The Government announced measures on 3 February 2022 intended to help people with rising energy bills. One of these was a £150 rebate on council tax payments, available for properties in council tax bands A to D.

The rebate does not appear on council tax bills but is to be paid separately by billing authorities; some households will already have received it. The Government is funding an additional discretionary scheme to allow billing authorities to provide more support.

This is the first national council tax rebate scheme since council tax was introduced in 1993. There is no legislative backing for it: in legal terms, it is a discretionary local payment that is being funded by the UK Government. This means the Government guidance on the rebate and guidance for billing authorities (unitary councils, which administer the scheme) provides all the available information about how the rebate is to be administered.

This Insight answers frequently asked questions on how the rebate will work.

When will the rebate be paid?

Billing authorities must pay rebates to residents by 30 September 2022.

Is a rebate available on unoccupied properties or second homes?

Second homes, and properties that the council tax system treats as ‘empty’, are not eligible for a rebate. This includes properties that are empty because, for instance, they are being refurbished, or because the occupant died before 1 April 2022. See paragraph 12 of the billing authority guidance for more on this.

The rebate and houseshares

The £150 rebate is for the residents living in the property who are liable to pay council tax. Where a property is occupied by more than one liable resident, it is up to them to decide how to split the rebate between them.

In a scenario where the landlord pays the council tax, but does so on behalf of the tenants, it is the tenants rather than the landlord who should receive the rebate. It is up to the council to ensure the tenants, not the landlord, receive it. Tenants in this situation should contact their council if they have not been contacted about the rebate.

A rebate is not available on a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). This is because the landlord is liable for council tax in this situation. The billing authority guidance says that “Where the council is aware that the liable council tax payer for a chargeable dwelling does not occupy the property… no-one will be eligible for the rebate in relation to that property.” The council tax system does not use the same definition of an HMO as the more familiar definition of a ‘registered HMO’ in the Housing Act 2004.

The discretionary fund

Residents who are not eligible for the £150 rebate may be eligible for support from their billing authority’s discretionary fund. The billing authority decides how this is distributed. The total funding for this is £144 million across England.

The Government’s billing authority guidance suggests offering top-ups to selected recipients of the £150 rebate, or offering funds to residents of properties in council tax bands E to H, where those residents receive means-tested benefits. Unlike the £150 rebate, the discretionary fund does not need to be based on the situation on 1 April 2022.

Data on the distribution of the rebate, and the discretionary fund, can be found on the website.

Ministry of Defence support

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) provides financial support to council tax payers who are contractually obliged to live on a military base, but who still face council tax bills on their own property. Households in that situation are not eligible for the rebate. However, the MoD is providing its own financial support scheme equivalent to the Government’s.

Recent property moves

A resident who has moved into a property since 1 April 2022 is not eligible for a council tax rebate for that property.

If the resident lived in a different property on 1 April 2022, they may be eligible for the rebate in respect of that property.

Are these schemes running in Scotland and Wales?

The Welsh scheme is very similar to England’s: the Welsh Government’s guidance document provides more information.

The main differences from England are that the Welsh scheme covers any household which benefits from a council’s council tax reduction scheme, irrespective of the council tax band. Additionally, it does not cover properties benefiting from Class N, S, U or W exemptions (Class N is houses solely occupied by students, S covers properties solely occupied by under-18s, U covers properties solely occupied by severely mentally impaired persons; and W covers occupied annexes).

The Scottish scheme, the Cost of Living Award, is also available to any household benefiting from a council’s council tax reduction scheme, irrespective of the council tax band. It is also available for properties where all residents are under 18, care leavers, or severely mentally impaired; or where a property is empty because the resident is receiving care elsewhere. Payments in Scotland were applied to council tax bills by the end of April 2022.

Residents’ eligibility is based on their living arrangements on a particular date. The date of eligibility for Scotland was 14 February 2022, for Wales 15 February 2022, and for England 1 April 2022.

About the author: Mark Sandford is a researcher at the House of Commons Library, specialising in local government and devolution for England.

Photo by Gleren Meneghin on Unsplash

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