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.

Water charges

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:

  • under 18

  • 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:

  • in hospital

  • 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're building up debt, contact a money and debt adviser as soon as possible.

We have guidance on where to get debt advice and how it can help you.

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

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England