Council Tax – what’s it all about?

Posted on March 9, 2018

If you’re coming to the UK from abroad to live, you might what to know what Council Tax is and what it pays for. Here’s the low down:

What is it?

It’s a compulsory tax that is payable on your home – whether you rent from a landlord, or own it yourself. The tax collected pays for the public services and amenities listed below:

  1. Police and fire services:  Both receive funding from multiple sources, one of which is Council Tax.
  2. Street cleaning and waste collection:  Rubbish collection, recycling and street cleaning are all paid for using funds collected by Council Tax. This includes commercial collections too.
  3. Parks and recreation:  Maintenance and upkeep for public spaces, parks, galleries, theatres, museums, leisure centres and community swimming pools is all paid for with Council Tax.
  4. Social services programs:  This means everything from day care for children to assistance for the elderly and disabled
  5. Schools, education and youth services:  In England, schools are funded by the central government’s Dedicated Schools Grant. However, Council Tax is sometimes used to help boost education and funding programs such as after-school care or at-risk youth services.
  6. Housing provision and advice:  Council housing is funded through the local council, often with the use of this tax. People who are homeless or living in unsafe conditions are prioritised.
  7. Community development:  Councils can use the tax revenue to undertake projects which might benefit the growth of their community.
  8. Street lighting and road and bridge maintenance:  Many roads bridges are owned and maintained by the council and therefore pay for maintenance and repairs. Street lighting and council car parks are also included.
  9. The local library:  In addition to book-lending services, public libraries often offer community classes, special events and computer facilities – all paid for by Council Tax contributions.
  10. Administration and record keeping:  Council Tax pays for the cost of local elections, as well as administrative issues, including registrars of marriages, deaths, and births. Mortuary and cemetery services may also be covered by Council Tax, as well as the administrative costs of running a council.

How much is it?

The amount of council tax each individual has to pay is dependent on two things:

1) Which borough council your address falls under:  England is made up of 27 separate non-metropolitan county councils. Non-metropolitan districts are subdivisions of the county councils. There are 201 separate non metropolitan districts.  London is a handled bit differently: The London Assembly is the governing body for the Greater London Authority. There are 33 separate London boroughs.

2) Which property band your home falls into:  Council tax bands are calculated using the value of the property at a specific point in time. In England, the council tax band is based on what the value of your property would have been on 1 April 1991. This is when the bands were last assessed.  The 8 property bands are graded from A through to H, A being the cheapest and H the most expensive. You can find out what the council band is for your particular property by looking up its postcode on the government’s council tax valuations list: Which Council Tax Band?.

Who Pays?

Council Tax is based on at least 2 adults living in a home. Spouses and partners who live together are jointly responsible for paying the bill.

Discounts are available:

You’ll get 25% off your bill if you count as an adult for Council Tax and either:

  1. you live on your own
  2. no-one else in your home counts as an adult

You’ll usually get a 50% discount if no-one living in your home, including you, is counted as an adult.  The following people are not counted as adults for the purposes of Council Tax:

  1. children under 18
  2. people on some apprentice schemes
  3. 18 and 19-year-olds in full-time education
  4. full-time college and university students
  5. young people under 25 who get funding from the Skills Funding Agency or Young People’s Learning Agency
  6. student nurses
  7. foreign language assistants registered with the British Council
  8. people with a severe mental impairment
  9. live-in carers who look after someone who isn’t their partner, spouse, or child under 18
  10. diplomats

You won’t have to pay any Council Tax at all if everyone in your home, including you, is a full-time student.

How is it collected?

The annual cost is usually split into 10 monthly payments.

When you have an address in the UK, just contact your new local council and tell them about your move. They will send a Welcome letter to you at your new address with full details of:

  • how much you have to pay for the coming year
  • how that amount has been calculated
  • the dates payments will be expected

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