Single person council tax discounts: how do they work and am I eligible?

If you live alone, you could be eligible for a discount on how much council tax you pay. Find out more with this handy guide

elderly woman standing in kitchen smiling
(Image credit: getty images)

Council tax bills increased by an average of 3.5% on 1 April, which means £67 a year more for the average household. The average council tax due this year on a Band D property is now £1,966. But if you live alone, you could be eligible for a single person council tax discount, which could save you an average £500 a year. 

With the cost of living taking a grip, the discount alongside the promised £150 council tax rebate for households in band A to D, this could help ease the pressure on your finances.

“People living alone pay a discounted rate of council tax called ‘the single person discount’,” explains Annabelle Williams, personal finance specialist at Nutmeg. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in a couple, as long as only one person is officially resident at the address. To claim you’ll need to apply on your local authority website confirming that you live alone.” 

We explain who is eligible for a single person council tax discount and how you can apply for it.

What is the single person council tax discount and how does it work?

The single person discount is a reduction of your council tax bill, applicable to people who live alone in a property.

Council tax bills assume that at least two adults live in your property, but if you are living alone, or with someone who may not be counted for council tax purposes, then you could receive the discount.

"Even if you live with other people, they may not be counted for council tax purposes, so you still might be able to claim a discount,” says Laura Suter, head of personal finance at AJ Bell. “People living with children could claim the 25% discount – if you live with people under the age of 18, or people older than that but in full-time education, they won’t be counted for council tax purposes”. We explain more about this below.

You must genuinely live alone - you can’t claim the single person discount if, say, the person you live with is working away or gone on holiday.

How much is the single person council tax discount, and how far back can I claim it?

The single person discount entitles you to a reduction of 25% on your council tax bill. 

If you think you may be eligible, contact your local council, which you can do through the Government website to register your claim as soon as you can.

You may be able to backdate your claim, though local councils usually have discretion over whether to honour retrospective applications - and for how long. Some may backdate discounts to the date of your application, while with others, it may be to the start of the current financial year, (which starts on April 1st), or for up to three months, in the event there is a good reason for the delay in making your claim. This could be in the event of a bereavement in the family or a couple splitting up with one partner moving out. 

Who qualifies for the single person council tax discount? 

To qualify for the single person council tax discount you must pay council tax and live alone in a property that is your sole (or main) residence.

In some cases, you can still qualify for the discount, even if you have other people living in your home with you. 

This is because some people are ‘disregarded’ for council tax purposes. For example, if you have a full time carer living with you who is not your spouse or partner, you can still qualify for the 25% council tax discount. 

Other cases where people are ‘disregarded’ for council tax purposes include anyone under 19, full-time students at college or university, and student nurses.

How to apply for the single person discount on your council tax? 

“You’ll need to apply to your council directly for the discount and each council has a different system, but if you look on your local council’s website or call their helpline they’ll be able to tell you how to claim”, says Laura Suter.

If you are not sure which council area you live in, and can’t find your latest council tax bill, you can find out by using the Government’s postcode checker.  

Once on your local council website, search for the ‘council tax’ option and find the link to apply for a single person discount.  

If you are in the process of applying for a single person discount, you should keep up your usual monthly payments until you receive confirmation that any discount has been granted by your council, along with the revised monthly payments.

What do I do if my circumstances change? 

If your council tax bill shows you are claiming a Single Person Discount, and you’re not entitled to it, don’t keep quiet.   

“You must inform the council if your circumstances change, and you’re no longer eligible for the discount,” says Laura Suter. “It might be, for example, tat your child who was in full-time education leaves college and starts working, or a new partner moves in with you.”

She warns: “If you don’t tell the council, you could later be fined and have to pay back the discount”.

Even if the person who moves in is ‘disregarded’ for council tax purposes, you should still inform your council, though you shouldn’t lose any discount.

Don’t be tempted to try to cheat the system. In some cases, councils may carry out regular reviews on those claiming the single person discount to verify details are still correct. 

Other council tax discounts  

There are other discounts available worth between 25% and 100% of your bill, depending on your financial situation and living circumstances.  

If you, or someone you live with is disabled, you may be eligible for the disabled band reduction scheme. This can mean paying a lower band of council tax - for example, being moved from Band D to Band C.   

If every adult in the household is a full time student, you can claim a 100% council tax exemption. Check the rules carefully, as everyone must be taking a full time university or college course and provide proof to claim the exemption.   

If you’re on benefits or a low income you may be eligible for a council tax reduction. In some cases this can mean your bill being reduced by up to 100%.  

Also, when selling a property after someone’s died, there’s no council tax liability until after probate, providing the property stays empty. Beyond this, some councils may allow a six month council tax exemption if the property is empty and still in the name of the deceased. 

Sue Hayward

Sue Hayward is a personal finance and consumer journalist, broadcaster and author who regularly chats on TV and Radio on ways to get more power for your pound.  Sue’s written for a wide range of publications including the Guardian, i Paper, Good Housekeeping, Lovemoney and My Weekly. Cats, cheese and travel are Sue’s passions away from her desk!