What is council tax?

Find out more about council tax, who has to pay it, how much you have to pay and help that you can get if you are having difficulty paying it.

What is council tax?

Council tax is a tax on domestic property collected by your local council. The council use it to pay for local services such as schools, rubbish collection, roads and street lighting. In Scotland it also includes a charge for water and sewerage.

Paying council tax

You will have to pay council tax unless:

  • you rent and the home owner has said that they will be responsible for paying it, or

  • you let your home and you have agreed that your tenant will be responsible for paying it.

There are circumstances when you're exempt from paying council tax, for example if your home is empty for a while, or if there are only students living there.

In addition, the owner of the property will usually be responsible for paying the council tax if you are:

  • living in a house in multiple occupancy (HMO)

  • living in a hostel, nurses home or other accommodation where several individuals or households pay rent separately but share cooking or washing facilities

  • living in a convent, monastery or other religious community

  • living in a nursing home, care home or other accommodation where you receive a high level of care and support

  • an asylum seeker living in accommodation provided by the UK Border Agency

  • a minister of religion living in a vicarage

  • employed by the owner of the property as a domestic servant (for example, you're a housekeeper).

However, in some of these situations, your tenancy agreement may state that you have to pay something towards the council tax. If the council has placed you in temporary accommodation you may still be liable to pay council tax.

Paying council tax if you live with other people

If you live with anyone else who is over 18 and liable to pay council tax (read the page on council tax exemptions for more on this), you have joint responsibility for paying the council tax. This means that one person can be asked to pay the whole amount if the other person does not pay. For example, if three people share a flat and one of the flatmates moves out without paying their share of the council tax, the two remaining flatmates will be responsible for paying it.

How much council tax do I have to pay?

The amount of council tax that you have to pay is worked out according to the valuation banding the council has put the property into. The valuation bandings were set using 1991 house prices and do not reflect current values.

To find out which banding you are in, you can look at your council tax bill or enter your postcode on the Scottish Assessors Association website. Most councils publish the council tax charge for each band on their website. Find your local council website here.

I think my home is in the wrong band

If you think your home has been valued incorrectly and is in the wrong band, you may be able to get it reassessed. You can find out how to do this at the Money Saving Expert website. If the local assessor decides that your house should be in a lower band, you may get a refund for council tax you've already paid. However, bear in mind that if you ask to have your home reassessed, the assessor may decide that it's worth more and should be in a higher band, meaning you'll have to pay more council tax, so make sure you have a case before you apply for a reassessment.

Getting help with my council tax

If you live alone or live with someone who is exempt from paying council tax, you may be able to get a discount on your council tax bill.

If you or someone in your house is disabled, you may be able to get your council tax bills reduced.

If you are finding it difficult to pay your council tax, you may be entitled to council tax support.

Council tax arrears

If you have fallen behind with your council tax, see our page on council tax arrears.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 15 September 2015

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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