Who has to pay council tax

Council tax is charged on all domestic properties in England and Wales, including houses, flats, maisonettes, caravans, and houseboats.

We send you a bill for your council tax in March each year for the financial year ahead (1 April to 31 March).  We may also send you a revised bill if your account needs adjusting at any time in the year.  Print off an explanation of council tax here.

What we do with council tax

We use money raised from council tax to provide local services like schools, social care, road maintenance and rubbish collection.

It also contributes to other community services like police, passenger transport, fire and civil defence, pensions authority.  Our council tax leaflet tells you more about the way we spend council tax money.

How much council tax you pay

The amount of council tax you pay depends on the value of your property. There are eight valuation bands (A to H) and your council tax is determined by the band your property is placed in.  These bands are set by the Valuation Office Agency.

You can see what we charge for your area on the council tax charges page.

Council tax is a part-property, part-person tax. The full amount assumes that there are two or more adults (aged 18 or above) living in the property. If only one adult lives there, a 25% discount applies.

How to pay your council tax

You can pay your council tax in monthly instalments over a 10 monthly period.  Your first payment should be paid within 14 days from when we send you the bill.

  • You can pay your bill by direct debit – sign up at My Bentax. You'll be able to view all your bill details online once you've signed up.
  • You can pay using your debit or credit card

Who has to pay (or is liable for) council tax

Only people aged 18 or over have to pay council tax.

Where there is more than one person aged 18 or over living in your home, the one nearest to the top of the following list will be responsible for paying council tax:

  • resident freeholders (owner occupiers)
  • resident leaseholders (this includes assured tenants under the Housing Act 1988)
  • residents who are statutory or secure tenants (rent payers)
  • resident licensees (those who have a contractual license to occupy the property)
  • residents with no legal interest in the property
  • owners (if the property has no-one living in it)

Joint and several liability

This is a legal term, which means that when more than one person is held responsible to pay council tax, like joint owners or joint tenants, and is billed, each of them can be asked to pay the full amount outstanding.

Married couples or people who live together as a couple are held jointly responsible.

If you feel that you’re not liable for council tax, please fill in our online dispute form.

If any of your circumstances change that could affect your council tax liability, tell us straight away. See how to do this on our change in circumstances page.

Liability of owners

If you own a property, you’ll be held liable for the council tax during any period when the property is unoccupied, although you may be able to apply for certain discounts or exemptions.

Owners of properties like the ones below will be held liable for council tax even though the property is occupied by others.

  • care homes, independent hospitals and hostels
  • those inhabited by religious communities
  • those occupied by resident domestic staff
  • those inhabited by ministers of religion
  • those occupied by asylum seekers
  • houses in multiple occupation*

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is a property built purposely, or adapted, to house a number of people, for example rooms in the same property rented to students

Empty properties

If you have a property that is unoccupied and unfurnished, a 100% discount will apply for up to one month from the date the property became empty.  This only applies if the property has been occupied for six months before it became empty.

Where a property has been unoccupied and unfurnished for over two years, the council tax will increase by 50%.

Challenge your council tax liability

If you think that you may have been made liable for council tax incorrectly, please complete the online dispute form, explaining why you believe you're not liable, and attaching any necessary supporting evidence.

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