THREE million Brits are missing out on over £900 in council tax support, despite seeing price hikes to their bills this year.
You could be eligible for up to 100% off your council tax if you’re on a low income or on benefits, including Universal Credit.
But research from charity Turn2us shows that 2.77 million people are missing out on a whopping £2.6billion in help paying their bills.
On average, that means eligible Brits are missing out on £938 each.
But as each council runs their own support scheme, you could get more – or less – than this.
Council tax help is the most common benefit that Brits are missing out on, the charity added.
It comes as thousands of households saw their council tax bill jump by up to 5% in April.
The Treasury gave the green light for cash-strapped councils to raise bills in last year’s spending review to plug money lost due to the Covid crisis.
Turn2us head of external affairs Sara Willcocks said: "The coronavirus pandemic has pushed millions of us into financially precarious positions.
"We expect to see an increasing number of people needing help with their council tax bills over the next few months.
"It is so important for people to get all the support they are entitled to."
If you’re worried about making your money stretch and think you could be in line for council tax reduction, here’s how to apply for one:
Who can get a council tax reduction?
You could be eligible for up to 100% off your council tax bill if you’re on a low income or on benefits, including Universal Credit.
But how much your bill could be slashed by depends on where you live, as each council runs its own tax reduction scheme.
Other factors which will affect your discount includes your earnings, household income, the number of children you have and how many people live with you, whether you’re on benefits, and your residency status.
You may be able to get a council tax reduction in certain circumstances even if you’re not on a low income, Universal Credit or benefits.
How to check your council tax bill and whether it’s gone up
MANY local authorities hiked council tax bills in April – here’s how to check if you’re now paying more.
You'll first need to find out what council tax band your home is in to work out how much you have to pay.
This can be done on Gov.uk for homes in England an Wales, or on the Scottish Assessors website if you live in Scotland.
You'll need to enter in your postcode and scroll through the listed addresses to find yours.
Local councils must contact you directly to let you know if your bill is going up or down, for example, via a letter or email.
If you still haven't heard from your council, you should contact them directly.
The contact details of your local council can be found on the Gov.uk postcode checker.
Those living on their own can get 25% off their tax bill. This includes where one adult and one student are living together, or one adult and one person who is classed as severely mentally impaired.
If you live with someone who officially doesn't have to pay council tax, such as a carer, or someone who is severely mentally impaired, you can get 50% off.
A full list of circumstances that exempt you from paying council tax can be found on Citizens Advice.
If you live in an all-student household you can get 100% off your council tax.
A full reduction is also possible in households where someone under 18 is living with someone who is severely mentally impaired.
How do I apply for a council tax reduction?
You can apply for a council tax reduction through Gov.uk.
There’s a different scheme you’ll need to apply to if you live in Northern Ireland.
You’ll need a few documents to hand when you’re applying for a discount.
Have your National Insurance card, bank statements, a recent payslip or a letter from the Jobcentre or Tax Credits showing your NI number, and a passport or driving licence at the ready.
If you live with other adults, then they may also have to provide documents showing their income, such as payslips.
You might also be able to get £150 off your council tax bill due to the coronavirus crisis.
How to cut your bills
IF you’re struggling financially, you might be able to cut the cost of your bills to help you get out of the red.
Council tax: You can apply for a council tax reduction on the Gov.uk website but you'll need to meet certain criteria. Your bill could be cut by as much as 100 per cent if you’re on a low income or claim benefits. Carers who look after someone in the household for at least 35 hours a week are also exempt from paying.
Water: Households might be able to save money by getting a water meter but it all depends on how much you're using. To check if it's finacially worthwhile, use the Consumer Council for Water's free ater meter calculator.
Rent: If you have the space available and your landlord or local authority says it's ok to do so, you might want to consider getting a flatmate. Not only will you split the cost of the rent, but also the other bills.
Hire purchase: If you're struggling to make your repayments on your hire purchase, you can usually end the contract by returning the goods. You will have to pay all the instalments due up to the time you end the agreement but this will limit the amount you owe. Contact Citizens Advice for free for more help with this.
Gas and electricty: MoneySavingExpert says families can save £330 on average by switching from Standard Variable Tariffs (SVTs) to a better rate. Use a comparison site such as MoneySuperMarket or Energyhelpline to see what deals are available.
Mortgage: If you get into debt with your mortgage payments, don't wait for your lender to chase you. Work out what you can afford using the Citizens Advice budgeting tool so you can discuss your payment options moving forward with your mortgage provider.
Secured Loan: Your secured loan might be covered by the Consumer Credit Act and if it is, you may be able to apply for a Time Order. This is a special agreement by the courts allowing you more time to make payments. Secured loans not covered by the Consumer Credit Act include gas, electricity or water meters, payments that need to be written off in full, mortgages, credit union loans, loans from an employer and some short term trade agreements.
County Court Judgements: If you receive a County Court claim form talk to a free debt advice service straight away. This includes Citizens Advice (0808 800 9060), StepChange (0800 138 1111) and the National Debtline (0808 808 4000).
TV licence: Some households are eligible for a reduced fee or free TV Licence. Check here to see if you are entitled to a reduced or free rate.
The council tax hardship fund, which was first announced in March, is available to working-age people who get council tax support.
You’ll get the reduction through your local council.
What if I think I’m overpaying tax?
You might find that you’re already paying more for your council tax anyway even before the price hike, according to Martin Lewis.
The consumer guru has urged Brits to check their council tax band to see if they’ve been paying more than they should be.
As many as 400,000 homes are potentially in the wrong council tax band.
Martin tweeted a guide on how to check if you’re paying the right amount.
The first step is to check what council tax band your neighbours are on – you can then see if it matches your band.
Finally, you'll also need to work out how much your property was worth in 1991, as this is when council tax was launched by the government.
MoneySavingExpert has a free calculator tool to help you do this, as well as a table on what band you should have been put in.
If you want to go ahead with a challenge, you can contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) in England and Wales or the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) in Scotland.
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