People can get help with their Council Tax bill through three systems of support:
- Council Tax Support / Reduction (which replaced Council Tax Benefit in 2013)
- Council Tax Discounts
- Exceptional Hardship Fund
Depending on their circumstances, they may be entitled to one or all of these.
And the government has set up a Council Tax Hardship Fund that provides extra help due to the Coronavirus outbreak to those on Council Tax Support / Reduction - click here.
Council Tax Support / Reduction
Council Tax Support/Reduction is a benefit to help people who are on a low income or claiming certain benefits to pay their Council Tax bill.
It is a means-tested benefit so entitlement depends on income and personal circumstances.
Each Local Authority is responsible for operating their own Council Tax Support scheme so the amounts of support given across the country may vary.
Someone should contact their Local Authority to find out about their Council Tax Support scheme and whether they can qualify.
Where awarded it is not a cash benefit but a reduction to the claimant's Council Tax Bill
NOTE: There's a different scheme in Northern Ireland.
Council Tax discounts
Discounts can reduce a Council Tax bill by anything from 25% to 100%.
Council Tax Discounts are available in England and Wales only.
Council Tax Exceptional Hardship Funds
Every Local Authority has to have an exceptional hardship fund instead. It is a statutory fund - financed by the Local Authority themselves (and so help is limited) - to alleviate hardship by reducing a Council Tax bill in exceptional cases.
These funds are not always very well advertised and awareness of them is low.
Where awarded, the claimant will not receive a cash payment, instead it is an adjustment to their Council Tax Bill and can reduce the bill to zero.
What are the rules?
The overall principle is that paying the current years’ Council Tax liability is causing the claimant exceptional hardship, even after doing whatever they can to reduce their outgoings.
Each Local Authority can set their own scheme, so the rules can vary. Generally, if the claimant is struggling to pay any rental liability as well, they will be expected to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment first.
And some schemes have conditions, such as working with a third party agency for budgeting support, before any assistance will be given.
If a Local Authority refuses to provide further help, or says that they do not run such a scheme, the claimant can appeal to a Valuation Tribunal. The Tribunal has the power to order an authority to reduce, or even cancel, a Council Tax Bill.