Concern is mounting that thousands of the country’s poorest households could miss out on a council tax rebate aimed at alleviating the cost of living crisis.
The £150 rebate, announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in February, is intended to ease the impact of rising energy bills. But the Resolution Foundation think tank found that one in eight low-income households in England do not sit within eligible council tax bands.
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Who qualifies for the council tax rebate?
The rebate is being paid to households whose home was in council tax bands A to D in England on 1 April. Around 20m homes qualify, including 95% of rented properties. The property must be the residents’ sole or main home to qualify, so second homes and empty properties are not eligible.
The council tax band is based on the price that the property would have sold for on 1 April 1991 in England and Scotland, and on 1 April 2003 in Wales.
Lindsay Judge, research director at the Resolution Foundation, told the BBC the £3bn rebate plan was welcome but “imperfect”.
“Around 640,000 of the poorest families in England aren’t eligible for automatic support, including one in five low-income families in London”, she warned, adding that “there is no way to stop landlords collecting the rebate instead of their bill-paying tenants”.
How to claim the refund
If you qualify for the rebate and you pay your council tax by direct debit, your local council will make the payment directly to your bank account. You do not need to contact your local authority or do anything else.
In recent weeks, councils have “urged people to ensure that they switched to direct debit so that they could be paid as promptly as possible”, the i news reported.
Local authorities will contact anyone who does not pay by direct debit to arrange the rebate payment. The Local Government Association has warned that this will take longer, as councils will also need to undertake pre-payment checks.
The Independent Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted an 80% take-up rate among those that do not pay via direct debit, with around 7% of the funds allocated by the Treasury expected to be unpaid to eligible households.
The government has ordered local authorities to ensure that eligible people receive their rebate by 30 September 2022 at the latest.
Can council tax bands be challenged?
Council tax bands can be challenged on the government website. The site warns that “you’ll be asked for evidence that your Council Tax band is wrong when you challenge for a property in England or Wales”.
The evidence includes “the addresses of up to five similar properties in a lower Council Tax band than yours”. And “you can also use the price that your property or similar properties sold for as evidence”, if the sales were between 1 April 1989 and 31 March 1993 for properties in England, or between 1 April 2001 and 31 March 2005 for those in Wales.
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