Help with Council Tax & rates
Council Tax bills are always based on the assumption that there are at least two adults in your household. If there is only one adult in a property, 25 per cent is deducted from the bill. This is often known as the single person's discount.
However, when counting how many people live in a property, some people can be ignored. A local authority will sometimes describe these people as being 'invisible' for Council Tax purposes.
Being discounted as a child or disabled person
The list of people classed as 'invisible' includes children under 18 years of age, full-time students, most apprentices and trainees aged under 25 and anyone who has a 'severe mental impairment', for example learning difficulties or an autistic spectrum disorder that severely affects intelligence and social functioning.
That disabled person must also get a disability benefit like Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and provide a certificate from their GP confirming that they have a severe mental impairment.
Being discounted as a carer
Some carers can also be treated as invisible for Council Tax purposes. This includes a carer who is providing at least 35 hours of care a week to someone who is not their partner or a dependent child of theirs who is aged under 18.
Our helpline adviser Jill explains the rules that allow some carers to qualify for a discount on their council tax bill if they are looking after a child aged 18 or over.
In addition the disabled person must get:
- Attendance Allowance at either rate (only the high rate in Scotland).
- Disability Living Allowance care component at the middle or high rate (only the high rate in Scotland).
- Personal Independence Payment daily living component at either rate (only the enhanced rate in Scotland).
- The Armed Forces Independence Payment.
Can I be 'invisible' as a carer if I'm looking after a child in my family?
A parent who is looking after their child cannot be treated as 'invisible' if that child is under 18 years of age. This restriction on dependent children applies to someone who is the parent of a child, but not to other people caring for a child who lives with them, for example grandparents.
A step-parent or someone who co-habits with a parent should also be able to argue that this restriction should not apply to them, so long as they have no parental rights in respect of the disabled child.
What happens once my disabled child turns 18
If you are the parent of a disabled child who is turning 18 and they live with you, make sure you get advice about whether this will mean you qualify for a discount in your Council Tax bill.
How do I work out if I should get a discount?
To work out whether you can get a discount you should first write down all of the people aged 18 years or over in your property. Cross out the name of anyone who falls under one of the groups that can be classed as 'invisible'.
If you are left with two or more names you won't get a discount. If you are left with one name you will get a 25 per cent discount. If all of the names are crossed out you will get a 50 per cent discount.
Sanjeev and Riya both care full time for their son Anil who has just turned 18. Riya gets Carer's Allowance as their son's carer. However Sanjeev also provides more than 35 hours a week care to their son. Anil has a severe learning disability and gets the highest rate of the DLA care component. No-one else lives in the household except for their other son, 14 year old Pranav.
Pranav is invisible as he is treated as a child. Anil is 'invisible' for Council Tax purposes because he is an adult with a severe learning disability. Now that their son has turned 18 years of age, both Sanjeev and Riya should also be 'invisible' as full-time carers. As everyone in the household is classed as 'invisible', they should get a 50 per cent discount in their bill.
There is no rule restricting the number of people in a household that can be 'invisible' as carers, so each carer in your household who meets the criteria should qualify. You also don't have to be getting Carer's Allowance. So long as a carer is providing at least 35 hours care per week, this should be sufficient.
How do I apply for a discount?
To apply for a discount contact the Council Tax department at your local council. You can ask for a discount to be backdated to the date the qualifying conditions were first met. However, seek further advice if you live in England or Wales and are looking for more than six years' backdating.
If you are refused a discount and you think your council has applied the wrong tests, you can appeal that decision by appealing in writing to your local Council Tax Office.
The size of your Council Tax bill depends on the Council Tax 'band' that your property falls into. The higher the Council Tax band, the higher your bill will be. However, you may qualify for a reduction in the banding of your Council Tax bill if someone in your household is 'substantially and permanently disabled'.
Will I qualify for a disability reduction?
A Council Tax disability reduction is not means-tested, so it makes no difference what income or savings you have.
To get a disability reduction there must be a disabled person (this can be a child) living in your property and one of the following must also apply:
- They use a wheelchair indoors - there is no need for your property to have been specially constructed or adapted for wheelchair use, only that someone needs to use a wheelchair indoors and your property has sufficient space.
- There is a second bathroom or kitchen in your property that is needed by the disabled person - you can still qualify even if your property was not specifically adapted, as your property may always have had a second bathroom/kitchen. However, you will need to show that your child's health problems mean that this second bathroom or kitchen is needed
- Your child's disability is such that one of the rooms in your property (other than a bathroom, kitchen or toilet, and in addition to their own bedroom) is needed by and predominantly used by them. For example, this might apply where a room has been adapted specifically for your disabled child's use or where a room is used as a treatment room or to store specialist equipment. When deciding if a room is 'needed' by your child, the local authority must decide whether your child's disability is such that the use of the room in question is 'essential' or 'of major importance to his or her wellbeing'.
How much is the reduction in my bill?
If you qualify, your property is treated as if it were in the next Council Tax band below. For example, if your property is valued under band D, you will be billed as if it were in band C. If your property already falls within the lowest band - band A - your bill will be reduced by 1/6th. Once awarded you must re-apply for a disability reduction for each new financial year.
Applying for a disability reduction
To apply for a disability reduction, contact the Council Tax department at your local council. You can ask for a reduction to be backdated to the date the qualifying conditions were first met. However, seek further advice if you live in England or Wales and are looking for more than six years' backdating
A Council Tax reduction is help with a Council Tax bill for people on lower incomes. Whether you qualify for a Council Tax reduction and how much will depend on your family circumstances and your income and savings.
In England each council has its own Council Tax reduction scheme. This means that the amount of help that you can get varies depending on the council area where you live. Scotland and Wales each have their own national Council Tax reduction scheme although you must still apply via your local council.
To find out whether you will qualify for a Council Tax reduction, and if so how much, you can use the benefit calculator on our website.
Council Tax only applies to England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland people pay rates instead.
If you are on a low income, you may be able to get help with paying your rates through the Rate Relief Scheme or through a rate rebate.
How do I apply for a rate relief?
There are different versions of rate relief depending on whether you own or rent your home and whether or not you get Universal Credit.
Universal Credit claimants
Rate relief has been replaced by rate rebates for those on Universal Credit. Both home owners and tenants who get Universal Credit can get a rate rebate. You need to make an application for a rate rebate online.
Not a Universal Credit claimant
Some people who are not on Universal Credit can apply for rate relief instead. How you do this differs depending on whether you are a tenant or an owner-occupier. To find out more information if you are a home-owner see An introduction to Housing Benefit Rate Relief for Home-Owners. If you are a tenant you can find out more at Housing Benefit and Rent Relief for tenants.
Disabled person's allowance
An allowance that reduces your rates bill by 25 per cent is also available if a property has been adapted to meet a disabled occupant's needs or if your property has extra space because on occupant's disability. This allowance is not means-tested so it makes no difference what income or capital you have.
You can find out more on the NI Direct website.
- Download our parent guide Help with Council Tax bills [PDF]