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Council Tax Rebates

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Paying a council tax is a burden for many over-sixties

For most households, their Council Tax bill accounts for a large percentage of their monthly outgoings. Compared to many countries, where equivalent house-related costs are a fraction of ours, UK residents have had no choice but to pay the government its hundreds, and sometimes thousands of pounds worth of fees. Fortunately, they also used to refund it back to the unemployed and people on low incomes, via what most people called a Council Tax rebate or benefit. However, this is no longer the case.

The new system

A council tax rebate or benefit, is a payment now awarded by your local authority. Since changes were made to the system in 2013, local councils now process all claims instead of the government, and criteria is met through a means-tested application process. Under the new system, Council Tax Benefit is now called either Council Tax Reduction (CTR) or Council Tax Support.
Understanding Council Tax Reduction
As there's no one central department processing Council Tax Reduction applications, and there are hundreds of local councils across the UK, there's no single national format to the way people go about making a claim. However, there is a default scheme which the government put in place which some councils without their own in-house CTR process have adopted. Typically, local authorities might calculate discounts using a percentage of your bill, or may only offer a reduction based on a set percentage within their scheme.
Who's eligible for CTR?
Like most benefits, if you are of working age and on a low income, unemployed, a pensioner, or are a single occupant, you should be eligible for Council Tax Reduction. If you're already in receipt of other benefits like Universal Credit, there's a good chance you'll qualify for CTR too.
How much?
You need to speak to your local council to see what's available where you live, but under the government default scheme, it's 20% of whatever is left over from what they call an applicable amount and your earnings. An applicable amount is what the government thinks you can live off - which is £100 per week.
An example may work out like this:
Ms Jones earns £150 per week. The minimum amount the government says she needs to live on is £100. That leaves Ms Jones with £50 difference from the applicable amount. Twenty percent of £50 equals £10. Mrs Jones's may only have to pay £10 per week towards her council tax bill.

Advantages of local councils versus government control

One major advantage over the old system is that every local council has the power to use their own discretion. In short, they 'can' choose to reduce payments to a negligible amount, or wipe a bill altogether for households who are in financial difficulty.

How to apply

In most cases, a quick phone call or online application will get things moving; the contact details for your area's CTR scheme will be on your latest council tax bill. If you haven't received a bill or had any notifications from your local council, give them a call as soon as possible to avoid any unpleasant surprises. The Rightsnet website lists hundreds of schemes throughout the country, visit www.rightsnet.org.uk to search for yours.

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