With the BBC reporting that “tens of thousands of vulnerable people could be missing out on a council tax discount that could save them thousands of pounds" and the Mirror newspaper claiming “as many as 100,000 people qualify for a substantial council tax discount but are not getting it”; what is the story behind the headlines?
What is Council Tax & who has to pay?
According to Gov.UK, you’ll usually have to pay Council Tax if you’re 18 or over and own or rent a home with the full Council Tax bill based on at least 2 adults living in a home.
The amount that needs to be paid depends on several factors including:
- which of the eight pricing ‘bands’ the property comes into, based on its value
- the rate set by the local authority
- whether the people living there are eligible for any support, reductions or exemptions.
The Alzheimer’s Society has produced a handy factsheet providing everything you need to know regarding dementia, Alzheimer’s and Council Tax. In it, they detail the difference between Council Tax discounts, disregards and exemptions:
“There are different types of disregards based on the reasons for them. The different types of disregards are important because of how they affect exemptions (see below).
A person with dementia may be disregarded if they are severely mentally impaired. This applies to anyone who meets all of the following criteria:
- has a severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning which appears to be permanent
- has a certificate confirming this impairment from a registered medical practitioner, usually the person’s GP or consultant
- is entitled to certain disability benefits - the most common qualifying benefits are Attendance allowance (lower or higher rate), Disability living allowance (higher or middle rate care components) and Personal independence payment (lower or higher rate of the daily living component).
Many people with dementia meet all three criteria, so are disregarded under the severe mental impairment rules.”
Additionally, the Alzheimer’s Society explains how in some instances carers of those with Alzheimer’s or dementia may qualify for a Council Tax discount. The discount for carers is quite complicated and best dealt with by speaking to your local authority however, it is worth reading the information sheet compiled by the charity first.
For the full information, download their factsheet or contact the charity for a hardcopy – but in short the charity states that some carers can be disregarded for council tax purposes if they fall into one of two groups:
“The first group of carers who are disregarded for council tax purposes must meet all the following criteria:
- care for at least 35 hours a week
- live in the same property as the person they care for
- are not the partner of the person they care for n are not the parent of the person they care for, if the person cared for is aged under 18.
In addition, the person being cared for must be entitled to one of the following benefits: Disability living allowance (highest rate of the care component), Personal independence payment (either rate of the daily living component), Attendance allowance (higher rate) or Constant attendance allowance. The person being cared for may fulfil all of the severe mental impairment criteria, but this is not essential for the carer to claim.
The second group of carers who are disregarded for council tax purposes must meet all the following criteria:
- provide care or support on behalf of a local authority, government department or charity, or provide care through an introduction by a charity, where the person being cared for is the carer’s employer
- are employed to care for the person for at least 24 hours a week
- are paid no more than £44 per week
- live where the care is given.
Someone who falls into either of these carer groups is disregarded for council tax purposes”
To speak to your Local Authority about your Council Tax bill or to discuss whether you qualify for a discount, disregard or exemption, this useful tool from GOV.UK will help you locate and contact your council: https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council - however, accordingly to the BBC, many local authorities aren’t aware of the law when it comes mental impairment so it is worth doing your research before contacting your council. The BBC states that “a Freedom of Information investigation carried out by money advice website MoneySavingExpert.com found huge variations in the numbers of people claiming the council tax discount across Great Britain… The report said some variations were expected but they could not explain these large disparities between councils.”
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government told the BBC that: "The law is clear that where people are severely mentally impaired, their council tax bill should take account of this."
GOV.UK (Apply for a Council Tax discount)
This article was written by Fiona Gilbert: Editor
Hello! I’m Fiona and I work behind the scenes with a fantastic team of independent health, care, legal & financial experts to bring interesting & informative content to the Wise Old Elephant site. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org