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How to Reclaim Overpaid Council Tax Refunds

Fiona Leake
Fiona Leake
  | Edited by Tom Church
Updated 24th February 2021

Did you know that you can reclaim overpaid council tax? Find out if you’re due a council tax refund and how you can get one in our guide. You could be owed hundreds of pounds!

Am I due a council tax refund?

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The Freedom of Information Act gathered data from over 280 councils across England, Scotland and Wales and found that more than £230 million was unclaimed in millions of closed council tax accounts.

Your council tax account could be in credit if you’ve paid more than you owe. Many people aren’t aware that council tax is sometimes paid in advance, so, if you were to move and close your account early, you might have paid more than you needed to.

Here’s why some council tax accounts end up in credit: 

  • Paid council tax in advance and closed the account early - you pay for a year’s worth of council tax in 10 monthly instalments. However, if you move out early, you might have overpaid. Often, councils automatically give you a refund when you close your account. However, if they don’t and you don’t reclaim, you could be owed money. 
  • You forgot to cancel payments - you might end up paying for council tax even once you’ve moved out of the property. This mainly happens if you pay by standing order.
  • Your properties rebanded - if someone moves into a property after you and gets it rebanded to a lower band, then you technically overpaid council tax whilst you were living there as it was in the wrong band. This means your closed account could be credited. Read our guide to find out more about council tax rebanding.

So, how do you know if this applies to you? It’s not a good idea for everyone to overwhelm their local council by asking for refunds and 90% of the time, councils automatically refund any overpaid council tax.

You’re most likely to be owed a refund on your council tax if you’ve moved out of a council/local authority area and weren’t paying by direct debit.

This is usually the case because:

  • If you move within the same local authority, they’re likely to spot that your old account is in credit. If you leave your local authority and don’t provide a forwarding address, you’re more likely to be still owed money. 
  • It’s easy for your local authority to refund you if you pay by direct debit as they have your details. However, if you pay by other methods, they can’t automatically refund. 

What if I think I might OWE council tax?

If you owe council tax on an old account your local authority will likely have already chased you for it. So, if you contact your council asking if you’re owed money, it’s unlikely that they’ll discover that you owe them money. 

Of course, this isn’t impossible but it’s not something you should worry about.

How to find out if you’re due a council tax refund

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Finding out whether you’re due a refund due to overpaid council tax depends on your council. There are usually a couple of different ways:

  • An online claims form.
  • Via phone call or email.

We’ll explain exactly how to go about reclaiming your council tax refund below: 

How to reclaim overpaid council tax

Ready to see if you can reclaim any overpaid council tax? Follow the steps below…

Step 1: Make sure you might be due a refund

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Double-check our bullet points above before contacting your council about a possible refund. Usually, local authorities are very good at refunding closed accounts in credit quickly, without you having to lift a finger. 

However, if you’ve changed local authority and weren’t paying by direct debit, you could be due a refund. There are other instances that we’ve mentioned above where you might also be due a refund. 

Step 2: Find out whether you’re owed a council tax refund 

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There are two main ways to find out whether your old council tax account is in credit:

Option 1 - Online council tax refund form

The easiest way to find out if you’re owed a refund and claim that refund is via an online form. Not all local authorities offer these forms, the easiest way to find out is to simply Google - "[council name] council tax refund form". 

If the form tells you that you’re owed council tax, it’ll then go through as a reclaim.

One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes these forms require your old council tax reference number. You can find this number on old bills or emails. However, if you can’t find it, you can try option two below:

Option 2 - Calling or emailing your local authority

Another option is to call or email your council. You can find out the contact details by entering your postcode on the GOV website.

Phoning your council is the quickest way to get a response with this option. Usually, you’ll need to provide your name and old address but you might also be asked some additional security questions.

However, you might hit a wall if you’re met with an automated phone menu when calling your local council. In this case, emailing might be easier. Make sure you provide your name and old address within your email. 

Step 3: Wait for your council tax refund

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Usually, when you ring your local council, they’ll be able to tell you right away on the phone whether you’re owed a refund or not.

If you fill in an online form or email, you might have to wait up to 14 days to have your request sorted. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll be in a rush as this is money you didn’t know you were owed! 

How do I claim council tax for someone who has died?

If someone passes away, then their council tax account will be closed and it could be in credit. If you’re the executor of someone’s estate, then you’ll likely be able to claim their council tax refund.

The council might not have your details so you’ll have to go about reclaiming by following the steps we’ve outlined above. 

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