Why You Could Be Overpaying For Council Tax

You would think that it is impossible to be in the wrong council tax band right? WRONG! It seems that when the council tax bands were first being classified it wasn’t the thorough valuation on properties that you would expect.

It is now estimated that 400,000 homes in England and Scotland could have been placed in the wrong council tax band.

How could this happen?

In 1991 when the government was getting prepared to launch the new council tax upon the nation, valuing every property in the land proved to be a bigger job than they had ever expected – MUCH bigger.

To help alleviate some of the work, estate agents, amongst others, were roped in to take on some of the load. But, even with the extra help they didn’t even come close to evaluating the properties as well as they should. Off they went driving up and down countless streets allocating bands just by glancing at them.

These became known as ‘second gear valuations’ as in most cases they never even stopped the car to investigate, never mind get out of them!

Still to this day the properties of England and Scotland have not been reassessed to determine whether they are in the correct band. However, the Welsh government did reassess all homes there.

Because of this negligence the same unreliable banding system still exists to this day meaning you could be paying significantly more than your neighbour in an identically sized property.

If I have been overcharged can I get it back?

Yes! Not only can you expect your council tax bill to decrease by £100-£400 a year, but you can also expect a backdated rebate as far back as 1993 when the tax first started.

Council tax reclaiming: Step-by-step

The most important thing is to check if your band is higher than your neighbours in similar or identical properties.

You can simply ask them, but if you don’t fancy that then don’t worry as it is public information. The band of every home in England and Scotland is available via these websites.

Step 1: Do the neighbour check

Check your band against your neighbours in similar or identically sized properties. The database is huge, and because of this some properties have been missed off. If that is the case don’t panic, you can ask your neighbour directly if you feel comfortable doing so, if not just ask the council why it doesn’t appear and what band it is.

If you discover your neighbour(s) are in a lower band to you then you may have a claim. Be aware that it could be that they are all in the wrong band and it is you that has been banded correctly.

This happened to one unfortunate street in Hull after one resident appealed her band. It was discovered that she had been banded correctly and it was their neighbours who were in the wrong band, and you guessed it, they got slapped with a bill for the owed money.

Cases like this are extremely rare though so don’t be put off trying.  But it is why you must also follow the next step below.

Step 2: Do a valuation check

You must estimate the value of your house in 1991, as that is when the tax bands were decided.

Value your house

If you bought it after 1991 simply use the price and sale date to do this. If it was earlier then you will need to find an estimated price.

Check similar neighbouring properties to make sure there aren’t any discrepancies.

Use free house priced websites

To find a price quickly, use a website which offers free historic sales price information. These include NethousepricesZoopla and Rightmove.

Note the price and date

Find the most recent sale of a property similar to yours in your street. Note down the price and date of sale.

Estimate the value of your home in 1991

Great! Now using the Nationwide House Price Calculator, calculate the valuation of your house in 1991.

How to use the calculator

  1. Scroll down the page to the calculator.
  2. In ‘Property value’ note the salesprice from earlier.
  3. In ‘Valuation date 1’ enter thedate of sale from earlier. (Make sure you enter which quarter of the year it was.)
  4. In ‘Valuation date 2’ enter 1991, and Q2.
  5. Select your region from the drop-down list.
  6. Click ‘calculate the results’.

The results, rather strangely, appear just above the calculator. For example:

A property located in the north west of England which was valued at £170,000 in Q2 of 2010 would be worth approx. £66,904 in Q2 of 1991. That’s equivalent to a -60.64% change.

Now you can compare the estimated valuation of your property in 1991 to the table below

Council tax bands at 1991 property value

A All properties under £40,000 All properties under £27,000
B £40,001 – £52,000 £27,001 – £35,000
C £52,001 – £68,000 £35,001 – £45,000
D £68,001 – £88,000 £45,001 – £58,000
E £88,001 – £120,000 £58,001 – £80,000
F £120,001 – £160,000 £80,001 – £106,000
G £160,001 – £320,000 £106,001 – £212,000
H over £320,000 Over £212,000


Step 3: Are you in the wrong band?

This is the point I need to warn you that challenging your band is not something to do on a whim without checks, for one simple reason:

Your neighbour’s band could be increased, although it is extremely rare.

This is why it is absolutely crucial you do both checks, and are especially careful if you have added an extension to your property that could have increased your properties value.

By far the most important check is the Neighbours Check, yet the secondary Valuation Check is useful for seeing whether your band is too high or your neighbours’ are too low.

Check out the table below to determine how strong your case is and help you decide if it is worth it.

Step 4: Challenge it!

If you’re convinced your property band is unfair and you have completed both the checks above it’s time to challenge it.

If you’re in England Gov.uk explains how to go about challenging your council tax band. You can either contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) directly at which point you’ll be told how your band was decided, and have the opportunity to explain why you believe it is wrong and how it should be altered.

Alternatively you can check your band by entering your postcode and selecting your address from a list. Then you can click on the link asking if you think your council tax banding is wrong and you’ll be given the option to fill out a checklist which suggests reasons you could challenge.

In Scotland, the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) deals with council tax bands. Enter your postcode in the Council Tax search box on the SAA Homepage. Select your property from the list. .If you want to challenge the banding, click on “Make a proposal”. You can then fill in an online form which will be sent to your local assessor, who will contact you.

Remember the formal challenge checklist is more a safety check before doing the challenge. It’s got very limited value in your appeal. However, if you source actual sales prices from around 1991, that’s stronger evidence

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Thinking Thrifty

David Naylor is the editor of the Thinking Thrifty blog. An award winning personal finance and lifestyle blogger, he shows how it is possible to live extremely well for less.
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