Council tax benefit: you could get over £700 a year

council tax help

If you’re eligible for council tax benefit, you could see your council tax bill cut by hundreds of pounds (the average reduction is over £700 a year). Do you qualify?

Council tax benefit can make a real difference to your family finances – potentially saving you hundreds of pounds a year. But many people miss out on this money simply because they’re unaware that this benefit exists! Check whether you’re entitled to any council tax discounts.

Can I claim council tax benefit?
How do my living arrangements affect how much council tax I pay?

How to apply for council tax benefit

What is council tax benefit?

Council tax benefit is for those on low incomes or benefits who find it a struggle to pay their council tax. Home-owners, renters and people who live rent-free can all apply.

If you’re entitled to council tax benefit, it’s not usually paid to you directly – it simply reduces the size of your council tax bill. (In some cases you may not have to pay any council tax at all).

Can I claim council tax benefit?

In general, you may qualify for council tax benefit if you’re on a low income and don’t have a large amount of savings. It’s especially worth applying if you already receive other benefits.

When making a claim, the main things they take account of are:

  • Your level of savings… if you have savings of over £16,000, you aren’t normally eligible for council tax benefit (unless you receive the ‘guarantee credit’ of pension credit).
  • Your level of income… the level of income you can have while claiming council tax benefit depends on your individual circumstances: things like your age, whether you have children, who you live with, and so on.
  • Your living arrangements… whether you live alone, with a partner, or have children will all be taken into account.
  • Whether you receive benefits… such as income support, income-based job seeker’s allowance, or the ‘guarantee credit’ of pension credit. If you receive any of these, you will normally be eligible to have the whole of your council tax bill covered by council tax benefit.  But you may still be eligible to get council tax benefit even if you claim none of these benefits.

Important child benefit changes: If you receive child benefit, this is no longer counted as income when applying for council tax benefit – so you may now be eligible where you weren’t before.

How do my living arrangements affect how much council tax I pay?

If you live with a partner…

If you live with a partner only one of you can claim council tax benefit – and your income and capital will be assessed together. This applies to non-married and married couples alike.

If you live with someone who isn’t your partner…

If you live with someone on a low income who isn’t your partner, you may be able to apply for something called a ‘second adult rebate’.

If you are eligible for a second adult rebate, it will lead to a council tax discount of between 7.5%-25% depending on your circumstances.

To apply the other person you live with must be 18 or over, not paying rent, not responsible for paying council tax, and have an income of no more than £234.99 a week. Grown-up children, friends or relatives who live with you would all be considered (provided they are on a low income).

Second adult rebate is separate from council tax benefit. If you qualify for both council tax benefit and second adult rebate, your council will put you on the one that gives you the most money.

If you’re single…

If you’re the only adult living in your property (your children must be under 18), you can claim a 25% discount to your council tax bill. This is called the ‘single person’s discount’. This is a separate scheme from council tax benefit – so if you’ve been turned down for that, you can still apply for this. Many people who qualify for this discount miss out on getting it – so if you think you qualify, write to your council when you receive your council tax bill.

If your home is tailored to house someone with a disability…

If your home has been altered to cater for someone with a disability (for example wheelchair access, or an additional bathroom, kitchen or bedroom adapted for disabled use) you can apply for a disability reduction from your council. If you qualify, your council tax will be reduced by one band (so if you’re in a band C property, you will only pay the rates of a band B property).

What happens if my circumstances change?

If you qualify for council tax benefit (or any other council tax reduction, such as second adult rebate or the single person’s discount) you must tell your local council if your circumstances change. For example you would need to tell them if:

  • Your level of income changes – or the income of anyone who lives with you
  • Any of your children leave school
  • Anyone moves into or out of your home
  • Your rent changes
  • You move

This is by no means a complete list – but you can easily check what circumstances would affect your council tax claim.

Can council tax benefit be backdated?

Yes. If you qualify for council tax benefit, it can be backdated for up to six months (provided you would have been entitled to it earlier). You may have to demonstrate a good reason for not claiming earlier, though. The best approach is to request backdating when you first make your claim.

How do I make a claim?

You need to apply through your local council. Many allow you to submit a claim online or by phone. If not, you will need to get a claim form by contacting the council tax benefit office of your local authority.

There’s a handy tool over at Directgov which will automatically take you to your local council’s council tax page, where you can check your eligibility and apply for council tax benefit.

When submitting a claim, you will need:

  • Proof of identity (such as a driving license or birth certificate)
  • Your National Insurance number
  • Proof of income and savings (in the form of bank statements or pay slips) – unless you are already claiming benefits

Making a council tax claim alongside other benefits

If you’re making a claim for:

  • Income support
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Pension credit

You can apply for council tax benefit at the same time.

If you’ve already made a claim for income support, incapacity benefit or income-based jobseeker’s allowance within the last 26 weeks, you can fill in a shortened council tax benefit form called a ‘rapid reclaim’.

I’ve applied for council tax benefit but been turned down. Can I appeal?

Yes. If you feel that your council has wrongly refused to grant you council tax benefit, you are well within your rights to request a written list of reasons as to why you were denied. If you still disagree with their decision, you can ask for your case to be looked at again. If all else fails, you can appeal to an independent tribunal.

Bear in mind that time limits for appeals are usually quite strict – you normally have a window of about a month to dispute a decision, so it’s important to act quickly.

Find out more about appealing council tax benefit decisions.