Help with your Council Tax – Council Tax Benefit

Thu, 20/09/2012 - 18:25 -- nick

What is Council Tax Benefit

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.

Remember to check that 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.

Second Adult Rebate is a form of Council Tax Benefit that can be paid instead of the main type of Council Tax Benefit. It also reduces your Council Tax bill – see under heading What is Second Adult Rebate.

For more information about the Council Tax, who has to pay it and how much you have to pay, see Council tax.

Who can get Council Tax Benefit

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 live with your partner, only one of you can claim Council Tax Benefit and your income and capital will be assessed together. This includes lesbian and gay partners as well as heterosexual partners. It applies whether you are living together as a couple, are married or are in a civil partnership. Capital means things like savings, property and land. However, some capital is ignored, for example, your personal possessions and the home you own and live in.

You must be living in the UK to claim Council Tax Benefit. 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.

If you are not sure about your right to claim benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Students and Council Tax Benefit

Most students don't have to pay council tax, but there are a few situations in which a student may be liable to pay.A student who is liable for council tax can't usually get council tax benefit, but there are some exceptions to this rule. If you are student who has received a council tax bill, you should get advice from your collegeor student advisory service about whether you are liable, and, if so, whether you can claim council tax benefit.

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.

If you are a student and you want to claim Council Tax Benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

How much Council Tax Benefit can you get

If you get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit of Pension Credit

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. This is called a 'non-dependant' deduction and the amount depends on the circumstances of the other adult (the ‘non-dependant’). A non-dependant deduction might apply, for example, if you have an elderly relative or an adult son or daughter living with you. Some people who are ‘non-dependants’ will still not lead to a deduction in your Council Tax Benefit because of their personal circumstances, for example, if they are getting Pension Credit. If the other adult is your partner, your landlord, or a joint owner, tenant or lodger, they do not count as a 'non-dependant' and the deduction will not apply.

If you have a non-dependant adult living in your home and you want to know how this will affect your Council Tax Benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

If you do not already get low income benefits

If you do not get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related ESA or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit, 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. However, some capital is ignored, for example, a home you own and live in.

If you have capital over £6,000, you will be assumed to have some income from that capital. If you have reached or are over state pension age for a woman of your age, you will be assumed to have some income from your capital if your capital is over £10,000. This also applies if your partner has reached or is over state pension age for a woman of your partner's age. This will reduce the amount of Council Tax Benefit you can get.

The amount of Council Tax Benefit you get will also depend on your income. The income you can have before it reduces your Council Tax Benefit depends on your circumstances, for example, whether you have a partner or children, or whether you are disabled or care for a disabled person. There are also certain types of income that are ignored when working out how much housing benefit you should get, for example child maintenance. If you get the savings credit part of Pension Credit, the local authority will use the same figures for your income and capital as the Pension Service when they work out your Council Tax Benefit.

You may be better off claiming Second Adult Rebate instead of Council Tax Benefit. Your income and capital are ignored for Second Adult Rebate. Instead, it depends on the income of another adult other than your partner who lives with you. When you claim the local authority should work out which type of payment would give you more help with your Council Tax bill - see also under What is Second Adult Rebate.

If you want to know more about how Council Tax Benefit is calculated, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Further help with council tax

If you have problems paying your council tax, and you are getting some Council Tax Benefit (or Housing Benefit), you can apply to the local authority for a discretionary housing payment. This is an extra payment (not Council Tax Benefit) which you can get if you need further financial help with your housing costs, including the Council Tax. It is up to the local authority whether to give you this help, so you should give them as much information as possible.

If you get Second Adult Rebate, you cannot get a discretionary housing payment, unless you would be entitled to some Council Tax Benefit but are not paid it because you are better off on Second Adult Rebate.

If you want more information about discretionary housing payments, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

What is Second Adult Rebate

Second Adult Rebate is a form of Council Tax Benefit that can be paid instead of, but not as well as, the main type of Council Tax Benefit. Second Adult Rebate also reduces your Council Tax Bill.

Who can get Second Adult Rebate

You may be able to claim Second Adult Rebate if you have to pay Council Tax and you live with someone else, other than your partner. The other person must be 18 or over, not paying rent, not responsible to pay Council Tax, and have income below a certain amount. The other person cannot be someone who is 'disregarded' when the local authority work out whether you can get a discount in the amount of Council Tax that you pay.

For more information about who is disregarded when the local authority work out your Council Tax Bill, and about discounts, see Council Tax.

To claim Second Adult Rebate, you have to give information about the income of the adult (or adults) living with you. Your own income and capital are not taken into account for Second Adult Rebate. When you claim Council Tax Benefit or Second Adult Rebate, the local authority should work out which will give you the most help with your Council Tax, but they can only do this if you provide enough information for them to work out both.

If you are getting Second Adult Rebate, you cannot get further help with your Council Tax from discretionary housing payments, unless you would have been entitled to some Council Tax Benefit but do not get it because it is worth less than Second Adult Rebate. See also under Further help with council tax.

If you want more information about second adult rebate and how it is calculated, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

How to claim Council Tax Benefit and Second Adult Rebate

If you are claiming Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

When you claim Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance at your local Jobcentre Plus, you are given a claim form for Council Tax Benefit/Second Adult Rebate at the same time.  The local authority can ask you to fill in its own Council Tax Benefit claim form as well.  It is useful to get a copy of their form, complete and return it, rather than waiting for the local authority to send one out to you. You should keep a copy of any claim form you complete.

Alternatively, you may be able to claim Council Tax Benefit/Second Adult Rebate by telephone if your local authority has published a phone number for making telephone claims. If you've claimed Housing Benefit by telephone, your local authority may require you to approve a written statement of your circumstances.

If you are already getting Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and you have to start paying Council Tax, you can ask for a Council Tax Benefit claim form at the benefits office or Jobcentre and contact the local authority at the same time for a copy of their Council Tax Benefit form.

Some local authorities allow you to make a claim for Council Tax Benefit/Second Adult Rebate by email or on the internet. It's up to your local authority to decide whether to allow electronic claims. They can also decide some of the conditions you'll have to meet to make an electronic claim.

If you claim Pension Credit

If you make a claim for Pension Credit by telephone, you can claim Council Tax Benefit/Second Adult Rebate at the same time. This means you do not have to make a written claim.

You can still claim directly from your local authority if you want to.

If you want to claim Council Tax Benefit/Second Adult Rebate and you are already getting Pension Credit, you should ask your local authority for a claim form. You may be able to make a claim over the phone, by email or over the internet. Not all local authorities allow you to do this, so check with your local authority on how you can make a claim.

If you make a claim for the savings credit of Pension Credit (but not guarantee credit) and you also claim Council Tax Benefit, the Pension Service will pass details of your income and capital on to your local authority. Your local authority will then use these details to calculate your Council Tax Benefit.

If you aren't already getting low income benefits

If you are not already getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit, you should claim Council Tax Benefit direct from your local authority Council Tax Benefit office. You should use the claim form from their benefit office and ask the claim to be dated from the day you asked for it. If you think you should have got it before you made your claim, see under Getting Council Tax benefit backdated, below.

You should answer all the questions on the claim form which apply to you, including details of your personal circumstances, your income and your savings. You should keep a copy of the claim form.

Alternatively, you may be able to claim Council Tax Benefit/Second Adult Rebate by telephone if your local authority has published a ph Council Tax Benefit/Second Adult Rebate Housing Benefit by telephone, your local authority may require you to approve a written statement of your circumstances.

Some local authorities allow you to make a claim for Council Tax Benefit/Second Adult Rebate by email or on the internet. It's up to your local authority to decide whether to allow electronic claims. They can also decide some of the conditions you'll have to meet to make an electronic claim.

Information to support your claim

When you apply for Council tax Benefit, you will have to provide your national insurance (NI) number. If you don’t know your national insurance number, but you think you have one, try to provide information that will help the Council Tax office find your number. If you do not have a national insurance number, you will have to apply for one. To show that your number belongs to you, or to apply for a number, you will also have to provide evidence of your identity, for example, a birth certificate.

If you are not on Income Support, income based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit, you will have to provide evidence of your income and capital, for example, a savings book or wage slips. If you want the local authority to assess whether you would be better off on Second Adult Rebate, you should also provide information about the income of other adults living in your home.

For information on how to apply for a national insurance number, see National insurance – contributions and benefits.

If you have problems applying for a national insurance number or proving your identity, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Getting Council Tax Benefit backdated

You may be able to get some Council Tax Benefit for a period before you make your claim if you could have claimed earlier. Getting benefit for a period before you claim is called ‘backdating’. You can get backdated Council Tax Benefit for up to six months if you can show you have a good reason for not claiming earlier, for example, you were given wrong advice. You also have to show that you were entitled to Council Tax Benefit throughout the period of backdating – that you were responsible for paying council tax, and your income was low enough. You will not get any backdated benefit just because you did not know that you could make a claim. You should explain on your claim form that you want to claim benefit from an earlier date, and give your reasons for failing to claim earlier.

The rules are different if you or your partner is 60 or over, and you are not getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance. In this case, you do not have to give any reasons for a backdated claim. The period for backdated claims for this group of people is three months.

If you want to claim backdated Council Tax Benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Checks on Council Tax Benefit, change of circumstances and fraud

You may commit benefit fraud if you deliberately give incorrect or misleading information when you apply for Council tax Benefit, or fail to report a change of circumstances. Even if you are not committing fraud, you can cause an overpayment which will have to be repaid. Your circumstances can be checked at any time while you are claiming and fraud officers can also get information about you from other government agencies and from your employer, bank or utility companies. Benefit fraud is a criminal offence and you can be prosecuted or asked to pay a penalty. Your benefit may be reduced if you are convicted more than once.

For more information on what to do if you are asked to attend an interview under caution, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.

If you are worried about whether you might be suspected of fraud, you are under investigation or you have been convicted, or if you have been asked to repay an overpayment of benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens’ Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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 are 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 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.

For more information about how benefit is paid, see Payment of benefits and tax credits.

If you have any problems with the way your Council Tax Benefit or Second Adult Rebate is paid, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

How long is Council Tax Benefit paid for

Council Tax Benefit or Second Adult Rebate can continue to be paid for as long as you are entitled. However, if you move out of the local authority’s area, you will have to stop your claim and make a new claim to the local authority where you are now paying Council Tax. You must also report any relevant changes of circumstances which might affect your benefit or rebate. If you do not report these changes, you may not get all the benefit you are entitled to, or you may be paid too much benefit (an overpayment) which will have to be paid back later. You may even be investigated for fraud - see under Checks on Council Tax Benefit, change of circumstances and fraud, change of circumstances and fraud. If you are getting Second Adult Rebate, you are responsible for telling the local authority about changes in the circumstances of the other people who live with you.

If you get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance

Council Tax Benefit can continue to be paid indefinitely while you are on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance. You should report any relevant changes of circumstances which might affect your benefit or the amount you get, for example, if your partner leaves, you have a new child, or you move address within the same local authority. If you do not report these changes, you may not get all the benefit you are entitled to, or you may be paid too much benefit (an overpayment) which will have to be paid back later.

However, if you stop getting one of these benefits because you (or your partner) get a job or your hours or wages increase, you may be able to carry on getting Council Tax Benefit at the same rate for a further four weeks. This is called an extended payment. If you don’t claim an extended payment (for example, because you have not been on qualifying benefits for long enough), you should still report your increase in hours or wages as a change in circumstances.

For more information about extended payments of Council Tax Benefit, see Benefits and tax credits for people in work.

If you are already getting other low income benefits or benefits because you are sick or disabled

If you are not getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance, payment of Council Tax benefit can continue indefinitely. You should tell the local authority about any changes of circumstances which could affect your benefit, for example, 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 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 your tenancy
  • changes to the people who live with you and their income or capital
  • any time spent away from home if it is for more than 13 weeks
  • changes involving children
  • changes to your capital over £16,000, and any changes to the income and capital of your partner.

If you are not sure whether to report a change to the local authority, you should do so anyway. If you do not report these changes, you may not get all the benefit you are entitled to, or you may be paid too much benefit (an overpayment) which will have to be paid back later. If you do not report a change you may even be investigated for fraud - see also under Checks on Council Tax Benefit, change of circumstances and fraud.

If you want more information about what changes to report, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Problems with Council Tax Benefit or Second Adult Rebate

If you are refused Council Tax Benefit or Second Adult Rebate and you think the decision is wrong, or you think the amount of 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 Council Tax Benefit department (for example, because of long delays or errors which are not sorted out), you can complain. You can do this whether or not you are also challenging a Council Tax Benefit or Second Adult Rebate decision.

Discrimination

It's against the law for you to be discriminated against, for example because of your race, sex, disability, sexuality or religion when the local authority decides about your claim for Council Tax Benefit.

If you feel that you've been discriminated against, you can make a complaint.

For more information about challenging a Council Tax Benefit decision, and about complaining, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.

If you are not happy with a Council Tax Benefit or Second Adult rebate decision, or you want to make a complaint, you can also consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

For more information about discrimination, see our discrimination pages.

Via Citizens Advice Bureau

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