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Average UK council tax bill up by 3.1% — do you have to suck it up?

With up to £5,539 up for grabs you should read on...

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    With council tax bills across England set to rise by an average of 3.1% (£46) tomorrow, the highest increase in several years, new research¹ from financial comparison website money.co.uk reveals that more than one in eight consumers (12%) has challenged their council tax banding.

    41% of these were moved to a different council tax band and received a rebate. Our survey also revealed that 67% of those that received a rebate had it backdated. Over half of these (56%) got a rebate backdated to the date they moved into the property and 11% back to 1993.

    However, 33% of those that got their bill reduced did not get a backdated refund, they just got it for one year receiving £276 each on average.

    Based on Valuation Office Agency (VOA) figures, potentially £4 million worth of council tax was clawed back by bill payers last year alone as 23% of the 53,000 challenges raised received a rebate.

    The total value of a rebate could be £5,539 if a household was moved from band E to band D and the refund was dated back to 1993 when the bands were first allocated. Alternatively, for just one year you could get a rebate of £329.45. This could be backdated to the year you moved into the property. With 400,000 homes in England thought to be in the wrong council tax band, it could be a lucrative exercise.

    So how accurate are council tax bandings?

    With most homes in England placed into a council tax band over 23 years ago (1993) and most never being reviewed since, it's hardly surprising that many consumers could be paying the wrong amount of council tax.

    Whilst there is a risk of being re-banded to a higher bracket, Government figures³ state that they received 53,000 challenges in 2014/15, 23% of which resulted in a decrease — just 0.1% resulted in an increase.

    Six crucial points to research before you challenge your council tax band, all sources can be found in our council tax guide:

      How to appeal your council tax banding?

      If all of the above information appears favourable, you should contact your local Valuation Office to discuss your appeal. Or, if you feel your property banding can be challenged based on one of the official reasons set out on the VOAs website you can submit an online proposal to have your home reassessed.

      You can search for your property and click on the link to make a formal challenge. Read our guide for more essential info that will maximise your chance of getting a rebate if you're eligible.

      Can I get money off my bill if I'm in the correct band?

      There are several situations where people receive discounts on their council tax bill without challenging it;

        Hannah Maundrell, Editor in Chief of money.co.uk, comments

        "Council tax has been frozen for several years for many households so today's price hike will be quite a shock to the system for bill payers. There's no longer a Government incentive to keep council tax increases to a minimum so the hike could well be a taste of things to come.

        "So, if you think you might be on the wrong council tax now is the perfect time to check and challenge it if you think you're paying too much. As long as you carry out your research first to make sure you don't run the risk of being moved into a more expensive band - there could be thousands of pounds waiting for you to claim.

        "If you've never checked your council tax bill, please use our guide to find out if you're eligible to get some money back. If you move down a band and you've lived in your house since 1993 you could potentially get as much as £5,539 back."

        Notes to Editors: 1. Research carried out amongst 1,600 respondents on the money.co.uk panel between Tuesday 22nd March and Thursday 31st March. 1,476 members of the panel claimed they paid council tax.

        2. £276 refund is calculated based on the above survey. * Of those surveyed, 42% got their bill reduced. Of those, 69% had their bill reduced by an average of 18%. * 18% of £1,484 (average band D 2015/16) = £267.12

        3. Council Tax: Challenges and Changes in England and Wales, 2014-15

        4. Using the average council tax bill for band D from 1993/94 to 2015/2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-council-tax and basing calculation on a band D household being wrongly assessed as band E from 1993/94. Or over paying by 22.2% for 23 years.

        5. Using VOA data which shows that 12,380 successfully challenged their banding. Calculation based on a decrease from band E to band D in 2014/2015. This equates to an average of drop of £326 which multiplied by 12,380 = £4,035,880.

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