Council tax: how much is it and who has to pay?

Council tax explainer

What you need to know

Who has to pay this charge, what is it for, and how much will it set you back? Read on for the answers.

What is council tax and who pays it?

Visit the government Council Tax website to find out more information on how much your local council charges are, who’s responsible for paying and whether you can get a discount.

Council tax is an annual fee charged by local authorities to help pay for services in your local area, such as rubbish collection, police services and road maintenance.

You usually have to pay council tax if you’re 18 or over and own or rent your home.

There are some exceptions. For example, if you live on your own - or are the only adult - then you’ll get 25% off your council tax bill. Also, if everyone living in your home is a student, then you won’t have to pay at all.

How much will you pay?

You can find your local authority and see how much council tax you need to pay using these links:

The size of your council tax bill will depend on factors including the size of your home and its location. Each home is given a council tax valuation band, and a different amount of council tax is charged on each band.

England has eight Council Tax bands, running from A, which is the cheapest, up to H. Wales, on the other hand, has nine bands, going from A to I.

You’ll be sent a bill in April each year and will normally have to pay the fee in 10 monthly instalments, followed by two months of not making any payments. However, you can ask your council to spread your Council Tax payments over 12 months if that makes it easier for you to budget.

What about first time buyers?

If you’re hoping to take your first step on the housing ladder, then it’s important to factor council tax into your saving and budget planning.

It’s also worth checking how much council tax you’d have to pay on any house that you’re considering buying to make sure you can afford it. Over the long term, the difference in council tax bands can add up.

What happens if you don’t pay council tax?

You can however challenge your council tax band if you think your home is in the wrong valuation band and as a result you’re paying more council tax than you should.

It’s essential to keep up with council tax payments. If you fall behind and don’t act quickly then you could have to pay the full year’s charge upfront.

If you don’t pay, then your council could take you to court. Research by debt help website DebtBuffer found that more than 2.2 million court summons were issued in the 2019/2020 financial year for households not paying council tax.

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Don't forget

Whether you rent your home or whether you own your home, you’re likely to have to pay council tax.

Click on the sections below to explore what you need to know at each stage of your home buying journey:

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