How to challenge your council tax bill

With council tax bills across England set to rise by an average of £46 this month, the highest increase in several years, new research from financial comparison website reveals that more than one in eight of us has challenged our council tax banding.

Some 41 per cent of these were moved to a different council tax band and received a rebate. And 67 per cent of those that received a rebate, had it backdated. Over half of these (56 per cent) got a rebate backdated to the date they moved into the property and 11 per cent back to 1993. However, just over a third of those that got their bill reduced did not get a backdated refund, they just got it for one year receiving £276 each on average. 

What's at stake

Based on a household being moved from band E to the average bad D, the total value of a rebate could be £5,539 if it's dated back to 1993 when the bands were first allocated. Alternatively, for just one year you could get a rebate of £329.45. This could be backdated to the year you moved into the property. With 400,000 homes in England thought to be in the wrong council tax band, it could be a lucrative exercise.

So how accurate are council tax bandings?

With most homes in England placed into a council tax band over 23 years ago (1993) and most never being reviewed since, it's hardly surprising that many consumers could be paying the wrong amount of council tax. While there is a risk of being re-banded to a higher bracket, Government figures state that they received 53,000 challenges in 2014/15, 23 per cent of which resulted in a decrease – just 0.1 per cent resulted in an increase.

6 crucial points to research before challenging your band

  1. Check which council tax band you are currently in, this can be done easily via
  2. Find out if your home has been re-banded since 1993.
  3. Check the banding of other properties nearby and see if you are all paying the same. Focus on those that are a similar size and age. Again, you can do this on the website for any address.
  4. Find out the valuation of your home in 1991 when the bands were first confirmed, your home may have been set at the wrong band from the start.
  5. Use a house price calculator such as Zoopla's to find out the value of your home in 1991. Whilst this might not be exactly the same as the value used by the VOA, it will give you an indication of accuracy.
  6. Consider any major work you have carried out on your house to increase the value that could work against you in an appeal. Research is key to appealing your council tax band.

How to appeal your council tax banding

If all of the above information appears favourable, you should contact your local Valuation Office to discuss your appeal. Or, if you feel your property banding can be challenged based on one of the official reasons set out on the VOA's website you can submit an online proposal to have your home reassessed. You can search for your property and click on the link to make a formal challenge.

Can I get money off my bill if I'm in the correct band?

There are several situations where people receive discounts on their council tax bill without challenging it:

  • Single person's discount will apply if you are the only adult living in the property
  • If you are a student living with other students or have just one adult in full time work in the property
  • If you are disabled
  • If you own a property which is empty and unfurnished (policy varies between councils)
  • If you're on a low income.

Hannah Maundrell of says: "If you think you might be on the wrong council tax now is the perfect time to check and challenge it if you think you're paying too much. As long as you carry out your research first to make sure you don't run the risk of being moved into a more expensive band – there could be £1,000s waiting for you to claim."

  • There are more money-saving tips in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.