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Claiming Back Your Council Tax If You Have Overpaid

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 7 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
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Council tax. We all have to pay it, and every year it goes up, leaving us to dig deeper and deeper into our bank accounts simply to keep up.

But what would you say if you were to learn that it's possible you've been paying too much in council tax? Not only that, but also that you could reclaim the excess you've been paying for as long as you've lived in your property or from 1993, whichever is apt.

Now that would be worthwhile, not only for the payout, but also for the black eye it could give the local council. Since they rely on the income from council taxes, you can understand why councils haven't been too eager to spread the word about the fact that a number of people have been overpaying for years.

How It Happened

The problem began in 1991. Back then houses were valued and put into different bands for council tax purposes. The bands ran (and still run) from A to H, A being the cheapest and H the most expensive. Tax is charged according to the band your property is in.

You'd imagine that such an event would have been thoroughly and carefully organised, but it wasn't. Indeed, much of the banding was left to local estate agents, who simply drove past and allocated a band (although, to be fair, it was roughly based on house prices).

Estimates of just how many houses have been incorrectly banded vary greatly. Those in the business of helping people reclaim money insist the number is in the high thousands, but the Valuation Office Agency, which handles banding nationally, insists the number is actually tiny. It's notable, though, that the VOA revaluation promised in 2005 has been postponed indefinitely.

Are You In The Wrong Band?

Let's say you live in a street where your house is comparable to most of the other houses (or perhaps you live in a block of flats). The first step is to discover what band the other houses are in and compare it with your own banding.

That's easily achieved. Simply go to the Valuation Office Agency website (www.voa.gov.uk) and click on the "Council Tax" link. That applies if you're in England or Wales. If you're in Scotland, go to the Scottish Assessors Association site, www.saa.gov.uk.

If you're in a higher band than your neighbours, you might have a case. However, before you go any further, go back and check the 1991 prices of the properties, since the bands were calculated from those.

Use the Nationwide House Price Calculator (www.nationwide.co.uk/hpi) to determine the price of your house and other comparable properties in the street in 1991. You'll find you have to reverse the process a little, as it's intended to let you see how much your house has gained in price, but it's easily enough accomplished.

Once you have that 1991 figure, simply compare it with the table on which bands were assessed. If by checking both the bands of neighbours' houses and the 1991 valuation, you believe you're in a band that's too high, go ahead and make a challenge.

Be warned, however, that not all challenges succeed. When you ask for a reassessment, it could end up with you being slipped into an even higher band and owing yet more council tax. Like any gamble, there's risk involved.

Making A Challenge

Contact your local listing officer, who deals with tax banding (or local assessor in Scotland). If you've lived there longer than six months, write stating that you believe the property has been wrongly banded, and why (it's much easier to have an assessment done if you've been in the property less than six months). The VOA has an official list of reasons for appealing against banding, and your case will look stronger if you quote from this. You also have the option of appealing directly to the VOA or SSA online.

If your challenge is turned down, you might have grounds for appeal, but proceed cautiously. But if you succeed, you will be re-banded, and you can expect a rebate of your overpayment, from the time you took over the property (or from 1993, if you've lived there since then).

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[Add a Comment]
My property has recently been rebanded to D after I contacted Valuation Office. Although I have been incorrectly paying band E since property was built in 2003.I have been informed that I can only claim rebate from 2011 in Wales.Is this correct?
Bud - 7-Jul-17 @ 4:40 PM
We live in Wales and have been paying council band D for last 12 years, the local council has refunded us for the last six years.The valuation office has said if you live in Wales they only refund upto six years. Is this true
Varny - 24-Jun-17 @ 7:32 AM
Trying to claim overpayment of council taxback as forgot this was free months
Hopey - 9-Mar-17 @ 6:48 PM
My wife and I have been paying full rate Council Tax on our 3 bed semi for the last 3 years. Previous to that, I had exemption due to Incapacity, but for some reason 3 years ago we were told we had to pay the full amount again. We checked with the Council regarding this,and they confirmed that the decision was indeed correct. Recently I have been awarded the Higher Rate PIPs in place of the DLA higher rate I was receiving. On the paper work we received with this award it suggested that we contact the council, with regard to getting either an exemption or reduction in the council tax payments required from us. We duly enquired and were told that we should not have been paying Council Tax at all, for the previous years . They also told us that we could only claim back the last 3 months council tax and not all the moneys that were incorrectly paid to them by us. Is this correct? If the boot was on the other foot and we owed them several years Council Tax I doubt very much that they would settle for 3 months arrears payment from us !! Could you shed any light on the rules regarding this Please. We would be very gratefull. Thanks very much Robert
Robert - 14-Oct-16 @ 12:23 PM
h - Your Question:
My dad passed away in 2012 and we think he was overpaying council tax for years in the wrong band can we claim a refund as the home has been sold now ?

Our Response:
You would need to apply to his local council offices directly to find this out.
UnclaimedFinances - 8-Sep-16 @ 10:22 AM
my dad passed away in 2012 and we think he was overpaying council tax for years in the wrong band can we claim a refund as the home has been sold now ?
h - 7-Sep-16 @ 1:05 AM
Andy - Your Question:
I have been overcharged for council tax since its inception. I was placed in Band C, but should have been in Band B. I challenged this just two months into the tax at the start, Ashford Borough Council informed me I had no right to seek a change. I have now been re banded to band B, 25 years on.The council refuse to provide figures relating to overpayment. Total disgrace.

Our Response:
You could complain to the Adjudicator's Office, which covers complaints about VOA administration (such as mistakes or misleading advice, not disagreements with its decision). Please see Money Savings Expert link here which will tell you how you can challenge the decision.
UnclaimedFinances - 16-Jun-16 @ 12:41 PM
I have been overcharged for council tax since its inception. I was placed in Band C, but should have been in Band B. I challenged this just two months into the tax at the start, Ashford Borough Council informed me I had no right to seek a change. I have now been re banded to band B, 25 years on.The council refuse to provide figures relating to overpayment. Total disgrace.
Andy - 15-Jun-16 @ 3:14 PM
Coxy - Your Question:
I have found out that I have not claimed the single persons discount for 5 years - can I claim that far back?

Our Response:
It depends on the rules of your local council and whether it will let you put in a backdated claim and if so whether there is a time limit on how far back you can go. You may also have to prove that you were actually living alone through this time and have a good reason for not previously applying for your annual 25% single person's discount. You will need to contact your council tax office directly to find out its policy.
UnclaimedFinances - 24-May-16 @ 1:44 PM
I have found out that I have not claimed the single persons discountfor 5 years - can I claim that far back?
Coxy - 23-May-16 @ 7:23 PM
My Nan moved into a new build property in Brent and has been paying in excess of £1000 per year.She is 87 and on a pension - with pension guarantee- I was shocked and disgusted that a pensioner was being charged anything.I am putting in an online claim for council tax rebate - or whatever they call it now - cts?How do I apply for a refund for previous years - and how long can it be backdated for?Is about time this country looked a after the people who lived through world wars to give us our freedom and stopped supporting scroungers
kalammas - 20-Mar-16 @ 6:08 AM
SEAMUS - Your Question:
I have been informed that my council tax has been overpaid because I am exempt.The amount is owed to me from previous years from 2013.How will they pay the amount due to me.

Our Response:
You would have to contact your council directly to find out this information.
UnclaimedFinances - 8-Mar-16 @ 10:20 AM
I have been informed that my council tax has been overpaid because I am exempt.The amount is owed to me from previous years from 2013.How will they pay the amount due to me.
SEAMUS - 7-Mar-16 @ 10:09 AM
From April 2015 to 03 March this year I have been paid too much for my council tax since April 2015 myincome a week was £40.2 until July 2015 and from July my income went to a 34.2 until November 2015 my income went to 26.8 and until all this time I used to paid £67 every month until 3 March 2016 I need returne
Cisse - 1-Mar-16 @ 1:21 AM
I Went on line & used the .gov web sites tax calculator, only to find that ive been paying council tax for 5 years, & haven't had to, so i went to the bank & stoped the DD from coming out. then got the form from the council to fill in. after they agree that i shouldn't be paying it. they said i could only claim back 6 month. i didnt have some of the info required on the form, not for a couple of week anyway, but in the meantime ive had 2 summons to court....lol going to have it out with them this morrning......at the crack of dawn,poor bugger who every gets me first thing monday morning.....
dj tatty - 13-Jul-15 @ 1:34 AM
Have just received council tax rebate for lowering of tax band back dated to 1993. Is there any chance of a water rates rebate from 1993 to 2013 when I was unmetered?
kennyboy - 30-Jun-14 @ 2:24 PM
My partner`s father died in 1997 aged 85 & was paying nearly 900.00 a year in council tax as he owned the property in a very affluent area of Manchester, but his son , my partner was living in the property until the house was sold & the proceeds where split between him & his sister , however this had to go through probate & the house took 3 years to sell,& the bank where executors of his father`s will & on my partners behalf where paying certain bills , including council tax, however they where still paying 900.00 out & my partner has only just found this out as he was on incapacity benefit & would only have paid a few pounds a year at the time , the question is ,could he claim this money back for the 3 years that it was paid out ??
Towie - 30-Oct-13 @ 3:53 PM
I have been paying counciltaxthe full amount to St. Helens NBC. Since it started. For the last 6years Ihave hadParkinson's disease ihave livedwith my wife in the same property for the last20years just the two of us I havejust maid out a claims form fora reduction what should I expectin kind of a rebate.
Macker - 8-Jul-13 @ 7:31 PM
I am paying council tax on a tied house which my daughter live in the main house. I am over 65 year old so no council should bepayed but because my wife is under 65 we have to pay the full council tax. is that right ? 07868168839
bob - 8-Apr-13 @ 9:00 AM
Hi, We tried to claim a reduction in oir council tax on a terrace house We use as a holiday home in the UK. We weretold that because the house was not completely empty of all furniture and white goods we were not eligible. We have recently found out that we should have been given a discount of 10% even if the property was furnished. Apparently this service will not be available after 1st April 2013. How can I claim back for overpaid tax since 2009 please. Regards.
Lips - 24-Mar-13 @ 12:10 PM
I'm paying council tax for two people staying in my flat where I live alone and have done for nearly 3 years. When I phone to get it sorted out they just pass the buck from the council to sterling park. Can anyone help?
Sloany - 13-Jan-13 @ 5:28 PM
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