The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has revealed details of council tax challenges for 2019/20 in England and Wales, and the figures are encouraging. Of the 43,650 challenges, 12,400 were reduced (28%), 25,980 stayed the same (60%), and only 70 were increased (0.2%). The rest were deleted, added, split, or merged.
While the number of challenges that the VOA received has increased significantly (approximately 5,000 up from last year), the overall number of challenges that were accepted (and resulted in council tax reductions) rose by only 490. Still, the proportion of successful challenges stands at almost a third, and this is pretty good news for those that have considered challenging and have yet to do so.
One of the fears of challenging a council tax band is the potential for the council to place you in a higher band, meaning you could pay more. To make things worse, it could result in the council increasing the council tax for everyone in your street, but as the recent stats show, it is incredibly unlikely.
How to challenge your council tax band
Step 1 - Do your research
Firstly, you need to know what band you are currently in. You can check this by looking at your latest council tax bill or by visiting the "council tax band" site provided by the government. If you use the website, you should be able to see the band that your neighbours are in too. Your council tax bill is based loosely on the value of your property, but the system that is used is complex and outdated.
Council tax was originally introduced in the early 90's and properties were placed into "valuation bands" based on property prices at the time. Many properties were either not placed in the correct band at the time, have not been re-valued since (and should have been), or were built after the banding system was introduced. It is entirely possible that you could be in the wrong valuation band, meaning you are paying too much council tax, and maybe even paying more than your neighbours.
Step 2 - Do a valuation check
The next stage is to do a valuation check.
A valuation check cannot be used as evidence, but it will help you to see if your challenge stands a chance of success. If you bought your house after 1991, then you can simply use the price you paid and the date you bought the property to do the valuation check. If this isn't possible, then try and find similar properties that have sold in your area - using sites like Zoopla or Rightmove - and note down the sale price and date. If you rent, you will need to do some research and see if you can find evidence of the property being sold or similar properties in your area and use those figures for the valuation check.
Next, you should use a valuation tool, such as the one provided by Nationwide. To complete the valuation check, you need to add the sale price where it asks for property value and then complete the year and quarter and region. Next, in valuation year 2, enter 1991 and quarter 2. Now press calculate. You will see from the example below that the calculator will provide you with an estimation of the value of the property in 1991.
Once you have this figure, you can compare it to the original tax banding that was introduced in 1991, to see if your current council tax band matches. Using our example above and checking the table below, it suggests the property should be in council tax band D.
If you are currently in a lower band, then it is likely that your challenge will be rejected (and you could even be placed in a higher band). However, if you are currently in a higher band, it is possible that your challenge could be successful.
|Value as at 1st April 1991
|Up to £40,000
|£40,001 to £52,000
|£52,001 to £68,000
|£68,001 to £88,000
|£88,001 to £120,000
|£120,001 to £160,000
|£160,001 to £320,000
|More than £320,000
Step 3 - Submitting your appeal
When you are ready to make your challenge, you should visit the government website in order to appeal your council tax bill. You will receive a reply within 2 months.
Things to be aware of before you appeal
Make sure you do your research because if you get your figures wrong, you could find yourself being put into a higher band, meaning that rather than cutting your council tax bill, you end up paying more. Your challenge could affect your neighbours too, particularly if there is an increase, so be sure that you have a strong case before you make your challenge.
What are your other options?
If you are unable to appeal your council tax band or are unsuccessful, there may be other ways to reduce your council tax bill. Our article "What to do if you are struggling to pay your council tax" explains the various discounts and exemptions you may be entitled to.