Help with Council Tax & rates

10 mins read

This advice applies across the UK.

Families with disabled children might be eligible for help paying your Council Tax bill, or help with rates in Northern Ireland.

In this article

Council Tax discount

Council Tax bills are always based on the assumption that there are at least two adults in your household. If there is only one adult living in a property, 25 per cent is deducted from the bill. This is often known as the single person’s discount.

However, when counting how many people live in a property, you can ignore certain people. A local authority will sometimes describe these people as being “invisible” for Council Tax purposes. If there is only one adult in the property after discounting any “invisible” people, 25 per cent is deducted from the bill. If there are no adults remaining after discounting any “invisible” people, 50 per cent is deducted from the bill.

Who counts as “invisible”?

Children and disabled people

The list of people classed as ‘invisible’ includes:

That disabled person must provide a certificate from their doctor confirming that they have a severe mental impairment. They must also get a disability benefit, such as:

Some carers

Some carers can also count as “invisible” for Council Tax purposes. This includes any carer providing at least 35 hours of care a week to someone who is neither:

The disabled person they care for must get:

Can I be “invisible” as a carer if I’m looking after a child in my family?

A parent looking after their child doesn’t count as “invisible” if that child is under 18 years of age. This restriction on dependent children applies to someone who is the parent of a child. It does not apply to other people caring for a child who lives with them, for example grandparents.

A step-parent or someone who co-habits with a parent should also be able to argue that this restriction should not apply to them. This is so long as they have no parental rights in respect of the disabled child.

What happens once my disabled child turns 18?

If you are the parent of a disabled child who is turning 18 and they live with you, make sure to get advice about whether this will mean you qualify for a discount in your Council Tax bill. 

How do I work out if I should get a discount?

To work out whether you can get a discount, you should first write down all of the people aged 18 years or over in your property. Cross out the name of anyone who falls under one of the groups classed as ‘invisible’.

If you are left with two or more names, you won’t get a discount. You will get a 25 per cent discount if you are left with one name. And if you have crossed out all the names, you will get a 50 per cent discount.

Example

Sanjeev and Riya both care full-time for their son Anil, who has just turned 18. Riya gets Carer’s Allowance as their son’s carer. However, Sanjeev also provides more than 35 hours a week care to their son. Anil has a severe learning disability and gets the highest rate of the DLA care component. No-one else lives in the household except for their other son, 14-year-old Pranav.

Pranav is “invisible” for Council Tax purposes as he is a child under 18. Anil is also ‘invisible’ because he is an adult with a severe learning disability. Now that their son has turned 18 years of age, both Sanjeev and Riya should also be ‘invisible’ as full-time carers. As everyone in the household is “invisible”, they should get a 50 per cent discount on their bill.

There is no rule restricting the number of people in a household that can be ‘invisible’ as carers, so each carer in your household who meets the criteria should qualify. You also don’t have to be getting Carer’s Allowance. So long as a carer is providing at least 35 hours care per week, this should be sufficient.

How do I apply for a discount?

To apply for a discount, contact the Council Tax department at your local council. You can ask them to backdate a discount to the date the qualifying conditions were first met. However, seek further advice if you live in England or Wales and are looking for more than six years’ backdating.

If the council refuses you a discount and you think they have applied the wrong tests, you can appeal that decision. Do this in writing to your local Council Tax Office.

Council Tax Disability Reduction Scheme

The size of your Council Tax bill depends on the Council Tax ‘band’ that your property falls into. The higher the Council Tax band, the higher your bill will be.

However, you may qualify for a reduction in the banding of your Council Tax bill if someone in your household is “substantially and permanently disabled”.

Will I qualify for a disability reduction?

A Council Tax disability reduction is not means-tested. This means it makes no difference what income or savings you have.

To get a disability reduction, there must be a disabled person (this can be a child) living in your property, and one of the following must also apply:

How much is the reduction in my bill?

If you qualify, your property is treated as if it were in the next Council Tax band below. For example, if your property is in band D, your Council Tax bill will be as if your property were in band C. If your property already falls within the lowest band – band A – your bill will be reduced by 1/6th. Once awarded, you must re-apply for a disability reduction for each new financial year.

Applying for a disability reduction

To apply for a disability reduction, contact the Council Tax department at your local council. You can ask them to backdate the reduction to the date the qualifying conditions were first met.

Seek further advice if you live in England or Wales and are looking for more than six years’ backdating.

Council Tax reduction schemes

A Council Tax reduction is help with a Council Tax bill for people on lower incomes. Whether you qualify for a Council Tax reduction and how much will depend on your family circumstances and your income and savings.

In England, each council has its own Council Tax reduction scheme. This means that the amount of help that you can get varies depending on the council area where you live. Scotland and Wales each have their own national Council Tax reduction scheme, although you must still apply via your local council.

To find out whether you will qualify for a Council Tax reduction, and if so how much, you can use the benefit calculator on our website.

Help with rates in Northern Ireland

Council Tax only applies to England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland people pay rates instead.

If you are on a low income, you may be able to get help with paying your rates through the Rate Relief Scheme or, for Universal Credit claimants, through a rate rebate

How do I apply for a rate relief?

There are different versions of rate relief depending on whether you own or rent your home and whether or not you get Universal Credit.

Universal Credit claimants

Rate rebates have replaced rate relief for those on Universal Credit. Both home owners and tenants who get Universal Credit can get a rate rebate. You need to make an application for a rate rebate online.

Not a Universal Credit claimant

Some people who are not on Universal Credit can apply for rate relief instead. How you do this differs depending on whether you are a tenant or an owner-occupier. To find out more information if you are a home-owner see An introduction to Housing Benefit Rate Relief for Home-Owners. If you are a tenant you can find out more at Housing Benefit and Rent Relief for tenants.

Disabled Person’s Allowance

An allowance that reduces your rates bill by 25 per cent is also available if either:

This allowance is not means-tested. This means it makes no difference what income or capital you have.

You can find out more on the NI Direct website.


Benefits you might be entitled to

Disability Living Allowance

Universal Credit

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Carer’s Allowance

Tax credits

Help with Council Tax and rates

“Bedroom tax”

Other benefits

Welfare benefits in Scotland

< Benefits & tax credits