With millions of people facing a 5% rise in their council tax bill from April (a 6% increase for those in London), it’s worth testing whether you’re overpaying by accident – whether it’s because you’re in the wrong band or whether you’re not claiming a valid discount. After the emergence of coronavirus, these fast tests have become increasingly necessary for many people. Thousands of people have tried and succeeded, with payouts in the thousands of pounds becoming commonplace.
This guide is intended for people who live in England and Scotland. Following a national revaluation in 2003, council tax banding errors are less likely in Wales, although Northern Ireland has a completely different scheme.
Thousands of People Are In The Wrong Band!
How Were Council Tax Bands Originally Calculated?
Many homes have been in the wrong council tax bands since 1991. In 1991, the Government needed to bring every property in the country into a valuation band to launch its new council tax scheme. However, since time was limited and the job was big, the people in charge enlisted estate agents and outsourced assistance.
Despite the assistance of the estate agents, they didn’t have time to compile the comprehensive details, so they got to work quickly by partnering up and driving down countless avenues, assigning each property a band with a single glance. They were dubbed “second-gear valuations” because they rarely stopped, let alone got out of their vehicles.
Even though the Welsh Government reassessed all homes there, no one came to save the bad valuations in England and Scotland after many years. As a result, much of the kingdom’s banding is still based on the old faulty valuation, which is why you may be paying more than your neighbour even though you live in the SAME size house.
Sounds unreal – but it’s all true!
What kind of council tax refund would you expect if you successfully challenge your Tax band?
You first need to find out what council tax bank you’re in. A reduction in tax banding can mean you could pay between £100 and £400 less per year for you’re council tax and, your repayment could be backdated to when you moved to your home, which could be as far back as 1993, which is when council tax banding was first introduced into the UK.
There have been multiple stories of people claiming tens of thousands of pounds back in refunds and then also successfully changing their tax band and saving themselves and others hundreds of pounds on their council tax bill each year.
Reclaiming Your Overpaid Council Tax Bill: Step-By-Step Guide
Follow the steps below to see if you’re eligible for a council tax credit or need council tax support to get a refund of any of the payments made to your council tax account:
The Next Door Neighbour Check
Finding out whether your band is higher than neighbours in similar or equivalent properties is by far the most important step. You might simply ask them, but there’s no need because the information is public.
These websites have the band of any property in England and Scotland:
- If you’re in England, use the Valuation Office Agency (VOA)
- If you’re in Scotland, use the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA)
So, first, examine your band and compare it to that of your neighbours. Make sure the assets are as similar in size and value as possible. Unfortunately, due to the database’s size, a few properties are missing. If this happens, talk to your neighbours or contact the city council to find out why.
You might have a claim if your neighbours in similar properties are in a lower band than you (though it’s possible that they’re all in the wrong band). When one unnamed Hull resident appealed because she was in band B and all her neighbours in identical properties were in band A, this happened.
However, instead of receiving a council tax reduction, her entire block has been up banded, resulting in higher bills for all. This is why performing the Valuation Check mentioned below is critical.
The Valuation Check
The second critical step is to calculate the value of your home in 1991 since that is when and how the council tax bands were established.
If you question your band, this CANNOT be used as evidence. However, it allows you to compare different property prices on your street, which is a good way to make sure you’re on the right track if you do plan to challenge.
Follow the steps below to complete the valuation:
A. Value your property
If you purchased your home after 1991, you could simply use the sale price and date to do so. You’ll need to find an estimated price if you rented or bought earlier.
It’s also a good idea to do this with similar neighbouring properties to make sure there aren’t any discrepancies.
Go to free house price websites
Using a website that provides free historic sales price information to find a price easily. Nethouseprices, Zoopla, and Rightmove are among them.
Enter your street name, and it will show you the prices of all homes sold on that street since 2000. Read the entire Free House Price Valuations guide for more information on valuation tools.
Make a note of the price and the date.
Find the most recent selling price of a property in your neighbourhood that is close to yours. Now jot down the selling price as well as the date.
B. Find out how much your property was worth in 1991
If you have that detail, you can use it to determine how much your property would have been worth in 1991, as well as which band it belongs to. I’ve created a calculator for you below that uses Nationwide house price info.
This is just a rough estimate, but it’s always a good precaution to take. If your neighbours are in the wrong band, you might be in a higher band than them. In that case, appealing and remaining in the same band as their band grows will not make you popular.
C. Council tax bands for the price of the property in 1991
Now that you know approximately how much your home was worth in 1991, you can compare it to the table below to see which band you could have been assigned based on that amount.
Are you in the wrong council tax band group?
I feel compelled to issue a severe cautionary statement at this stage.
For one particular reason, challenging your band without the checks is not something you can do on the spur of the moment.
You can’t just request that your band be lowered; instead, you must request a ‘reassessment,’ which means that it may be raised up or down.
It’s also likely that the band of your next-door neighbours will be increased, but this is uncommon.
This is why it’s critical to perform BOTH of the tests and to be particularly cautious if you’ve added an extension or otherwise increased the value of your home.
The Neighbours Check is by far the most critical check in determining whether you are eligible for a reduction, but the secondary Valuation Check is useful for determining whether your band is too high or your neighbours’ is too low.
Use the table below to determine the strength of your argument and whether it is worth appealing.
Making A Claim or Challenging Your Council Tax Account
It’s time to question your property band if you believe it’s unfair.
Remember that the structured competition checklist is more of a precautionary measure before embarking on the challenge. In your appeal, it has very little merit. Real sales prices from around 1991, on the other hand, provide stronger evidence.
If you live in England, Gov.UK will help you understand how to fight your council tax band. You may either contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) directly, where you’ll be informed on how your band was determined and given the opportunity to clarify why you think it’s incorrect and how it should be changed.
You can also search your band by entering your postcode and choosing your address from a dropdown menu. Then, if you click on the link asking if you believe your council tax banding is incorrect, you’ll be given the option of filling out a checklist with reasons to appeal.
If you’re in Scotland, here’s how to challenge yourself: The Scottish Assessors’ Association (SAA) is in charge of council tax bands in Scotland. On the SAA Homepage, type your postcode into the Council Tax Bands search window. Choose your property from the dropdown menu. Click “Make a proposal” if you want to contest the banding. After that, you should fill out an online form that will be submitted to your local assessor, who will get in touch with you.
We hope you found this blog post about getting a refund on council tax you have overpaid useful – If you need more help with this topic then you can head on over to our property help forum where you’ll be able to get help and advice from others who are facing the same scenario as you and from people who know about this subject – good luck with your council tax refund.