How to Challenge your Council Tax Band
Many people find that they’re in the wrong council tax band and could potentially save hundreds of pounds a year! In this guide, we’ll explain how to check your council tax band and see if it’s right for your property. Find out how to challenge your council tax band and cut your bills.
Why might I be in the wrong council tax band?
Council tax bands are based on how much your property was worth in 1991 (England and Scotland) or in 1993 for people in Wales. These council tax bands have not been reassessed since unless you’ve requested a revaluation (we’ll explain how to later in this guide).
So, it’s likely that the value of your home has changed in the past 30 years and you could potentially be in the wrong council tax band.
The way council bands were calculated is often argued to be very inaccurate and a rushed process. This could be why around one in 20 homes are in the wrong council tax band.
Am I paying too much council tax?
You could be paying too much council tax if you're in the wrong band. If you’re in a higher band than your neighbour’s and your properties are the same, then you could be paying too much.
If your home is in a band E and you should be in a band D, then you could be overpaying by 20%!
How to check your council tax band
You can find out your council tax band by heading to your relevant government website and finding your local authority:
- England and Wales – GOV.UK - type in your postcode and you’ll be shown a link for your local authority. You’ll then find a council tax section where you can find out your band, pay your council tax bill online and find information about help with council tax.
- Scotland – Scottish Government - click on your local authority and it’ll take you to their website. You can then find the council tax section to pay your council tax and find out your band.
The value and location of your home will affect how much council tax you pay each year and what band you fall in.
How much can you expect to get if you successfully challenge your band?
If your band goes down, you could be paying around 20% less council tax each year. This is hundreds of pounds that you can now save and spend how you like.
On top of this, you should be repaid for overpaying council tax as you were in the wrong band. This repayment should be backdated to when you first moved in. This can be as far back as when council tax first began in 1993.
As you can imagine, this could be a council tax refund in the thousands! Of course, this is only if the band challenge goes your way. We’ll explain more about this below...
How to challenge your council tax band: Step-by-step
Before rushing to challenge your council tax band, there are a few steps you should take first to make sure it’s worth challenging. Remember, your band could end up going up if you’re in too low a band for your property. So, you should only challenge your council tax band once doing the following…
Step 1: Find out your neighbour’s council tax band
The first (and most important) step is to find out whether your band is higher than your neighbours who have a very similar or identical property to your own.
If you’re close to your neighbours, you can simply ask them what their band is. However, this is public information that you can find out using the following links:
Find out your band and compare it to your neighbours. Only compare it to neighbour’s homes that are similar or identical to yours as the value should be the same.
If your neighbours with similar homes are in a lower council tax band than you, then you could have grounds for a challenge.
However, this could mean that your neighbours are actually in the wrong band and the entire street could be brought into the same higher band as you. This won’t make you very popular with your neighbours!
So, before claiming it’s very important to do the next step - a valuation check.
Step 2: Do a valuation check on your property
You must now estimate what your house was worth in 1991 when council tax bands were decided.
Whilst this valuation can’t be used as evidence to challenge your band, it’ll help you decide whether challenging your band is a good idea or not. It’ll show you what properties on your street are worth and whether they are in too high or too low a band.
Here’s how to do a valuation check:
1. Value your property
You need to find out the most recent value of your property or similar properties in your street. To do this, you can use websites like Nethouseprices, Zoopla and Rightmove who offer free historic house price information.
All you need to do is enter your street name and it’ll show all of the properties sold there since 2000 and what they sold for.
You need to find the most recent sale of a property similar to yours on your street. You can then note down the price and date of sale.
2. Find out what your property was worth in 1991
You can use the information you got above to estimate what your property was worth in 1991 when council tax bands were determined.
You can do this by using the Nationwide House Price Calculator. Here’s how to do it:
- Under ‘Property value’ put in the sale price you wrote down earlier.
- Under ‘Valuation year 1’ enter the date of sale from earlier, including the quarter it was sold in.
- Under ‘Valuation year 2’ put in 1991 and Q2 for the quarter as council tax bands were determined in April 1991.
- Select your region from the dropdown.
- Click ‘Calculate’.
It’ll then give you an estimate of what your property was worth in 1991 when council tax bands were decided.
3. Check council tax bands for how much your property was worth in 1991
With the estimated value of your property in 1991, you can compare it to the tables below, to see what band you should have been put in:
|Council Tax Band - England||Property Valuation (1991)|
|A||Up to £40,000|
|B||£40,001 - £52,000|
|C||£52,001 - £68,000|
|D||£68,001 - £88,000|
|E||£88,001 - £120,000|
|F||£120,001 - £160,000|
|G||£160,001 - £320,000|
|Council Tax Band - Scotland||Property Valuation (1991)|
|A||Up to £27,000|
|B||£27,001 - £35,000|
|C||£35,001 - £45,000|
|D||£45,001 - £58,000|
|E||£58,001 - £80,000|
|F||£80,001 - £106,000|
|G||£106,001 - £212,000|
Step 3: Decide whether you’re in the wrong band
Now, before rushing to challenge your council tax band, you need to think about it some more:
NEVER challenge your council tax band just in the hope it’ll be lowered. It could go up or down AND it could impact your neighbour’s band too! You MUST do the above checks before deciding to challenge.
Make sure you carry out both Step 1 and Step 2 in this guide. Remember, if you’ve added an extension, for example, this increases your properties value. So, if you challenge your band, it could end up going up if you’ve made alterations to your property.
So, are you eligible for a council tax reduction?
If your neighbours are in a lower band than you with similar properties AND your valuation check shows that you’re in the wrong band, then you could challenge your council tax band and get it lowered.
If you fail either of those checks, it’s probably not worth the risk.
For example, if your neighbours are in a lower band than you and when you carried out the valuation check, it showed that you’re in the right band, then don’t challenge! If you do, all of your neighbours could end up joining you in your more expensive band. This WON’T make you very popular on your street at all.
If you’re in the same band as your neighbours and the valuation check shows you’re in the right band, challenging it is simply a waste of time.
We only recommend challenging your council tax band if you pass both the neighbour check and valuation check.
Step 4: Challenge your council tax band
If you’ve thought about it very carefully, have done the above research and are still convinced that you’re in the wrong council tax band, then you can challenge it.
Here’s how to challenge your council tax band in England:
1. Contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA)
The VOA must consider your reasons and you’ll either get an answer right away or they’ll undertake a ‘band review’. Either way, you’ll get a final decision sent to you in the post.
Here’s the contact information for the Valuation Office Agency (VOA):
|Telephone (England)||Telephone (Wales)||Open hours|
|firstname.lastname@example.org||03000 501 501||03000 505 505||Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 2:30pm|
2. Make a formal council tax band challenge
If the VOA has reviewed your council tax band and you still don’t agree, then you can formally challenge your band. You can only formally challenge if you’ve lived in your property for six months or less. If you’ve lived in your property for longer, you’ll only be able to take the above step of contacting the VOA.
You can do this on the GOV.uk website, which explains how to go about formally challenging your band.
You must do the following:
- Fill out a checklist to determine whether you can challenge your council tax band.
- Fill in the formal challenge form.
- Provide evidence that you’re in the wrong council tax band.
You must continue to pay council tax whilst this challenge is ongoing, even if you think that you’re paying too much.
How to challenge your council tax band in Scotland:
If you live in Scotland, you’ll need to enter your postcode in the council tax band search bar on the Scottish Assessors Association homepage. You can then select your property and click ‘Make a proposal’ to fill in a form and challenge your band. A local assessor will then be in contact with you.
Possible outcomes of disputing your council tax band
There are three main possible outcomes of challenging your council tax band:
1. You’re told you can’t challenge your band
You can only formally challenge your band if you’ve lived in your home for six months or less. So, if you attempt to formally challenge your band, you might be told that you aren’t eligible to make that challenge.
Don’t worry though, if you’ve lived in your property for longer than six months, you can still challenge your council tax band. You’ll have to get in touch with the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) as we’ve explained how to above.
You can ring them on 03000 501 501 if you're in England, or 03000 505 505 if you're in Wales.
You’ll have to provide evidence and be patient but this can still work. However, if you’ve lived in a property longer than six months, you might not get the backdated payout but can still get the band adjustment. It depends on your local area.
2. Your challenge is rejected
If you’ve challenged your council tax band and have been rejected, then you’ve got three months to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal. (You can only appeal if you’ve lived in the property for six months or less).
If you’ve lived in the property for longer than six months and the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has rejected your challenge as there isn’t enough evidence or they have reviewed your band and it hasn’t changed, then you can’t appeal.
If you find new evidence that you haven’t yet presented to the VOA, then you can try challenging again.
Unless you’ve got a strong reason to appeal and take your case further, it’s probably not worth it once you’ve been rejected. If you do appeal to the Valuation Tribunal and the result remains the same, it’s definitely time to give up.
Remember, our process above isn’t guaranteed to get your council tax band lowered. It’s just a way to check whether you’ve got any grounds for a challenge, the VOA could still decide against it.
Here are some experiences of Latest Deals members who’ve had their challenge rejected:
I challenged mine only last month. And it stayed the same. Although other new build houses the same as mine half a mile away are a band lower.
I challenged ours last year and they rejected it.
I did an application a few years ago. Nothing changed.
I challenged ours when we moved in about 20 years ago, after numerous frustrating letters and calls, they rejected it.
3. You succeed and get your council tax band lowered!
If your challenge is successful you’ll get your council tax band lowered and a backdated rebate from the day you first moved into your home. If you can, you should try and let previous owners of the property know. They should also be entitled to a rebate from their time living in the property.
Here are some success stories from Latest Deals members:
We did when we moved into this house 8 years ago. To be honest it was easy as I could prove the other 3 beds were a band lower but 4 beds were the same band (we are 3 bed). Previous owners were surprised to receive a few thousand rebate (Telford Council).
Yes 20yrs ago. Bought the house for a lot less than the asking price. Council tax was based on the higher price, but the estate agent said it wasn't worth asking price. So, I wrote to the council and they said because we had lived in the house more than 6 months they couldn't do anything about it.
Then a week later received a cheque with the over payments and a reduced tax bracket.
I challenged my council tax band on my first flat 15 years ago, it was originally a 3 bed house that was split into two flats, the house was originally band B and both flats were judged to be band B each as well. My argument was by the property price cost/value back in the early 90s not even the original house qualified as a band B as its sale price in 96 set it at the A band category. (I did get my flat changed to an A but they didn't change the other flat, it was up to my neighbour to make their own case the council said)
Think twice before challenging your band: Should I challenge my council tax band?
Remember, only challenge your council tax band if you’re sure it’s too high after doing the neighbour and valuation checks we explained above.
If you’ve made any home improvements or extensions, this could potentially increase your band so make sure that you take this into account.
You might find that you’re in the right council tax band but your neighbours are in the wrong band as it’s lower than yours. If this is the case, there’s no point challenging as your band will remain the same but your neighbour’s bands could increase. You don’t want to be the least popular person on your street!
Just take your time to do all of the research we explained above and only ever challenge your council tax band if you’re very sure that it’s incorrect.
Is there another way I can lower my council tax?
If you can’t lower your council tax band, there might still be a way for you to reduce your council tax bill. Some people and properties are eligible for a council tax discount, for example:
- Full-time students.
- Under 18-years-old.
- Member of the armed forces living in armed forces accommodation.
- Moved into a care home or hospital.
- Living with someone else to receive care.
- Have a severe mental impairment.
- Diplomats who aren’t a resident of the UK.