There’s been news recently about 11,000-plus households in the UK challenging their Council Tax bands in the 2020-2021 year and reducing their annual bill. Some have received backdated refunds, so you might be wondering if you could do this too.
It can be a bit of a fiddly process, involving a lot of research, but if you follow our steps, you could reduce your bill and get a nice lump sum.
How could you be in the wrong band?
While Council Tax came in back in 1993, the band calculations are from 1991. Valuing every single home in the UK was a huge task, so “second gear” valuations were brought in to make things easier.
However, these so-called second gear valuations were also substandard, with many involving looking out of a car window as it drove down the street. It’s easy to see how many properties could end up in the wrong band.
Make sure you have all your information and that it’s accurate
If you’re successful in your challenge, not only will you get a reduced annual council tax bill, but you could get a backdated refund that could add up to thousands.
Sounds great, but if you don’t do your research thoroughly, you could end up with a bigger bill – and so could your neighbours if it turns out you should have been in the next band up.
How to challenge your Council Tax band
Step one: check the banding of your neighbouring properties
You can ask your neighbours directly, but you might prefer to head to the Valuation Office Agency’s public records.
Look at similar properties to yours – in terms of size and valuation – and if you see that your neighbours are in a lower band than you, you might have the foundations of a case.
You need to remember that your neighbours’ bandings might be wrong and they all end up in a higher bracket, which will not make you popular. This is why we have step two.
Step two: find a 1991 valuation
You’ll have to find out what your property was worth in 1991. You can comb through various property portals for sales in your immediate postcode, with some going back to 1991.
If you prefer, you can also try this Nationwide house price calculator which should give you a ballpark figure.
Step three: compare the 1991 value with the first (1993) Council Tax bands
Use the 1991 valuation to see where your property lies in the Council Tax band chart for 1991 values. You’ll find this chart here.
If you get a good result from your checks on neighbouring properties and your 1991 valuation, then you might have a good case. If one check returns a disappointing or unreliable result, then you’re probably best advised to stop there.
Even if you still think you’re paying too much, hold fire a while
If your neighbour and 1991 checks indicate that you’re paying more Council Tax than you should, you should still pause before making the next move.
If your property has been extended or if you’ve made any high-value conversions or improvements, then it’ll be worth more now and this will “override” the value in 1991 as the increase in value will have been steeper.
Step four: make your challenge
If you’re confident in your case, then you can make your challenge. Head to this page to start the process. You’ll need all your supporting evidence so the VOA can review your challenge properly.
What happens then?
You’ll get one of three outcomes. You’ll either not meet the criteria for a challenge, your challenge is rejected or your challenge is successful.
If you don’t meet the criteria, you could ask for a review and you’ll need to speak with the VOA. You can call them on 03000501501.
If you’re rejected you can appeal within three months of receiving the decision.
A successful challenge will see your Council Tax bill being reduced and you’ll also be eligible for a backdated refund. You refund will be backdated to 1993 or to when you moved into the property.