Moving House Checklist > Council Tax

Moving home can be stressful, which makes keeping track of all the little details an uphill struggle. So, if council tax hasn’t yet crossed your mind, don’t worry – you are not alone.

Most movers leave updating their council tax till the last minute, along with notifying utilities, and even friends and family, of their change of address. But the sooner the better: notifying your local authority and registering for council tax should be one of the first things on your to-do list.

Council Tax: What is it and What Does it Pay for?

So, what is council tax? It’s a tax placed on all residential properties in England, Wales and Scotland, and generally provides 25% of funding for local public services such as:

  • Fire and Police
  • Public Libraries
  • Street Cleaning and Rubbish Collection
  • Schools, Education and Youth Clubs
  • Parks and Recreational Locations (theatres, leisure centres, town halls)
  • Street Lights
  • Road and Bridge Maintenance
  • Social Service Programs
  • Community Development

Council Tax became compulsory in 1993, replacing the Poll Tax. Typically, all residents over the age of 18 living in the UK pay council tax (the collection rate for 2017-18 was 97.1%). And, for this reason, it’s one of the UK’s most hated household bills.

How is Council Tax Calculated?

The level of council tax each household pays is dependent on three factors:

  1. The value of the property
  2. Your personal circumstances (read about Council Tax Support here)
  3. The budget needs of the council

Based on its value, your property will fall into a given valuation band. The valuation bands are the same in England and Scotland, they have eight bands ranging from A to H (A is the highest and H the lowest). In Wales, there are nine bands, ranging from A to I.

In England and Wales, your property is assigned to a given band based on the selling price (or valuation amount) it had in 1st April 1991. For properties in Wales, it’s taken from the valuation of the property on 1st April 2003. If your property was built after these dates, then its value will reflect the value of similar properties.

If you want to work out what you’ll be paying before your move, then check the value of the property in 1991 (or 2003). You can find the cost of the different bands in your local area on your local council’s website.

Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that all properties are graded using the same criteria and guidelines. So, if you have purchased your home using a “Right to Buy” scheme, it will still be branded on what the value of the property was in 1991 (England and Scotland) or 2003 (Wales).

Who Has to Pay Council Tax?

Unfortunately, council tax is unavoidable if you’re over the age of 18 and living in your own property, rented or owned. A full bill is applicable once there are at least two adults living in the property. So, whether you’re married or cohabiting, you’ll have joint responsibility for paying your bill.

However, if you live on your own, with no-one with over the age of 18 living in the property, you will be given a 25% discount. Additionally:

  • for those cases where no residents are classed as adults, including yourself, you will be awarded a 50% discount
  • if the property is completely unoccupied, is a holiday home or a “second home”, then you will be given a 50% council tax reduction

Who is exempt from council tax?

Residents under the age of 18 represent the largest council-tax exemption. But there are a few others of note:

  • Full-time students, even if over 18
  • Apprentices,  even if over 18
  • Those living, or moving into, Armed Forces accommodation.

Individuals can also receive a reduction on their council tax bill, as they are means tested individuals with disabilities, which is known as Council Tax Support. You can check if you qualify for a reduction on your local council’s website, or by applying here on the GOV.UK.

Council Tax: what happens when I move? 

It’s recommended that you notify your local authority before your move fully starts, to make them aware of the date you will be moving out of your property.

To do this, you need to go to your local council’s website and find the ‘change of address’ page. However, please note that if you currently own the property, and it is going to be vacant, then you’ll still have to pay council tax, albeit at a reduced rate. If you’re moving from rented property, then you’ll not be responsible for paying council tax at that property.

When you inform your local council of your move, you’ll need to tell them where you’re moving from and to, so that they can update their records. It’s advisable that you do this at least one month before your scheduled moving date. You will also have to include new addresses for each adult listed on the council tax bill.

After you’ve informed your local council of the move, they will generally send you a final bill within a month of your moving date. This is a statement of the final amount you owe. And, if you’re in credit, then you can apply to get this refunded.

Moving Within Your Local Authority Area

Even if you’re moving within the same local authority area, you should still cancel your council tax promptly and update the council with your new address.

Typically, most councils will allow you to keep the same direct debit for your final monthly payment and your new council tax bill. Once you move in at your new address, you’ll start paying council tax from the day you arrive – regardless of when the ‘new occupier’ letter arrives. There’s nothing gained by waiting, as the council will simply backdate your payments.

Moving Outside Your Local Authority Area

If you’re moving outside of your local authority district, then you will have to register with your new council and cancel your account with your previous local authority.

Many people forget to cancel their council tax with their existing local authority and end up facing a fine. We covered what you need to do to cancel this (including getting your final bill) above.

To register with your new council, go to the GOV.UK website and/or your new local council’s website.

Remember – if you are moving out of the area, you have two councils to notify about your new address. Don’t get hit with a fine for failing to make them aware of your change of address. Moving house is expensive and stressful enough as it is!

Challenge Your Council Tax Band

This year, recent figures highlighted that the average council tax bill in England and Scotland increased by 5.1%.

So, it could be worth checking if you’re overpaying. This might be because your property’s 1991 value has been calculated incorrectly. When council tax came into full effect in 1991 (England and Scotland) and 2003 (Wales), this valuation process was somewhat rushed, in what has been referred to as “second-gear valuations”.

It’s possible that up to 400,000 homes in England and Wales are in the wrong council tax band. And if you genuinely feel you’re in the wrong band, then you do have the option of challenging it.

“You might be able to challenge your Council Tax band if you have evidence that suggests the band is wrong.” – GOV.UK

To challenge your council tax band, you will need to arrange for the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), to revalue your property.

It generally takes around two months for them to return with a decision. You will need to check your property’s band on the Council Tax Valuation list (England and Wales), or the Assessor Association website (Scotland). As stated by GOV.UK, you will have supply evidence. This includes:

  • Addresses of similar properties in your area with lower tax bands (up to 5 properties). They must be the same age, size, style, layout and type. For example, if you live in a detached property, then you cannot supply a semi.
  • Evidence of the purchase price and the dates of the sale.

Once the VOA have given you their decision, you may still challenge this if you aren’t happy with the outcome.

To do this, you must supply further evidence to support your challenge and make the appeal within three months of the first decision.

You will have to continue your normal council tax payments during the formal challenge process. However, if the challenge works out in your favour, you will be issued with a new council tax bill and refunded any over-payments based on your new council tax band.

Moving-Out Check List

We hope this has helped you understand the importance of dealing with your council tax as soon as you know you’re moving home. But this doesn’t mean you should neglect other bits of moving-house admin.

Here’s a handy checklist of other people you might want to notify once you’ve got council tax out of the way:

  • Your employer for their records
  • The DVLA (driving licence folks)
  • Your bank
  • The doctor’s (you may have to change GP)
  • Home/contents insurer
  • Car insurer
  • Utilities, including your water, electricity and gas providers
  • HMRC
  • TV Licensing – check out our recent post for all you need to know

The more admin you can get out of the way – or at least accounted for – before your move, the less stressful things will be on the big day!

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