My flatmate has just moved out leaving me alone in my flat. I’m really worried about the bills including my council tax. Do you have any tips on what I can do?

The cost-of-living crisis has sent millions of people rushing to look through their finances and make savings. If you’re worried about making savings, then the Mirror/Money Matters has tons of guides and suggestions on how you can do this [I’ll let you pick the links to our features Emma!]

Many people think they have nowhere to turn with their council tax bill. But the fact of the matter is you may well be able to get a reduction in your bill if you meet certain criteria – and there’s one tip that most people will be able to take advantage of.

Single person discount

By far the best discount for most people when it comes to council tax is the single person discount. If you live alone then you can get a 25% discount on your bill. Don’t assume the council will be pouring over the Electoral Roll to check if it applies though. If you don’t have the discount on your bill then tell them today. If someone moves out then you’re allowed to apply for the discount from the day they went too.

Spread the payments

You’ll kick yourself when you hear this one because once you know it, it seems so obvious. Yet I reckon that the vast majority of people haven’t thought to ask.

Council tax is usually billed over ten months, with two free months at the end of the term. However, if money is tight, why not ask the council to spread the money over 12 months instead? If you’re paying £1,200 a year, then over ten months you pay £120 a month. But over 12, you pay £100 which saves you £20 a month. That’s a sixth off in real terms each month.

Are you ‘disregarded?’

I do hate this term, but let’s go with it for now. Some people are disregarded (basically, not counted) when working council tax.

This matters because you might be able to apply for a discount on your council tax bill if you fall in to any of these categories:

  • If you are under 18 years old
  • On (some) apprentice schemes
  • If you are 18 or 19 years old and in full-time education
  • If you’re at college or university
  • If you’re under 25 years old and get funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency
  • If you’re a student nurse
  • Some people who fall in to more vulnerable categories might also be included; this is defined by the Government as having a severe mental impairment.

Hold on, I hear you cry! Kids don’t pay council tax. And you don’t pay by the person either. Yep, this is correct. This is all about working out the discount you get. It goes like this.

  • You’ll get 50% off your bill if everyone living in your household is disregarded.
  • You’ll get 25% off your bill if you pay Council Tax and either live on your own or everyone else in your home is disregarded.
  • Finally, if everyone in the home is a student or classifies as having a significant mental impartment, you won’t pay any council tax.

I know that’s a little confusing, so why not see if you qualify here:

If you or someone you live with has a disability

If you or someone you live with has a disability you may also get a discount on council tax. However, the rules around this are rather complicated and usually depend on whether your property has been accommodated for the person with the disability or have extra space for things like wheelchairs.

Empty and holiday homes

Controversy time! You don’t get a discount for having a home that’s stood there empty – and quite right too. However, if you’re having major work done and can’t live in the property then your council might give you a discount. This varies by council though so speak to them first. Some councils offer discounts on second homes but for obvious reasons don’t shout about it.

Getting help

If you’re worried you can’t afford your council tax, don’t wait till you get in to arrears – contact your council now, explain your situation and ask them what they can do to help sort the problem out right now. They can also talk you through the complaints process.

Featured in Mirror – Martyn James

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