Paying Council Tax is a burden we all have to bear, and while the amount varies between counties, few ever think to challenge their band. Luckily, challenging your Council Tax band is possible and you may be entitled to a refund.
If your property has been wrongly classified, you could be owed a refund of thousands and your future Council Tax bills could shrink.
The most common reasons why properties are in the wrong band is that the system is outdated. The current banding system uses property values from as far back as 1991, leading to some widely inaccurate valuations.
Sadly, you can’t demand your local authority change your band. However, you can ask for a review, which can lead to one of three outcomes.
As challenging your Council Tax band is possible, there’s no reason why you should be overpaying.
Why challenge your Council Tax band
Keeping on top of household bills is essential to managing finances and so it’s worth looking for ways to reduce your outgoings.
The team at Money Saving Expert estimate that 400,000 households in England and Scotland are overpaying. While the potential saving could be hundreds of pounds each year, it’ll likely they are entitled to refund, which could total a signification figure.
According to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), who advise the government on valuing and tax property, 38,340 households in England and Wales challenged their Council Tax band in 2018-2019 tax year.
Only 30 saw an increase, 11,910 households had their bill decreased and 23,380 challenges resulted in no change at all.
The risk of seeing your bill increase as a result of challenging your band is tiny. It’s therefore worth doing your research and mounting a challenge.
Why your property may be in the wrong Council Tax band
Simply put, the system is out of date and as a result, many properties are wrongly classified. Making the situation worse, each country uses different data to calculate the underlying properties values.
In England and Scotland, the bands are calculated using property valuations from April 1991. Wales is slightly more up to date and uses valuations from April 2003.
The situation in Northern Ireland is worse as they use a valuation system based on rental values from 2005. This system was replaced across the UK in 1993 with the current one.
Regardless of which country you live in you’ll need to calculate your property’s value back to when the scheme started. For example, if you live in Wales, use Rightmove’s Sold Prices Database to estimate your current property value.
Next using Nationwide’s House Price Calculator to calculate what your property was worth when your country’s valuation scheme started. Again for Wales, you’ll need a value for 2003 (so you’ll need to change the second valuation box to this year).
In Northern Ireland, the government’s website should detail your property’s Domestic Capital Values on 1 Jan 2005, so you don’t need to calculate anything!
Note: You should continue to pay your Council Tax bill while challenging your band.
Challenging your Council Tax band in England and Wales
Firstly, look up your property’s Council Tax band on the valuation list using your postcode. Then click on your address to view more details about your Council Tax band.
If you notice a difference in banding between your property and the neighbours yet your properties are similar, then on your property’s details page there’s a link to form labelled “Do you think this Council Tax band is wrong?“
This page details how to contact the VOA and the conditions your subject too. There’s also an option to launch a formal challenge. This takes to a questionnaire (12 yes/no questions) which assess whether your ability to make a challenge.
After answering the questionnaire, you’ll either be able to complete “Make a formal challenge against your Council Tax band online” form or not. The form asks for a reason why your current band is wrong, your reasoning and what band you propose to be correct. It also asks you for a date at which your band should apply.
Challenging your Council Tax band in Scotland
The process is slightly different if you live in Scotland. On the Scottish Assessors Association’s homepage, you’ll need to find you Council Tax Band by entering your postcode into “To Search for a Council Tax band” search box.
On the next page, you’ll see a list of properties within that postcode as well as their band, the date which that property was added, and local authority. There’s also the option to view a single property in more depth.
Clicking on a single property reveals more information and the option to “make a proposal” which is the Scottish system for challenging a property’s banding. The next page explains how the process works and allows you to proceed to filling out the “proposal form“.
This form asks for a few basic details about the owner and who is making the proposal. The second section covers why you believe your property is in the wrong band, which band you believe to be correct and when this new band should apply to your property.
Once submitted, your proposal will be sent to the local Assessor, who will in turn contact you. If they can’t resolve your proposal, the Assessor will refer it as a formal appeal to your local Valuation Appeal Committee. They will hear your appeal in due course.
If you prefer to submit a paper copy, you’ll have to visit your local Assessor’s office as no printable forms are available online.
Challenging domestic property rate valuations in Northern Ireland
If you live in Northern Ireland then you’ll need to use the Department of Finance website to find your current Council Tax band using your postcode.
On the results page, there is the option to “start an appeal” which leads you to a form. After submitting this form, an assessor from the local office will be in touch to discuss your appeal.
You can apply using a paper form (PDF) which is easily downloaded.
Is it worth challenging your council tax band?
Unless your property is in Band A (the lowest), in our opinion, yes, it’s worth it. In a tiny fraction of cases (30), the outcome was an increase in the band and your bill. However, 31% of those who challenge their band, saw it decrease and the remaining 68% had their band stay the same.
If you’re not happy with the decision after your challenge, then you still have options which depend on where you live.
In England, you’ll need to make a formal challenge to the Valuation Tribunal. If you’re in Wales you can send it to the Welsh Tribunal. For properties in Scotland, your appeal will need to be through the local Valuation Appeal Committee for your area.
In Northern Ireland, you can appeal to the Commission of Valuation within 28 days of a decision using the CR20 form. If you’re still not satisfied, you can raise a complaint with the Northern Ireland Valuation Tribunal.
Depending on your situation, even if you can’t have your property’s band changed, you might be eligible for a Council Tax discount.
Reductions up to 100% are available for those who are on a low income or claiming certain benefits.
If you’re disabled, the Disabled Band Reduction Scheme ensures you won’t pay more council tax if you need extra space inside the property for using a wheelchair, for example.