Martin Lewis shares tricks that could snag you a council tax refund of thousands

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Financial expert Martin Lewis has warned that millions of Brits could be paying too much council tax because of a flaw in the bands system.

The Money Saving Expert said up to 400,000 homes are currently trapped on the wrong band while thousands more are unaware they can get a discount.

In one case, a woman, aged 63, received £3,500 in refunds after finding that her home was in the wrong bracket.

A student also found out she was exempt and was given back £2,600 its the council clearing her existing balance.

Have you been given a refund on council tax? Tell us in the comments…

Martin added: “If you have Alzheimer's disease, dementia, have had a stroke or you live alone, you could be due to a discount.

"There are also council-by-council reductions on Covid-19, pensions credit and you could have your band lowered if you have a disability.

"Hundreds of thousands of people are paying the wrong council tax – and that means they could be owed thousands back.”

Luckily, all you need to do is follow Martin’s guide below to find out if you’re owed a refund.

Overpaid tax can be dated back to 1993 – do you could get some serious money.

1. Check your council tax band

Up to 400,000 homes are understood to be on the wrong council tax band.

The first thing to do is check what your neighbours are paying by going to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) in England or the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) in Scotland.

It you're paying more than your neighbours are, it's on to step two.

This is where you need to work out what your house was worth in 1991.

The good news is there are plenty of free tools online to let you do this, for example this one from Nationwide.

Once you know that, you can see what band you should have been put in.

But Martin has a warning too.

"Only apply if both check's show you are in too high a band," he said.

That's because if you get it wrong, and it's your neighbours who are in the wrong band, they could see their bills rise, while yours stay the same.

2. Live alone? You could get 25% off

"If you are living alone, you should get a 25% discount on council tax," Martin said.

But he added that you don't need to live alone to claim this.

It's all about qualifying adults, so students, carers, children and others can all be disregarded for council tax.

In fact, in some cases every person living in a house can be excluded – meaning no tax is due at all.

Claims on this can be backdated too.

3. Discounts for benefit claimants

There are discounts of up to 100% for people on certain benefits.

But these aren't automatically applied when you claim the benefit – you need to apply directly through your local council (details of your council is at ).

The reduction comes on top of any benefits or universal credit you receive, but the reduction amount depends on your council and circumstances – for example, where you live, your income, if children live with you, if other adults live with you.

Some councils let you backdate the reduction, but it depends on the individual council, so you need to check.

4. Disability council tax discounts

If you – or someone you live with – has a disability, a health condition or are a carer, you could be overpaying on council tax without even knowing it.

There's a 25% discount if you live with someone with a severe mental impairment and no other adults.

You can also get a discount if you have a severe mental impairment and live alone.

The better news is claims are back-dated – meaning you could get huge amounts back.

5. Coronavirus help

Some also helping out people who have lost income as a result of coronavirus.

The Local Government Association advises residents to check their council website to see who qualifies for a tax break.

It's all thanks to a support fund made available by the Treasury. If you qualify, your council tax could be slashed by £150 a year.

Those who already pay less than £150 a year will not pay council tax at all.

6. Have you adapted your home?

If you've made changes to your home for a disabled resident, you could also get cash back.

Rather than a discount, you may instead be able to get your council tax band lowered.

7. Refunds when you move out

Lots of people pay council tax a month or a year ahead – that means if you move house, they keep it until you ask for it back.

So if you've moved in the past few years, search for council tax refunds on your old council's website.

  • Martin Lewis
  • Money

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