Your council tax bill could be reduced if you have a low income and meet certain criteria. Each council has its own rules for deciding how much your bill might be reduced by.
Council tax reduction schemes
Councils can decide who is entitled to help with paying their council tax bill. Some councils call this council tax support.
Council tax reduction aims to help people on low incomes and/or certain benefits. It can reduce your bill by a certain amount.
Reductions to your council tax
The most you can get is a 100% discount, but that's only likely to happen in exceptional circumstances.
If you're of working age you probably have to pay at least some council tax even if you are on benefits or have a very low income. How much varies from council to council.
People of pension age usually get a larger discount.
The amount your council tax bill could be reduced by largely depends on:
- your income and savings
- whether other adults live with you
- how many children live with you
- your age
How to apply for a council tax reduction
Contact the council
Applications for a council tax reduction are normally made online or by filling in a form provided by your council.
You will need to provide your national insurance number.
Some councils let you start the process by phone. This can register your start date for your claim. You will still need to complete the application form.
Apply for a reduction even if you're not sure you'll qualify. Your council will decide.
The council should make a decision within 14 days, but sometimes it takes longer.
To speed up the process, make sure you provide all the information the form asks for, such as your income and savings.
If your application is accepted
If the council agrees to reduce your council tax bill, it writes to you explaining what reduction you get and how it has been worked out. It then sends you a new council tax bill for the reduced amount. Each monthly instalment is lower, as the reduction is spread throughout the rest of the year.
You don't have to re-apply for a reduction in the future. But if there's a change in your circumstances that might affect your entitlement, you must let the council know.
If your application is turned down
You can appeal to the council if you think it has made the wrong decision. If this is not successful, you might be able to get your council tax bill lowered in other ways, for example through the second adult rebate.
advance for a council tax reduction
There are some circumstances where you can apply for a council tax reduction in advance.
If you're not responsible for paying council tax yet, but will be soon
You can apply for a reduction up to 8 weeks in advance if you're in this situation. For example, if you're going to be moving into a new place in a few weeks' time and will be responsible for paying council tax there.
If you aren't entitled to a council tax reduction yet
You may be able to apply in advance if your income or savings are too high to get a council tax reduction at the moment, but this will change in the near future. This might be the case if you're going to be made redundant, or are about to reach pension credit age.
If you're of working age, you can apply up to 13 weeks in advance. People who have reached pension credit age can apply up to 17 weeks in advance.
Contact your local council if you want to apply for a reduction in advance.
Backdating an application for a council tax reduction
In some circumstances you can ask the council to backdate your claim.
People on benefits can apply to have their council tax reduction backdated to the date when their benefit was awarded. This applies if you are getting:
- income support
- income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
- income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
- guarantee pension credit
- universal credit
You must apply to the council within one month of being awarded the benefit.
If you are of pension age, you can ask for your council tax reduction to be backdated for up to three months.
You can also ask for your council tax reduction to be backdated if you apply within one month of first becoming responsible for paying council tax.
Other ways of reducing your council tax bill
Apart from the council tax reduction scheme run by your council, you may be able to get your bill reduced in other ways, for example by:
- applying for a single person discount, if you're the only person in the household who counts as an adult for council tax purposes
- claiming a 'second adult rebate' – if you are living with someone who isn't your partner and is on a low income
You might be exempt from council tax altogether if only full-time students or people under the age of 18 live there.
Use Shelter's checklist Applying for benefits: dos and don'ts when applying for council tax reductions and other benefits.
Last updated: 25 June 2015