Council Tax help

Council Tax illustration

Discounts, reductions and exemptions from paying Council Tax

You can pay less Council Tax, for various reasons.  This can include:

  • being the only adult in the property.
  • being a young adult between 18-19 years of age.
  • being a full-time student.
  • being an apprentice.
  • being temporarily away from your home — check with your Council.
  • having a Severe Mental Impairment (SMI), that is, learning disability or mental distress.
  • being a carer.
  • being on a low income – Council Tax Reduction (CTR)
  • being in financial hardship and asking for total exemption or Council Tax debt to be written off.

We’ll explain more about some of these.

Discounts and exemptions

Discounts for Council Tax are set by the government in national law and all Councils must apply them. Lots of situations are covered.

  • Living alone – 25% discount.
  • Severe Mental Impairment (SMI) exemption.  If you or anyone living with you is “severely mentally impaired” (SMI) – you are exempt. Councils have an SMI form to apply for this.
  • Wheelchair users living in adapted accommodation – discount of one band lower as your home needs to be larger. You need to show that you use your chair indoors; the hallway or other room is adapted, not just the toilet or bathroom; this adapted room or the wheelchair must be essential or of major importance to your well-being due to the nature and extent of your disability. See disability-related help:
  • Carers’ exemption.  You don’t have to be getting Carer’s Allowance, but you must:
    • be providing care for at least 35 hours a week.
    • live in the same property as the person you care for.
    • NOT be the spouse or partner of the person you care for, or their parent if the child is under 18.

The person you care for must be getting either:

    • DLA middle or higher rate care component, or
    • PIP standard or enhanced daily living component
    • Attendance Allowance — any rate
    • Armed Forces Independence Payment or the highest rate of Constant Attendance Allowance.

See full list of exemptions here:

For Scotland, please visit Citizen’s Advice Scotland pages.

Council Tax Reduction

People on low income can claim Council Tax Support or Reduction. See:

More help — hardship schemes

If your Council Tax Reduction is not enough, and you are still suffering financial hardship, you can apply for more reduction so you don’t pay anything.  This is discretionary and is called Council Tax Discretionary Relief Scheme, Hardship Scheme or Hardship Fund.  You can apply online or can write in if you can’t do the form online.

Many Councils have an online application form on their website, or a form that you print out and fill in.  If you need help to fill in the form, phone the Council Benefits section.

The form is called Council Tax Discretionary Reduction Application or Exceptional Hardship Relief Scheme.  To find it online, search the form name and your Council’s name. If they won’t send it or you can’t find it online, write to your Council’s benefit section saying why you should not have to pay (example letter below).  Or you can send a letter explaining more about your situation, together with the hardship form.  For example, your letter could explain what you can’t afford and what you are doing without because of Council Tax (not just what you are having to spend money on).  Copy your letter to your ward councillors and Member of Parliament (MP) – they can support you by writing to the council.  Find your MP here.

Council Tax staff may be unhelpful or say they have made the maximum possible discount already, so be persistent and get back-up.   Some Councils have said that they are giving you the ‘maximum discount’ under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, but they always have the power to give a 100% reduction if you apply for it and are in hardship.

They can change earlier decisions and cancel your debt if they made a mistake or didn’t have all your information (were ‘ignorant of a material fact’).

If the Council Tax section of the Council is sending you bills, you can tell them that you are applying to the Council Benefits section hardship scheme.

Example letter to ask for 100% help with Council Tax

To [Your Council — benefits section]

[Your Council Tax Account Number]

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am replying to your letter of … [put date] that you require me to pay £… in Council Tax.  I cannot afford this.

This letter is a request for the council to exercise its discretion under Section 13A(1)(C) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 to reduce my Council Tax liability to nil as I currently have no disposable income (as you can see below). [‘Disposable income’ means the spare money left after you have paid for your living costs and disability expenses. See:]

[Add your details below…]

    • Income [include any benefits you receive]
    • Savings [if any – don’t count money put aside for things you need]
    • Living expenses [such as food, health costs, carers, heating and electricity, fares, clothes…]
    • Additional expenses or debts [for example: I am also expected to pay £… bedroom tax from the above benefits.]
  • Hardship / distress [for example: I can’t afford food/heating; impact on my physical and mental health; impact on welfare of my children, family or household members.]

I have NO disposable income.

[Or, if you do have some disposable income, detail your expenses and explain you need to put money aside for these.

If you get sickness or disability benefits, your disability-related expenses may include: heating, wear and tear on clothing, special diet and vitamins, equipment or non-NHS health treatment, transport costs not covered by mobility benefit, running a car…

If you receive Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment (PIP), these benefits are not means-tested and should NOT be counted as disposable income. It is important to remind the Council of this.]

I would like you to reconsider my case. I know you have the discretion to waive charges in my case and/or write off debts.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name, address]

Cc [put names of your MP and ward councillors, send copy to them]

Enclosed [include copies of any relevant evidence that supports your application]


Keep a copy of the letter and enclosures for yourself. Send by “Signed For” post.  OR, if you deliver it by hand at the Council office, make sure you get a receipt for your letter.

What if I get a court summons for non-payment of Council Tax?

To stop the summons and challenge the debt, contact your Council immediately.
And ask your MP, local councillors, local advice centre or local campaigning group to contact the council on your behalf. MPs and ward councillors have a responsibility to take up problems of people in their constituency. If you do this before the court date, usually court costs won’t be added to your bill.

Tell the council in writing about your financial hardship and the worry the summons is causing you (see example letter above).

And check you are getting the CT exemptions and discounts you are entitled to (see above).

Council Tax debt payments

If the court has ordered you to pay, councils usually set up automatic weekly deductions from your benefits (taken off by the DWP) or your wages (“attachment of earnings order”). The DWP will deduct CT and other debts all at once, whether this leaves you with enough money to live on or not! Write to the council, not the DWP, as it is the council’s debt demand. Say that you can’t afford to pay and describe the hardship and stress you face. Send a copy to your MP and press them to write to the council.

To challenge deductions from your wages, appeal to the court, see CAB AdviceGuide – Creditor takes money from your wages.

Make sure that you (or someone on your behalf) writes to the council as soon as possible explaining why you are vulnerable – mental health or physical disability, sickness, communication or language difficulties, a recent marital or partner break-up, young children, bereavement, unemployment, or similar reason.

If the Council knows you are vulnerable, national guidelines say they should not proceed with trying to recover any debts using either the bailiffs or the court or charge you any extra costs. Get help from a debt advice service (see Debt section).

If the Council sends bailiffs to seize some of your belongings, you do not have to let them in, sign anything or answer their letters.

New regulations on debt recovery give more protection for vulnerable people and to stop bailiffs taking your essential household items, such as cooker or microwave. See CAB Advice Guide – Vulnerable people – treatment by bailiffs.

Check you are getting all your benefit entitlements and transport concessions here

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3 thoughts on “Council Tax help”

  1. What can be done with my third party deductions for council tax from my ESA? I do not receive any information from the council to account for the money. Since council tax benefit was reduced so that while receiving ESA the council demand over £240 a year from me, despite around £8 a week deductions from ESA for council tax. A few years ago I had a Support Worker who successfully applied for Discretionary council tax support which paid for the £240. But now she left I have been sent inflated council tax Bill’s because Enforcement fees were added which increased my council tax to over £550 for a year! I have unsuccessfully applied for the discretionary payments in at least two years. Reason given is I have enough income. I will use your letter example to hopefully get some change as I feel hopeless til now. Thankyou.

    • Hi, sorry to hear about this. The deductions from your ESA are ordered by the Council, so we suggest to tackle it by writing to the Council explaining why you can’t afford these, and your disability-related expenses, other expenses and debts. We’ll contact you directly with more suggestions.


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