Council tax payments help provide you with essential services. These payments are generally made in advance based on your property band. You can make the payment in one go to cover the whole year or make monthly payments. Because you are paying in advance, you might end up overpaying, even if you pay monthly. This is surprisingly common, especially in cases where you move homes in the middle of the year.
The most common ways to end up overpaying are as follows:
- You paid in advance and then moved before the point up until which you’ve paid. For instance, if you paid the year in advance (April to March), but end up moving out in December, you have potentially overpaid. Overpaying is also more likely to occur when you move from one council area to another. Moving within the same council area usually doesn’t create this problem as any bill adjustments can be easily made for your new property.
- You forgot to cancel when moving. You have set up a direct debit or standing order, and fail to cancel it when you move, continuing to pay until you finally realise and stop the payments.
Councils typically give a refund before they close your account in the first scenario. But it might be that yours didn’t do that and you ended up overpaying. It is always worth checking if you’ve overpaid. The process to check is relatively straightforward.
How do I check if I’ve overpaid my council tax?
The best way to check depends on the council. Many councils offer an online claims form that allows you to check if you're owed money. The form also helps you claim at the same time, so you are solving both problems at once.
The forms can differ from council to council. An easy way to find the form is to search for 'council tax refund form + council name' in a search engine. You will often find a link directly to the form or an explanation on how the process works.
You can also call or email the council directly. You can find council contact details on the government website. If the council finds they owe you money, you will most likely have to make an official claim via a form.
What information do I need to make a claim?
Before you start calling your council or filling the online forms, you want to gather the necessary information needed to make a claim. What you need can depend slightly from one council to another, as well as how you approached the council.
The online forms usually require you to know:
- Your old address
- The dates when you lived there
- Your old council tax reference number
When you call or email the council, they might ask similar details. Sometimes your name and old address might be enough to determine if you are at least owed something.
How far back can I claim?
Many councils allow you to claim back to 1992, which is when council tax was first established. However, councils are free to apply the statute of limitations to reclaims. It applies to cases where the council has tried to notify you of the credit. In England and Wales, the statute is six years from the day the account was closed. In Scotland, it’s five years. It’s always worth checking with the council no matter when you moved. Most councils do not apply the statute, so it won't hurt to ask.
How do I find my old council tax reference number?
In most cases, you might be asked to provide your old council tax reference number. You’ll find this written on your old council tax bills. If you don’t have those, you might want to see if you’ve received an email with the number on it. If you can’t find the number, you should contact the council directly and ask for their advice.
Can I claim for someone who has died?
Councils close accounts when a person dies. But it could be that the person has made advanced payments and the estate could claim the money back. If you are an executor of someone’s estate, then you could make a claim. It’s best to contact the council and ask for their advice. You might need the deceased person’s death certificate, as well as proof that you are the executor.
What if my council tax band is wrong?
You could be overpaying your council tax because your tax band is wrong. It is possible to challenge your current tax band. It’s also worth noting that if you moved out and the next resident in the same house gets a reduction in the tax band, you might be owed money as well. You could save from future council tax payments and claim back money you overpaid.
Challenging your tax band does come with the risk that you could end up paying more. The council might even increase your neighbours’ tax band. It’s crucial to ensure you do your research before you launch an official challenge.
The best way to research your band is through:
- The neighbourhood check – Compare similar properties in your neighbourhood and check if you are all in the same band.
- The valuation check – Estimate what the property was worth in 1991 and compare it to council tax bands at that time.
Don’t forget to check for council tax discounts
It is also worth making sure you are not currently paying too much council tax. Certain situations could reduce your council tax bill or even make you exempt altogether. Reductions are not automatically applied to your council tax bill.
In general, you can pay less than 100% if any of the following conditions apply:
- One person or more are medically certified as having ‘severe mental impairment (SMI)
- A person with SMI lives with a qualifying carer
- One person or more are students
The discount can range from a 25% reduction to being fully exempt. Different councils offer different conditions and discounts, so check with your local council.