Council Tax Benefit is a benefit for people on a low income to help them pay Council Tax. It is paid by your local authority. If you are entitled to Council Tax Benefit your Council Tax bill is reduced.
Please note this guide is not intended to be a complete or authoritative statement of the law and you should always seek professional guidance if you are in any doubt about your rights or responsibilities.
It is a good idea to check you are paying the right amount of Council Tax. You may qualify for discounts because you live on your own, or a reduction because you are disabled. If you have a ‘severe mental impairment’ such as Alzheimer’s disease, or if you are under 18, you don’t have to pay Council Tax at all.
If you have to pay Council Tax, you can claim Council Tax Benefit as long as your capital and income are low enough. If you are from overseas or have recently come to live in the UK you may have difficulty claiming the benefit, depending on your immigration status.
Students and Council Tax Benefit
Most full-time students don’t have to pay Council Tax. However, if you do have to pay Council Tax, may not be able to claim Council Tax Benefit, although there are some exceptions.
If you are a student and you live with someone else who is not a student, for example your partner, they may be able to get Council Tax Benefit.
How much can you get?
If you are getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or the guarantee credit of Pension Credit, your benefit will cover the whole of your Council Tax bill and you will have nothing to pay. However, if there are other adults living in your home a deduction may be made from your Council Tax Benefit.
If you do not get the benefits listed above you may still be able to claim either Council Tax Benefit or Second Adult Rebate. You will not be able to get any Council Tax Benefit if you have capital (savings or property) worth over £16,000.
How to claim Council Tax Benefit
You should claim Council Tax Benefit direct from your local authority Housing and Council Tax Benefit office. You should use the claim form from the Housing and Council Tax Benefit office and ask the claim to be dated from the day you asked for it.
If you claim Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance at your local Jobcentre Plus, you are given a claim form for Housing and Council Tax Benefit at the same time.
If you are already getting Income Support, income-related ESA or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and you become liable for Council Tax contact the local Council for a Housing and Council Tax Benefit claim form.
If you make a claim for Pension Credit by telephone, you can claim Housing and Council Tax Benefit at the same time. This means you do not have to make a written claim but you can still claim directly from your local authority if you prefer.
Getting Council Tax Benefit backdated
You can get backdated Council Tax Benefit for six months if you can show you have a good reason for not claiming earlier, for example, you were given wrong advice. You will not usually get any backdated benefit just because you did not know that you could make a claim.
Making a decision on your claim
When they receive your claim, the local authority will decide whether you are entitled to Council Tax Benefit and if so, how much you can be awarded. They may ask you for more information before making a decision. If you are not entitled to Council Tax Benefit, or your benefit would cover 25% or less of your Council Tax, the local authority will automatically check whether you are entitled to Second Adult Rebate.
How is Council Tax Benefit Paid?
Council Tax Benefit or Second Adult Rebate is paid by reducing the amount of Council Tax you have to pay. The reduction will be shown on your Council Tax bill. If you have already paid your Council Tax Bill, Council Tax Benefit can be paid directly to you, but you will have to ask the Council Tax Section for this. Otherwise, if you continue living in the same local authority area, your Council Tax Benefit will be credited against your Council Tax bill for the next financial year.
If your circumstances change
You should tell the local authority about any changes of circumstances which could affect your benefit such as a change in the people who live with you or a change in your income or capital. If you move, you must report your new address. If you move to a new local authority, you will have to make a new claim.
If you have been receiving Income support, Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based) Employment Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit for at least 26 weeks and you or your partner get a job or your hours or wages increase, you may be entitled to carry on getting Council Tax Benefit at the same rate for a further four weeks. This is called an extended payment.
If you get Pension Credit, you can report some changes in circumstances to the Pension Service who will pass the information on to the local authority. This is because your Council Tax Benefit is based on the Pension Service figures for your income and capital. However, there are some changes which you must report directly to the local authority. These are changes to the people who live with you, longer absences from home (if more than 13 weeks), changes involving children, changes to capital over £16,000, and any changes to income and capital of a partner who is not included in your Pension Credit claim.
If you are not sure whether to report a change, you should do so anyway. If you do not report a change, you may be paid less than you are entitled to, or be overpaid, or you may even be investigated for fraud.
Problems with Council Tax Benefit
If you are refused Council Tax Benefit and you think the decision is wrong, or you think the amount of Council Tax Benefit has been worked out wrongly, you can ask for the decision to be looked at again, or you can appeal. You should do this within one month of the decision about your Council Tax Benefit.
If you are not happy with the service you have received from the Housing and Council Tax Benefit department you can complain. You can do this whether or not you are also challenging a Council Tax Benefit decision.