Conservative Party said it believed 400,000 homes were in the wrong bands and in May 2009 the Telegraph suggested over 130,000 had had their band lowered.

Read how others fared

If you've succeeded, please report your council tax cashback successes. If you're new, feel free to read others' stories there.

Watch Martin's quick council tax reclaiming tips

Click on this video for a quick lowdown on how to check and challenge your council tax band.

Courtesy of It Pays to Watch, Channel 5, September 2008

Council tax reclaiming: Step by step

Follow the steps below and you could see a payout in as little as a month:

Step 1: The Neighbours Check

Step 1By far the most important step is to find out if your band's higher than neighbours in similar or identical properties. You could simply ask them, but there's no need as it's public info. The band of every house in England & Scotland is available via the these websites.

In England, use the Valuation Office Agency (VOA)

In Scotland use the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA)

So first check your band, and then your neighbours'. Make sure the properties are as close as possible in size and value. Sadly, the sheer scale of the database means a few properties are missed off it. If that happens, either speak to your neighbours directly or contact the council and ask why.

If neighbours in similar properties are in a lower band than you, then you may have a claim (though it may just mean that they're all in the wrong band). This happened to a street in Hull, when one unidentified resident appealed as she was in band B, and all her neighbours in similar houses were in band A.

But instead of her getting a council tax cut, all her neighbours are now facing larger bills as they were all upbanded. This is why it's vital to also do the Valuation Check below.

Step 2: The Valuation Check

ValuationA second crucial step is to estimate what your house was worth in 1991, as that's when and how the council tax bands were defined.

This CAN'T be used as evidence if you challenge your band. But it enables you to check out various house prices on your street and it's an important test that you're on the right track if you do decide to challenge.

First – value your house

If you bought your house after 1991, you can simply use its price and date of sale to do this. If you rent or bought earlier you'll need to find an estimated price.

It's also worth doing this with similar neighbouring properties to check there are no anomalies.

  • Go to free house price websites
    To find a price quickly, use a website which offers free historic sales price information. These include Nethouseprices, Zoopla and Rightmove.

    Enter your street name and it'll tell you the prices of all properties sold there since 2000. For more on valuation tools, read the full Free House Price Valuations guide.

  • Note down the price and date
    Find the most recent sale price of a similar property to yours in your street. Now note down both the price and the date of sale.

Now – find what it was worth in 1991

Once you have that information, you can use it to estimate what your property would've been worth back in 1991, and what band it's in. We've built a calculator to do it for you below, using house price data from Nationwide.

Estimate your home’s 1991 value How much was your property worth?

  • &

This is only a very rough indication, but still an important safety check. You may be in a higher band than your neighbours because they're in the wrong band, not you. In that case, if you appeal and stay in the same band, but their band is increased, it won't make you popular.

This additional check helps mitigate the chances of that happening. If this test indicates you are in too high a band, it's worth checking how far away you are from the band you're actually in as part of deciding whether to challenge your band.

How to work it out manually

To do this, go to the Nationwide House Price Calculator. This is actually designed for people to put in their property price when they bought it, and work out what it's worth now. Yet it is possible to use it in reverse to get a rough value back in 1991.

How to use the calculator

Step 3: Are you in the wrong band?


At this point, we need to throw in a serious warning. Challenging your band is not something to do speculatively without the checks, for one simple reason:

You can't ask for your band to be lowered, only for a 'reassessment', which means your band could be moved up as well as down.

It's even possible that your neighbours' band could be increased, although this is rare.

This is why it is crucially important you do BOTH of the checks, and are especially careful if you've added an extension or something that increases your property's value.

In terms of you being eligible for money, by far the most important check is the Neighbours Check, yet the secondary Valuation Check is useful for seeing whether your band is too high or your neighbours' are too low.

Use the table below to see how strong your case is, to help you decide if it's worth it.

Council tax chart

Step 4: Challenge!

KnockoutIf you're convinced your property band's unfair, it's time to challenge it.

If you're in England, helps explain how to go about challenging your council tax band. You can either contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) directly at which point you'll be told how your band was decided, and have the opportunity to explain why you believe it is wrong and how it should be altered.

Alternatively you can check your band by entering your postcode and selecting your address from a list. Then you can click on the link asking if you think your council tax banding is wrong and you'll be given the option to fill out a checklist which suggests reasons you could challenge.

In Scotland, the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) deals with council tax bands. Enter your postcode in the Council Tax Bands search box on the SAA Homepage. Select your property from the list. If you want to challenge the banding, click on "Make a proposal". You can then fill in an online form which will be sent to your local assessor, who will contact you.

Remember the formal challenge checklist is more a safety check before doing the challenge. It's got very limited value in your appeal. However, if you source actual sales prices from around 1991, that's stronger evidence.

Possible outcomes

A: You get told you can't challenge it

Don't fret! Write a letter Many people get told they can't challenge their banding, as they've been in the property more than six months.

If this happens to you, don't worry. The Local Listings Office has a legal duty to ensure all properties' bands are correct, which means, if pushed, it should investigate and alter the Valuation List if it believes it's required.

In 2013 the Government told the ITV team on the The Martin Lewis Money Show it will push the Valuation Office Agency to consider appeals, no matter when they are made.

In a statement to the show, Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said he had agreed to write to every council to tell them "the right to ask the VOA to check their band is not limited by time". See the minister's letter and MSE News story.

So if you're told you can't appeal, write a letter politely explaining, "I am writing to tell you I believe the council tax banding list of my property is incorrect, my house is in the wrong band, and I ask that you investigate to check, and correct it if it is in the wrong band."

This has worked and does work, though there are no guarantees. It can need some perseverance and you may only get a band change going forward, but no backdated payout. See the council tax successes forum thread for details from many people who have pushed through this.

If it still doesn't help, you could complain to the Adjudicator's Office, which covers complaints about VOA administration (such as mistakes or misleading advice, not disagreements with its decision).

B: Your challenge gets rejected

You have 3 months to appealIf you challenged your banding and were rejected – and you think it's wrong – you've got three months to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal.

Yet remember, this check and challenge isn't a guaranteed system. The two checks are a strong indication that you should consider challenging your banding; but that doesn't mean it will always actually be changed.

We often get emails from people saying "I went through all the steps, they investigated and turned me down – what now?" For most, unfortunately it's probably time to give up.

However, if you've a compelling reason to take your case further – and the evidence to back it up, it could be worth appealing. Remember, the 'valuation check' calculator can't be used as evidence for house values in 1991, but if you can get actual sale prices from that time, this can be used. provides further details on the Valuation Tribunal's process. If it decides against you, it's almost certainly time to give up. You do have a final right of appeal through the High Court if you really want it (though you'd need to prove the Valuation Tribunal made an error in law, not just that you disagree with what it said).

C: You succeed!

Congrats!Expect to have your band lowered and ensure you get a backdated rebate from the moment you moved into the property (or 1993, whichever is later). You may also want to consider contacting previous occupants, as they should be entitled to a payout too.

Please share your story. The more info we have, the better we can finesse this system. Please report your council tax rebanding successes on the forum.

Council tax rebanding Q&A

Here are a few commonly asked questions. If yours isn't answered below, take a look at the forum discussion.

I've been rebanded because my neighbour challenged her band. Can I appeal?

Do payouts mean everyone else in the area will pay more?

Why doesn't this apply to Wales & Northern Ireland?

My property usage has changed, can I still apply?

A company has said it can get my council tax back for a fee, is this true?

What does council tax get spent on?

What type of properties have to pay council tax?

Can I do it if I rent/am a tenant?

Are 'second-gear valuations' for real?

What should I do if I think I'm in too low a band?

Ensure you're getting council tax benefits & discounts

picture of abacus

Council tax band changes aren't the only way to save money. Under certain conditions you're able to get a reduction on your council tax bill, or possibly be exempt altogether. If any of the following circumstances apply to you, contact your council immediately as you need to apply; reductions are not deducted automatically.

But it's important to note that some of the discounts and benefits below may not be available in your area. This is because in April 2013 the system of council tax benefits was localised, meaning each local authority now decides what support to offer its residents. So you need to contact your local authority to check.

Single people get a 25% discount

The full bill usually assumes at least two adults live in a property. So if you live alone, or are the only adult (disregarding anyone in full-time education), you may be eligible for a single person's discount, meaning a 25% reduction.

Bearing this in mind, tell the council as soon as possible if your circumstances change through a housemate/lodger leaving, becoming a student, separation, divorce, or the death of a partner/spouse.

Households where one member has Alzheimer's, Parkinson's etc get a discount too

If you live with someone medically certified as having a permanent condition that affects their intelligence and social functioning, eg, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, severe learning difficulties, or has had a stroke, your household should be eligible for a 25% council tax discount, as the person you live with is 'disregarded for council tax purposes' in England, Scotland and Wales.

The person must also be eligible for one of a number of benefits (whether or not they actually claim it) and a registered medical practitioner must have diagnosed their impairment.

You'll need to let your council know that you should be getting a discount, and you'll have to apply like you would for any other discount. You can also apply to have it backdated. Backdated payments will likely be paid as far back as you can evidence your eligibility, eg, from when you started claiming a relevant benefit.

It's possible for you to get this council tax discount alongside other discounts - for example the disability reduction scheme below. It's worth confirming this with your local council if you think you're eligible.

For full details of the eligibility criteria and how to claim (including what's available in Northern Ireland) see our Severe Mental Impairment investigation as well as our story on successful claimants.

All student households DON'T pay council tax

If you're a full-time student living alone or with other students you don't need to pay council tax, whether there's two, three or even 10 of you living together. However, this does not apply if a student lives with a non-student, see below.

Live with a non-student?

Live with more than one non-student?

Other circumstances where you may get discounts and exemptions

If none of the above circumstances apply to you then read on, as you may still be able to get discounts or exemptions on your council tax...

Are you on a low income?

Is your property being renovated?

Is your property empty?

Do you have a 'granny annexe'?

Do you have a second home?

Do you have a disability or are you a carer?

Do you receive pension credit?

Pay bills over 12 months, not 10

Many people have complained to us that council tax is paid over 10 months rather than 12, making monthly budgeting difficult (as you pay monthly for 10 months then get a two-month holiday).

In April 2013 the Government announced all councils in England must allow you to pay your council tax over 12 months.

However, we've heard there are worries that as it may impact their cash flow, some councils may not go very loud on telling people about this option. If you want to change how you pay, it's safest to contact it yourself.

How do I do this? If you're resident in England, contact your local council and tell it you want to change to the new payment schedule.

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