MARTIN Lewis has explained seven ways you can legally cut your council tax bill.
It comes as hundreds of thousands of people are paying the wrong amount of council tax, meaning they're due the cash back.
Speaking on ITV's Martin Lewis Money Show yesterday evening, the money guru said: "You could be owed thousands of pounds in a host of different ways."
From lowering your council tax band to applying for discounts, it could give your bank balance a welcome boost ahead of Christmas.
Better yet, you can get the overpaid tax backdated all the way to 1993.
Martin Lewis has found seven ways people can pay less – check out his tips below.
1. Check your council tax band
As many as 400,000 homes are potentially in the wrong council tax band, so the most important first step is to find out if you're in a higher band than your neighbour.
If you don't fancy the embarrassment of asking them – the information is publicly available, Martin explained.
Simply go to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) in England, or if you're based in Scotland, you'll need to check with the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA).
Martin said: "I came up for with this system back in 2007… The first check is called the neighbours check.
"That is one where you have to compare your house to neighbours' similar or preferably identical properties to see if you're in a higher band."
If you're paying more than your neighbours are, you'll then need to work out what your house was worth in 1991.
There are plenty of free house price calculators online to help you do this, for example this one from Nationwide.
Once you know that, you can see which council tax band you should be in.
It could be worth doing as one viewer named Brian managed to claim back £3,300 in overpaid council tax as all his neighbours were in a lower band.
But Martin has a warning too, he said: "Only apply if both checks show you are in too high a band."
That's because if you get it wrong, and its your neighbours who are in the wrong band, they could see their bills rise, while yours stay the same.
2. Discounts for lower occupancy
"If you are a single adult, living alone, you should get a 25% reduction in council tax," Martin said.
Just keep in mind that council tax doesn't apply to full-time students in higher education, just to mention an example, so you don't actually have to live by yourself to get it.
In fact, in some cases every person living in a house can be excluded – meaning no tax is due at all.
Claims on this can be backdated too – simply contact your council for help.
3. Discounts for benefit claimants
There are also discounts of up to 100% for people on certain benefits.
But these aren't automatically applied when you claim the benefit – you need to check directly with your local council.
The reduction comes on top of any benefits you receive, but the amount depends on your circumstances – for example, where you live, your income, if children live with you and if other adults live with you.
Some councils let you backdate the reduction, but it depends on the individual council, so you need to check.
4. Severe mental impairment council tax discounts
If you – or someone you live with – has a disability, a health condition or are a carer, you could be overpaying on council tax without even knowing it.
There's a 25% discount if you live with someone with a severe mental impairment (SMI) and no other adults or only other adults who are also disregarded for council tax purposes.
If you have a severe mental impairment yourself and you live alone, you'll be eligible for a 100% discount.
An SMI is defined as a "severe permanent impairment of intelligence and social functioning", and is common due to dementia or strokes.
These claims are also backdated – meaning you could get huge amounts back by contacting your council.
One viewer got £3,650 back for her dad, who lives alone with dementia.
5. Help during coronavirus crisis
Struggling households can also get their council tax bills reduced by up to £150 this year due to the coronavirus crisis, Martin noted.
The council tax hardship fund, which was first announced in March, is available to working-age people who get council tax support.
This is a benefit to help people who are on a low income or claiming certain benefits to pay their council tax bill.
Each local council is responsible for operating its own council tax support scheme so the amounts of support given across the country may vary.
The amount of council tax support you will get depends on many factors, including:
- Which benefits you receive
- Your age
- Your income
- Your savings
- Who you live with
- How much council tax you pay
- You may get more Council Tax Support if you receive a disability or carers benefit
If you're eligible for the hardship fund for the 2020/2021 tax year, you should have received a new council tax bill sometime this spring.
Or if you have a bill of less than £150, you likely won't pay council tax at all.
If you still haven't received a revised bill, it's worth contacting your council to ask whether you're eligible.
Or if you're not yet receiving council tax support, you'll need to apply for this too.
To apply, simply go to the GOV.UK website, put in your postcode and follow the instructions.
6. Have you made changes to your home?
If you've made changes to your home for a disabled resident, you could also get your bills reduced.
But rather than a discount, you may instead be able to get your council tax band lowered.
7. Is your council sitting on your cash?
Many people pay council tax a month or a year ahead – and that means if you move house, your council may keep it until you ask for it back.
So if you've moved in the past few years, search for council tax refunds on your previous council's site.
Martin added: "I'd only do this if I've moved to a different council area since 1993 and you weren't paying by direct debit.
"If both of those tick, you may want to check if you're eligible for the money."
In other Martin Lewis news, the money guru has explained how you can claim back thousands of pounds if you have taken out a guarantor loan.
Martin has also rounded up seven ways to get help if you’re struggling financially during lockdown.
Plus, he's revealed four ways to check if you're owed cash and you could be owed thousands of pounds.
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