This Briefing Paper provides a general introduction to council tax, a tax levied on domestic properties in England, Scotland and Wales. It explains what council tax is, who has to pay it, how council tax is calculated and set, and whether any exemptions or discounts may be available.

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This note sets out basic information regarding council tax, including: who is liable to pay council tax; whether exemptions or discounts may be available; how properties are placed in council tax bands; and answers to some frequently asked questions.

This note should not be relied upon as legal advice or as a comprehensive response to any constituency case. It is for billing authorities (district and unitary councils) to interpret council tax legislation, taking into account all relevant circumstances. If the taxpayer disagrees with their decision, the main route of appeal lies with the Valuation Tribunal for England, the Valuation Tribunal for Wales, or the Valuation Appeal Committee in Scotland.

Many aspects of council tax are governed by national regulations, over which local authorities have no discretion. In other matters, local authorities have discretion – for instance, to apply certain discounts. The Government does not intervene in individual council tax cases.

This note provides guidance on the system in England, with references to Scotland and Wales when they diverge from England. The note does not extend to Northern Ireland, where council tax does not operate.

  • Commons Research Briefing SN06583
  • Authors: Mark Sandford, Michael Everett
  • Topics: Local Government, Tax

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