Changes to Council Tax and Benefits
Changes to Council Tax discounts and exemptions
In December 2012, the Government passed new legislation which set out changes to Council Tax discounts and exemptions in respect of second homes and certain categories of empty properties. In addition, the Government granted the billing authorities new powers to charge an additional amount of Council Tax on properties that have been continuously empty for more than two years. Details of the changes, that will all take effect from 1 April 2013, are set out below:
• The Government abolished the current exemption class C (unoccupied and unfurnished) and replaced this with a discount to be determined locally by Councils.
• The Government abolished the current exemption class A (uninhabitable) and replaced this with a discount to be determined locally by Councils.
• The Government has granted permission to the billing authority to levy an ‘empty homes premium’ on properties that have been empty over 2 years.
• The Government has allowed the billing authority to charge the full council tax on second homes.
What we have decided
As a result of the above, we agreed the following changes at Full Council on 18 December 2012:
• Unoccupied and unfurnished property – the current 100% exemption for up to 6 months has been abolished. Instead we will give a discount of 100% for up to 3 months. This has been further amended by the Council at the meeting which took place on 3rd November 2016 – see below *
• Uninhabitable property – the current 100% exemption for up to 12 months has been abolished. Instead we will give a discount of 50% for up to 12 months.
• Long term empty property – currently we charge 100% after 12 months. Instead the 100% will now be charged after 3 months & we will also add a 50% premium to those that have been continuously empty for 2 years.
• Second homes – currently a 10% discount can be given, which will be reduced to 5%.
All of these changes will come into effect from 1 April 2013.
* That with effect from 1st April 2017 properties which are or have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for a period of 1 month will be subject to the full Council Tax, charged in accordance with the valuation band of the dwelling.
What we cannot change
We are often asked questions, such as why we do not charge Council Tax to certain people, or why don’t we give exemptions to other people? The answer, for the most part, is that the majority of Council Tax rules and regulations are set by Central Government in legislation and we do not have the power to change them. Here are a few examples of things that we have no discretion to change:
• Decisions about whether a property is eligible or not for Council Tax.
• The banding (the Government's valuation office agency determine these) .
• The rules around who is liable to pay Council Tax.
• The amount of the discount (25%) given to sole occupiers, or the criteria for claiming it.
• The rules around other properties being exempt from Council Tax e.g., where the owner has died or resides in a nursing home.
• The rules around other properties being allowed a discount from Council Tax e.g. where the occupants fall into certain categories, such as students, carers or those who are severely mentally impaired.
Changes to Council Tax Benefit
The Government has abolished the current national Council Tax Benefit Scheme and has instructed local authorities to run their own schemes from 1 April 2013. Epping Forest’s scheme is called the Local Council Tax Support LCTS). However, the Government has said that it will not fully fund the new local schemes, which means in Epping Forest an overall reduction in funding of 10% or around £1.2 million. In addition, the Government has stated there will be no reduction in the amount of help pensioners currently receive, which will result in the majority of those below pensionable age being responsible for paying at least 25% of the full Council Tax for their home.
For more information about this Council’s Local Council Tax Support Scheme please visit the benefits section.
Their contact details are: email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01992 564155.
For more information about Council Tax, including advice and guidance about making payments or spreading your payments over 12 months, rather than the usual 10, please visit council tax section. Their contact details are: email email@example.com or telephone 01992 564188/564189.