Who has to pay council tax
You usually have to pay council tax if you rent or own your home and you're 18 or over. If you live with other people, you're all equally responsible for paying the council tax bill.
There are some exceptions.
Prioritise paying your council tax
Council tax is a payment you should prioritise, because the council can take you to court if you do not pay it.
If you're behind on payments, check our guidance on dealing with council tax arrears.
What your bill includes
Your council tax bill is split up into 2 different payments:
a charge for council tax
a charge for water and wastewater
If you’re exempt from council tax, you should not have to pay water and wastewater charges either.
Scottish Water collects your water payments from the council, who charge you in your council tax bill.
The water bill you pay is usually an estimate. You could install a water meter if you want to be charged an accurate price for the water you use. Consider how much water your household uses and whether this will make your bills cheaper or more expensive.
Check if you're exempt from council tax
You're exempt if you’re:
a full-time student on an approved advanced course, and living with other students
in rented accommodation receiving housing support, and sharing a kitchen, bathroom or toilet with other residents
in prison and have been for 6 weeks
living in self-contained accommodation provided under the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship scheme
You're also exempt if you live in self-contained accommodation where no rent is charged, and you arrived in the UK under any of these schemes:
the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme
the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy
the Community Sponsorship Scheme
the UK Resettlement Scheme
the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme
the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme
If you’ve received or you’re receiving care you could also be exempt if:
you're assessed as having a severe mental impairment
you're between 18 and 25 and you've been in care any time from when you were 16, but are no longer in care
If you're away from home
If you’ve been away from home for 6 weeks and your home is empty, you’ll be exempt if you're:
getting elderly care
getting care for your mental or physical health
getting care for an alcohol or drug dependency
caring for someone else who does not live with you
If your home is empty for any other reason, you could get an exemption. If your home needs major repairs before it can be lived in you could be exempt for up to 1 year. If it’s simply empty and unfurnished, you can receive a 6 month exemption after 6 weeks.
Apply for an exemption
Contact the council tax team. Tell them why you should be exempt.
The council will ask you to provide proof of your situation. For example, if you're a full-time student on an approved advanced course, you might need to provide a letter from your college or university.
Get help if you’re struggling to pay
You could pay less council tax even if you're not exempt. We have guidance on getting a council tax reduction or discount.
Check you're getting all the benefits you're eligible for with the Turn2us benefits calculator.
If you’re on benefits or a low income, you could get a charitable grant. Use Turn2Us to search for grants in your area.
If you need money in an emergency, you could get a crisis grant.
If you think your council tax bill is wrong
If you disagree with your bill, write a letter to the council tax team. Tell them:
you’re appealing your bill
which part of the bill you think is wrong
the reason that the bill is wrong
Use our letter template for council tax appeals to help you know what to say.
The council should respond within 2 months. If the council agrees that your bill is wrong, your bill will be reduced or you'll get a refund.
You must continue to pay the bill as normal while you wait for a response, even though you think the bill is wrong. This is unless you’re disputing a penalty that has been added to the bill.
If you need support with your council tax bill, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Last updated: 31 March 2023