How to get a council tax reduction

Can you get a council tax discount or reduction? We explain who's eligible, how much you can save and how to apply

pound coins on top of a council tax bill
council tax reduction
(Image credit: getty images)

With the cost of living soaring - and many local authorities raising their council tax rates - it’s worth checking to see if you are eligible for a council tax discount or reduction.

Across England, the council tax bills of plenty of households will be pushed up to more than £2,000, a huge ask at a time when the costs of virtually everything else ‒ from food to fuel ‒ is also on the rise.

While the government is offering a £150 council tax rebate to help ease the cost of living pressures, it will only go to households in the A to D council tax bands so not everyone will benefit.

There are other ways to lower your council tax bill though, for example by taking advantage of a council tax discount or checking to see if you can get support with a reduction.

Thousands of people are believed to be missing out on valuable council tax reductions, which could be worth hundreds of pounds.

 Am I entitled to a council tax reduction? 

You may be able to get a council tax discount if you’re the only adult in your home, if the property is empty or you’re on a low income.

If you're the only adult living in your home, you'll get at least 25% off your council tax bill. When working out the number of adults, bear in mind that some people aren’t counted, such as students, live-in care workers, and those away from home in prison or in hospital long-term. People with learning disabilities or severe mental impairment that are claiming benefits may also be disregarded for council tax purposes.

Meanwhile, you may be entitled to a reduction on your council tax if you or the person you live with is on a low income or getting certain benefits. In addition, you may be able to claim a reduction if you or someone you live with is disabled. 

If the property is empty, then your local council might offer a discount, for example if it needs work carried out in order to make it safe to live in. Alternatively if it has little or no furniture, and there is clearly no one living there, you may be eligible for a reduction.

Local councils have their own rules regarding discounts for empty properties so you’ll need to check the rules on their website.

The rules over council tax vary by region for holiday homes and second homes; while you may need to pay council tax, you may also qualify for a council tax discount. It’s a good idea to check whether the local authority offers a ‘second home council tax discount’ and if so, how much it is worth.

How can I check if I can get a council tax reduction?

The best way of checking to see if you qualify for a council tax discount or reduction is by looking at your local authority’s website. You can find your local authority’s council tax webpage on this section of the Gov.uk website (opens in new tab)

Different councils will use different terms for the council tax discounts on offer, sometimes referring to them as council tax support or council tax reduction, so look out for these terms. 

You can also use a benefits calculator to check if you can receive a discount, such as Entitledto.co.uk (opens in new tab) and Turn2Us (opens in new tab)

How much council tax discount can I get?

The level of council tax reduction varies depending on a host of different factors, but can range from a small reduction to a 100% discount, meaning there is no tax to pay. 

The single person discount - where there is only one adult living in the home, bar any ‘disregarded adults’ like students or those with learning disabilities - is worth 25%. This means your council tax bill will be cut by a quarter.

If everyone who lives in the property is ‘disregarded’, there is a 50% reduction in council tax. For example, this could be a woman with learning disabilities who lives in a flat with her carer. If everyone in the home is a student or severely mentally impaired, the discount is 100%. 

If you are disabled, or someone in your household is, you may be eligible for a council tax discount. The ‘disabled person’s reduction’ works by lowering the property’s council tax band, so if your home is in band D, the tax bill would be calculated based on band C.

People on a low income may be able to get their tax bill reduced. This may depend on whether you are receiving benefits, the amount of assets you own, if you have children living with you, and the council’s own criteria. 

There is also a ‘second adult rebate’, which you may be able to claim if you live with other adults but you’re the only person responsible for paying the council tax. The size of the discount depends on various factors, such as whether you’ve reached state pension age. Any income the other adults receive, and their benefits, may also be taken into account. The size of discount may be decided by the local council, but typically ranges from 7.5% to 100%.

How do I apply for a council tax reduction

You can apply for a council tax discount by contacting your local authority (opens in new tab). Usually you fill in a form or apply online. It’s best to apply as soon as you can; if you know when you’re going to be eligible you can even apply in advance. For example, if a housemate is moving out, you’re being made redundant or you’re selling a property and it will be empty.

If you’re already eligible for a council tax reduction, you might be able to get it back-dated.

You may need to send evidence with the application, such as payslips or bank statements. Your local council will tell you if so. 

If you are confused by the application process, give your council a ring for guidance. Alternatively, you could speak to Citizens Advice (opens in new tab) or a relevant charity like Turn2Us for free help.

Can I get a discount for a second home?

For those with a second home or holiday home, local councils sometimes offer a second home council tax discount of up to 50%, though this varies by local authority. 

Where the second home is a pitch with a caravan on it or a mooring occupied by a boat, the council must give you a 50% discount.

If you have an annexe - in other words, an extra home that's connected to your home - that is used by immediate family members, such as a teenager or parent, you can also apply for a 50% council tax discount. If it’s used by a dependent family member, for example an elderly parent or someone with a disability, the discount is worth 100%.

If the annexe is empty, there is no tax to pay. For other empty properties, there is usually a council tax reduction. The amount of discount depends on the local authority’s rules. It will often be a temporary discount, so will only apply for a set period of time.

Ruth Emery is contributing editor at The Money Edit. Ruth is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times. A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service. Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.