Your council tax bill explained

Your council tax pays for essential local services in your community such as schools, libraries, police and rubbish collection.

Council tax is charged on all residential properties in England. One council tax bill is sent to each property however many people live there.

Your bill is made up of charges set by:

Our charge and Somerset County Council’s includes a sum paid to the Somerset Rivers Authority.

We send out the bills and collect the council tax for properties in the Somerset West and Taunton area. Our share of the bill is about 10 percent of the overall charge.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has made an offer to adult social care authorities. (“Adult social care authorities” are local authorities which have functions under Part 1 of the Care Act 2014, namely county councils in England, district councils for an area in England for which there is no county council, London borough councils, the Common Council of the City of London and the Council of the Isles of Scilly.)

The offer is the option of an adult social care authority being able to charge an additional “precept” on its council tax for financial years from the financial year beginning in 2016 without holding a referendum, to assist the authority in meeting expenditure on adult social care. Subject to the annual approval of the House of Commons, the Secretary of State intends to offer the option of charging this “precept” at an appropriate level in each financial year up to and including the financial year 2019-20.

For adult social care authorities, council tax demand notices show two percentage changes: one for the part of the overall change attributable to the adult social care precept, and one for the part attributable to general expenditure.

The changes to the Demand Notice regulations mean where, for example, an ASC authority sets a 3.99 percent increase on its previous year’s overall charge (comprising 2.99 percentage points for the core increase and 1 percentage point for ASC), those percentage point increases should be shown separately.

Clearly, this is different to how other percentages work on the bill, and causes confusion.

For Somerset County Council (Band D equivalent) the changes mean:

Preceptor 2018/19 charge (A) Increases (B) 2019/20 charge (A+B) Increase (B/C x 100)
SCC £1116.99 £35.65 £1151.64 2.99 percent
SCC ASC £76.17 £11.92 £88.09 1.00 percent
Total (C) £1192.16 £47.57 £1239.73 3.99 percent

Each dwelling is put in a valuation band by the Valuation Office Agency, based on its value as at 1 April 1991. This band determines the amount of Council tax you will have to pay. The bands are:

  • band A up to £40,000
  • band B £40,000 to £52,000
  • band C £52,001 to £68,000
  • band D £68,001 to £88,000
  • band E £88,001 to £120,000
  • band F £120,001 to £160,000
  • band G £160,001 to £320,000
  • band H £320,001 or greater

You can appeal to the Valuation Office Agency under certain circumstances, but your current bill remains payable until any appeal is settled.

If you or someone who lives with you are disabled and have special facilities, an extra bathroom or kitchen or additional space in your home because your disability means you need them, you may be eligible for a discount.

If you qualify, your council tax bill will be reduced by one property band. So if you are in a band D property your bill will be reduced to that of a band C property instead. If your home is a band A property, we will reduce your bill by one ninth of the band D charge.

If you are the only person aged 18 or over living in your home, you can claim a 25 percent ‘Single Person’ discount. The property has to be your main, or only, place where you live.

Please note that if you have a spouse or a partner living elsewhere, you will be asked to provide details.

Usually, if two or more people aged 18 or over live in your property, you will need to pay the full amount of council tax. However, certain groups of people are not counted and we disregard them. If one or more of these people live in your home, you may be able to claim a discount:

  • students, student nurses and foreign language assistants
  • apprentices and youth trainees
  • spouses of students where they are prevented (by immigration rules) from taking paid work or from claiming benefit
  • people for whom Child Benefit is payable
  • school leavers under 20 years old
  • people who have a severe mental impairment
  • certain care workers, carers and certain patients who are in care
  • people in detention
  • members of religious communities
  • residents of hostels or night shelters
  • foreign service personnel, members of international headquarters/defence organisations and diplomats

In some cases, the Council can consider applications for a discount if you are suffering financially from a major event or a series of unusual circumstances that do not fall within the normal discounts or exemptions.

For council tax purposes, a ‘second home’ is a furnished property but is not anyone’s only or main home:

  • no discount is applied to most second homes
  • second homes which are boats, caravans or job-related properties may receive a 50 percent discount

If your property is unoccupied and not furnished the following may apply:

  • no council tax is payable for 3 months after the property becomes empty and unoccupied (or for the first 12 months if it needs major repairs or structural alteration.) An inspection may be required
  • after this discount has ended, these properties will receive no discount, so 100 percent of the full council tax charge will be payable

From 1 April 2014 an annexe may be entitled to a 50 percent reduction in the amount of council tax payable, where it is occupied by a relative of the person liable to pay council tax on the main dwelling.

There may also be a 50 percent reduction where the annexe is unoccupied but being used as part of the main dwelling.

Dwellings that are empty for more than 2 years will in addition be charged a premium of 100 percent. Therefore the council tax will be 200 percent of the normal charge.

Exemptions

You may not have to pay council tax if your property is not occupied because:

  • it is owned by a charity
  • it was left unoccupied by a student
  • it has been repossessed
  • it is being held by a bankrupt’s trustee
  • it is a caravan pitch or boat mooring
  • the occupant is now in prison
  • the occupant is now in a care home or hostel
  • the occupant has left to receive or provide care
  • the former occupant has died
  • occupation is prohibited by law
  • occupation is reserved for a minister of religion
  • planning law prevents an annexe being let

You may not have to pay council tax if your property is only occupied by:

  • students or is a student hall of residence
  • visiting Armed Forces personnel or used for Armed
  • Forces accommodation
  • people aged under 18
  • people with a severe mental impairment
  • a diplomat and dependents
  • a dependent relative in an annexe

Help and advice

You can appeal to the Council against any decision that makes you liable to pay council tax or against any decision not to allow a disability reduction, discount or exemption.

You should appeal by writing to us to explain why you believe the decision is wrong. We will then review the decision and write to you.

If you are still unhappy with our decision you should write to:

Valuation Tribunal, 2nd Floor, 120 Leman Street, London, E1 8EU.

If your bill says you are exempt or paying reduced council tax and your circumstances change you must tell the council within 21 days. If you do not, you could face a £70 penalty.

There is help available and many flexible ways in which you can pay your bill.

Contact the Council to discuss a payment plan. If you have problems paying other bills then contact the organisations, explain your problem and they will work out a way in which to help you.

Age UK: 0800 169 6565

Community Legal Service: 0845 345 4345

Citizens Advice Bureau: 01823 282235

Council tax support

Council tax support is a means-tested discount to help people on low incomes pay council tax. No money is paid to people who claim it. Instead, we reduce your council tax bill by the amount of support you are entitled to.

The rules for council tax support are different depending on whether you are of working age or you have reached the age for State Pension Credit.

We will work out council tax support under a scheme decided by the Government. The maximum help you will get will be based on the council tax you pay for your home.

You will not get council tax support if you have more than £16,000 in capital or savings (unless you get guarantee credit).

If you get pension credit and you claim council tax support, we will also work out second adult rebate. Second adult rebate could reduce your council tax bill by up to 25 percent. You could get second adult rebate if the person who shares your home is:

  • aged 18 or over
  • not a boarder or sub-tenant
  • not your spouse or partner
  • not paying Council Tax themselves
  • on a low income

For people of working age, we will work out council tax support using our local scheme. You will have to pay at least 20 percent of your council tax bill. If you live in a property that is either band E, F, G or H, we work out support based on council tax payable for a band D property. This means the maximum help we can give will be 80 percent of the council tax payable for a band D property.

If you live in a band A, B, C or D property, the maximum council tax support will be 80 percent of your council tax bill.

You will not get council tax support if you have more than £6,000 in capital or savings.

We cannot award council tax support if you are a student unless you:

  • are under 21 and not in higher education and you started a course before you became 19
  • are a lone parent, disabled or you get Income Support, income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • have a partner who is not a student

The amount you can get depends on the council tax you have to pay after we have applied any discounts or exemptions. It also depends on your age, income and capital and who lives with you. If you have a partner living with you, we work out council tax support on your joint income and savings. We compare your income to figures that reflect your basic weekly needs. You may fall into a council tax income band.

You can apply for council tax support online.