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Are you paying the wrong amount for your council tax?
Over the last decade, personal finance campaigner Martin Lewis has been attempting to alert the public to the council tax system and how its outdated setup could be costing you more money than you should be paying.
Mr Lewis has been highlighting this issue again recently with an article in MSN Money where he talks about his council tax check.
The main premise of this check is that if you are in the wrong council tax band, you may be able to cut your monthly payments and obtain a rebate for as far back as 1993.
The council tax bands of A (lowest) to H (highest) were set back in 1991 and as they are now 25 years old, they are bound to be a little bit out of date. The bands were set according to house price so the more your house is worth, the more council tax you would have to pay.
But as we are all aware, house prices have risen astronomically is the past 25 years. Although, houses may be worth more than they were in numerical value, it doesn’t mean they are actually worth more in today’s money.
Back in the 90’s, ‘2nd gear valuations’ took place to assign a band to houses around the country. A full and more in depth valuation was due at a later date but in Scotland and England it never took place. As a result, it is estimated that up to 400,000 homes are in the wrong band but there is a way to check if you are in the correct council tax band or not.
Firstly, you should do the neighbours check where you compare your current council tax band with your neighbours in identical or similar homes. This information is freely available for all online so you don’t have to approach your neighbours if you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this. If you live in England you can check these bands at voa.gov.uk and for Scotland, visit saa.gov.uk.
Next, you should do a valuation check. As your council tax band is still based on your home’s value back in 1991, you need to estimate what your home was worth 25 years ago. There is a tool to help you do this on the MoneySavingExpert website.
Finally, if both of these checks show your band is too high, you should challenge it. However if one or both show that you are on the right council band, it is a good indicator that you have been placed on the right band.
The issue with asking for a council tax review, if you have not researched in advance, is that your council may discover that you are on the wrong band and move you up instead. Be sure before you ask for a review so you can be sure you will see your council tax bills fall.
If you do qualify for a lowering of your council tax band, you are quite likely to be due a rebate which could be worth thousands of pounds. So it is worth at least researching into your council tax band because you never know if you have been paying more than you needed to for the last few months or years.
If you would like to find out more about how to challenge your council tax band, you can visit the gov.uk website.