Council tax bands are in the news at the moment. Last week the Chancellor announced that householders of properties in council tax bands A to D will receive a £150 rebate. This money is designed to help people deal with fast-rising energy bills. However, some 3.5 million households in bands E to H will not get any support. As a result, many householders are wondering how they can challenge a council tax band.

This is something the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has picked up on. The agency is the body responsible for reviewing and setting council tax bands. In a news story published very recently, it says:

Around 70,000 customers are expected to contact us over the coming months to ask us to review their Council Tax band.

It’s clear that challenging a council tax band is high up many householders’ lists of priorities. Some landlords may also be having similar thoughts, given that lower council tax bills are likely to be attractive to prospective tenants. But how do the bands work? How can you challenge yours? And is the process really worth it?

How council tax bands are set

Council tax bands are based on how much a property was worth in 1991. This table summarises how the bands are allocated using this data.

Band Value on 1st April 1991
A up to £40,000
B £40,001 to £52,000
C £52,001 to £68,000
D £68,001 to £88,000
E £88,001 to £120,000
F £120,001 to £160,000
G £160,001 to £320,000
H more than £320,000

 

There are obvious pitfalls to setting council tax bands on 30-year-old property prices. For example, some properties and areas have become less desirable since 1991. This means their relative value is likely to be less. Additionally, properties may have been converted to flats or may now be partly converted to business premises.

How do I challenge a council tax band?

If you want to challenge your council tax band, you need to provide very specific evidence to the VOA. Full details of what’s required are published here. However, in brief, you need to provide evidence that:

  1. 5 properties of a similar age, design, size and type – and which are located in the same street, estate or village – are in a lower council tax band.
  2. Your property or similar properties sold for a price that would put yours in a different band. The sale(s) must have been between 1st April 1989 and 31st March 1993 (for properties in England).

VOA will also undertake a formal review of your council tax band if:

  • Your property has changed (for example, split up into multiple properties or merged into a larger one)
  • Your property’s use has changed (for example, part is now used for business)
  • The local area has changed. This might include a new supermarket or other development that affects the value of your property.
  • You’ve been paying council tax on the property for less than six months.

Is it worth challenging my council tax band?

There’s no simple answer to this. Last year, more than 40,000 people challenged their council tax bands and roughly a third succeeded in cutting their bills. 40 of the properties were placed in a more expensive band. Most appeals resulted in no change.

It’s also worth noting that, if VOA puts you in a higher council tax band, it may well put your neighbours in the same band. This is unlikely to make you popular!

So, whether you’re a homeowner, tenant or landlord, we recommend challenging your council tax band only if there’s a realistic chance the VOA will put you in a lower one. Lower council tax bills are the biggest long-term benefit, not the one-off £150 payment.

Need further advice on any of the topics being discussed? Get in touch and see how we can help.

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