Discounts, reductions and exemptions from paying Council Tax
You can pay less Council Tax, for various reasons. This can include:
We’ll explain more about some of these.
Discounts and exemptions
Discounts for Council Tax are set by the government in national law and all Councils must apply them. Lots of situations are covered.
The person you care for must be getting either:
See full list of exemptions here: www.gov.uk/council-tax/council-tax-exemptions.
For Scotland, please visit Citizen’s Advice Scotland pages.
Council Tax Reduction
People on low income can claim Council Tax Support or Reduction. See: www.gov.uk/council-tax-reduction
More help — hardship schemes
If your Council Tax Reduction is not enough, and you are still suffering financial hardship, you can apply for more reduction so you don’t pay anything. This is discretionary and is called Council Tax Discretionary Relief Scheme, Hardship Scheme or Hardship Fund. You can apply online or can write in if you can’t do the form online.
Many Councils have an online application form on their website, or a form that you print out and fill in. If you need help to fill in the form, phone the Council Benefits section.
The form is called Council Tax Discretionary Reduction Application or Exceptional Hardship Relief Scheme. To find it online, search the form name and your Council’s name. If they won’t send it or you can’t find it online, write to your Council’s benefit section saying why you should not have to pay (example letter below). Or you can send a letter explaining more about your situation, together with the hardship form. For example, your letter could explain what you can’t afford and what you are doing without because of Council Tax (not just what you are having to spend money on). Copy your letter to your ward councillors and Member of Parliament (MP) – they can support you by writing to the council. Find your MP here.
Council Tax staff may be unhelpful or say they have made the maximum possible discount already, so be persistent and get back-up. Some Councils have said that they are giving you the ‘maximum discount’ under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, but they always have the power to give a 100% reduction if you apply for it and are in hardship.
They can change earlier decisions and cancel your debt if they made a mistake or didn’t have all your information (were ‘ignorant of a material fact’). www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2001/1002/regulation/4/made
If the Council Tax section of the Council is sending you bills, you can tell them that you are applying to the Council Benefits section hardship scheme.
Example letter to ask for 100% help with Council Tax
To [Your Council — benefits section]
[Your Council Tax Account Number]
I am replying to your letter of … [put date] that you require me to pay £… in Council Tax. I cannot afford this.
This letter is a request for the council to exercise its discretion under Section 13A(1)(C) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 to reduce my Council Tax liability to nil as I currently have no disposable income (as you can see below). [‘Disposable income’ means the spare money left after you have paid for your living costs and disability expenses. See: www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/17/enacted#p00055]
[Add your details below…]
I have NO disposable income.
[Or, if you do have some disposable income, detail your expenses and explain you need to put money aside for these.
If you get sickness or disability benefits, your disability-related expenses may include: heating, wear and tear on clothing, special diet and vitamins, equipment or non-NHS health treatment, transport costs not covered by mobility benefit, running a car…
If you receive Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment (PIP), these benefits are not means-tested and should NOT be counted as disposable income. It is important to remind the Council of this.]
I would like you to reconsider my case. I know you have the discretion to waive charges in my case and/or write off debts.
[Your name, address]
Cc [put names of your MP and ward councillors, send copy to them]
Enclosed [include copies of any relevant evidence that supports your application]
Keep a copy of the letter and enclosures for yourself. Send by “Signed For” post. OR, if you deliver it by hand at the Council office, make sure you get a receipt for your letter.
What if I get a court summons for non-payment of Council Tax?
To stop the summons and challenge the debt, contact your Council immediately.
Tell the council in writing about your financial hardship and the worry the summons is causing you (see example letter above).
And check you are getting the CT exemptions and discounts you are entitled to (see above).
Council Tax debt payments
If the court has ordered you to pay, councils usually set up automatic weekly deductions from your benefits (taken off by the DWP) or your wages (“attachment of earnings order”). The DWP will deduct CT and other debts all at once, whether this leaves you with enough money to live on or not! Write to the council, not the DWP, as it is the council’s debt demand. Say that you can’t afford to pay and describe the hardship and stress you face. Send a copy to your MP and press them to write to the council.
To challenge deductions from your wages, appeal to the court, see CAB AdviceGuide – Creditor takes money from your wages.
Make sure that you (or someone on your behalf) writes to the council as soon as possible explaining why you are vulnerable – mental health or physical disability, sickness, communication or language difficulties, a recent marital or partner break-up, young children, bereavement, unemployment, or similar reason.
If the Council knows you are vulnerable, national guidelines say they should not proceed with trying to recover any debts using either the bailiffs or the court or charge you any extra costs. Get help from a debt advice service (see Debt section).
If the Council sends bailiffs to seize some of your belongings, you do not have to let them in, sign anything or answer their letters.
New regulations on debt recovery give more protection for vulnerable people and to stop bailiffs taking your essential household items, such as cooker or microwave. See CAB Advice Guide – Vulnerable people – treatment by bailiffs.
Check you are getting all your benefit entitlements and transport concessions here