We aim to make our website as accessible as possible. However if you use a screen reader and require debt advice you may find it easier to phone us instead. Our phone number is 0 8 0 0 1 3 8 1 1 1 1. Freephone (including all mobiles).
worried woman reading paperwork

Worried about council tax debts?

Take two minutes to find the right help for your situation.

Get help now

i This page applies to England, Wales and Scotland

Council tax arrears

Paying council tax bills

Council tax is a priority bill because councils have the power to take court action to recover money owed to them. It’s important to check that you’re paying the right amount and if you’re entitled to any reductions.

If you have council tax debts or are worried about falling behind with payments, get in touch with us for free, confidential debt advice.

signpost iconIn Northern Ireland households pay rates rather than council tax

If you’re in Northern Ireland, read our guide to dealing with rates arrears.

How are council tax payments calculated?

Council tax makes up around a quarter of local authority incomes in England, Wales and Scotland. Most households have to pay council tax, but the amount you’ll pay depends on:

  • the value of your house,
  • your age,
  • your income, and
  • who else lives with you

An annual bill will be sent in March each year showing how much you need to pay. You can spread the cost over 12 months by paying in weekly or monthly instalments.

Council tax bills often show payments over 10 months, but your local authority must let you pay over 12 months if you ask.

If your council tax bill was sent out later than April, for example because you’ve moved house, you’ll have a shorter time to pay it. The bill must be paid off in full before the end of the following March.

In Scotland, council tax covers sewage and water charges. These must be paid, even if you're eligible for a council tax reduction.

Money worries?

Find out how we can help you.

Get help now

What qualifies for council tax reduction?

There are some ways to reduce your council tax bill, you may qualify for a council tax reduction if:

  • You live on your own or the only other members of your household are full-time students, apprentices or considered ‘mentally impaired’. If this is the case, you’re entitled to a 25% single person discount.
  • You’re above pension age, you’ll get extra council tax reduction
  • Someone in your house is disabled and the property has been adapted, you may qualify to have your council tax reduced by one band
  • You're on a low income or benefits. 

Local authorities have different schemes, to find out how to apply check with your council.

If your circumstances change during the year, make sure you tell your local authority so they can send you an updated council tax bill.

Read our guides to saving money and increasing income.

Do I have to pay council tax if I’m on benefits?

If you’re on a low income, or your income is based on benefits, you may qualify for council tax reduction. Your council tax bill will be reduced, based on how much you earn.

All local authorities have different rules for who qualifies.

Use our free benefits calculator to find out which benefits you’re entitled to.

Money worries?

Find out how we can help you.

Get help now

Can I complain if I think my council tax bill is wrong?

Council tax is charged in bands based on the value of your house in 1991. More expensive houses are in a higher band and pay a higher annual council tax bill. Band A is the cheapest and band H or I is the most expensive. Your band will be shown on your council tax bill.

If you think your house was put in the wrong band, you can ask for it to be reassessed. You can save money if your house is changed to a lower council tax band, but this isn’t guaranteed, and if you’re unlucky the band could even go up.

If you have any problems with council tax, contact your local authority first. You can make a complaint if you think you’ve been treated unfairly, or your bill is wrong.

You must give your local authority 12 weeks to reply to your complaint. If you’re not happy with their reply, you can contact one of the following independent organisations.

They can give you more help and investigate your complaint.

Get help if you’re struggling to pay your council tax

If you've missed council tax payments or you're struggling to pay arrears, take two minutes to answer a few simple questions, so we can understand the best way to help you.