Council Tax discounts and exemptions

Reducing your Council Tax bill

You may be able to reduce the amount you pay in Council Tax by claiming Council Tax Support, a discount, an exemption, or reduction due to disability

Pay your Council Tax in instalments

To help you budget, you may be able to spread your instalments over 12 months (April to March) rather than the usual ten (April to January). To pay over 12 months You must contact the Council Tax office on 01279 446688 by 15 May for the current Council Tax bill. To make things easier for you could also pay by Direct Debit.

Council Tax Support

You can apply for Council Tax Support under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme to help you with paying your Council Tax if you are on a low income or you and your partner are on low incomes (couples are jointly responsible for the bill).

If you receive Council Tax Support you will also receive a letter from Harlow Council showing you the amount of Council Tax Support you are entitled to and how it was worked out. This amount will also be shown on the front of your Council Tax bill, including any instalments you may need to pay, if there is an amount due. Instalments can be set up for weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments.

If you receive Council Tax Support you must notify us immediately of any changes in your circumstances as failure to report a change is an offence and may lead to prosecution under the Council Tax Reductions Schemes (Detection of Fraud and Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2013, Regulation 8.

Single person’s discount

If you are the only person aged 18 or over living in your property, you may be entitled to a 25% reduction in your Council Tax.

To claim a single person discount you will need to complete a Council Tax Single Person Discount form.

You can also use this form to let us know of a change in your circumstances, for example, you are no longer entitled to a single person discount.

Discounts for when more than one person is living in your property

We work out your Council Tax by assuming the property is occupied by at least two adults. We do not count some people when we work out the number of adults living in a property.

People who are not counted include:

  • Full-time students, student nurses at colleges, apprentices and Youth Training trainees
  • Patients resident in hospital
  • Patients who are being looked after in care homes
  • People who are severely mentally impaired
  • People staying in certain hostels or night shelters
  • 18 and 19 year olds, who are at, or just left school
  • Care workers working on low pay for, or introduced by, charities or local authorities
  • People caring for someone with a disability who is not a spouse, partner or child under 18 in receipt of certain qualifying benefits
  • Members of visiting forces and certain international institutions
  • Members of religious communities (monks and nuns)
  • People in prison (except those in prison for non-payment of Council Tax or a Fine)
  • Persons for whom child benefit is payable and are 18 years old or over

This means you may be able to claim a discount even if you do not live alone. To find out whether your household is likely to qualify for a discount, count the number of adults over the age of 18 in your property, and then deduct anyone in the above list. If the result is one adult, then a 25% discount may apply. If all adults in the property appear in the list then a 50% discount may apply.

Council Tax Discount Form

To claim a Council Tax discount you will need to complete and sign a Council Tax Discount Form by either:

To falsely claim a discount is a criminal offence and may be dealt with by a court of law. This may mean being subject to a financial penalty. What happens after you claim an exemption or discount

Council Tax reductions due to disability

If an adult or child in your property needs more space or a room to meet special needs because of their disability, you may be entitled to a reduction in your Council Tax. You may be entitled to the reduction if a disabled person occupies your property and it has been adapted to provide one of the following for them:

  • an extra bathroom or kitchen
  • a special room used to meet their needs, for example a room used for kidney dialysis equipment
  • sufficient floor space to permit the use of a wheelchair. The disabled person must require the use of a wheelchair indoors

If you think the above applies to your property and that you may be entitled to a reduction in your Council Tax you will need to complete a Council Tax Disability Claim Form. Please note your income is not taken into account when we decide if you are entitled to this reduction.

Council Tax Disability Reduction Form

To claim this discount you will need to complete and sign a Council Tax Disability Form by either:

To falsely claim a reduction is a criminal offence and may be dealt with by a court of law. This may mean being subject to a financial penalty. What happens after you claim an exemption or discount

Council Tax property exemptions

Some properties may be exempt from the payment of Council Tax. The different classes of exemption are listed below. Properties that are solely occupied by:

  • full time students or school leavers under 20 years of age
  • severely mentally impaired people
  • people under the age of 18
  • diplomats who would normally have to pay Council Tax
  • members of a visiting force who would normally have to pay Council Tax
  • dependent relatives living in certain annexes

To claim this exemption you will need to complete a Council Tax Property Exemption-Discount Form.

Other unoccupied exemptions

  • are owned by a charity, are exempt for six months
  • are left empty by someone who has gone to prison
  • are left empty by a patient in a hospital or care home
  • are waiting for grant of probate, and for six months after probate is granted
  • are empty because it is against the law to live there
  • are waiting for a minister of religion to move in
  • are left empty by someone who has moved to receive care elsewhere
  • are left empty by someone who has moved so they can care for someone else
  • are left empty by a student whose term-time address is elsewhere
  • have been repossessed
  • are left empty by a bankrupt person
  • are pitches that do not have resident caravan owners or moorings that do not have resident boat owners
  • form part of another property and may not be let separately

To claim this exemption you will need to complete a Council Tax Property Exemption-Discount Form.

Empty homes - unfurnished

If your home is unoccupied and substantially unfurnished you may be able to claim 100% class CU discount. However, please note the following:

  • A class CU discount can only be given for a maximum period of three months.
  • A class CU discount period does not start again with a change of ownership as it is applicable to the property, not the owner(s).
    For example: owner A receives a CU discount on a property from 1/5/14 to 30/6/15 (2 months) and then sells the property to owner B. If the property is still unoccupied and substantially unfurnished owner B will only be entitled to one month’s CU discount from 1/7/15 to 31/7/15.
  • After receiving the maximum three months class CU discount a full charge becomes due.
  • You are not entitled to a class CU discount if there is furniture in your property. Furniture can include sofas, beds tables and chairs.
  • Unoccupied caravans on pitches and unoccupied boats at moorings may also benefit from the class CU discount.
  • Where a property has been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for more than two years an additional premium of 50% will be charged.
  • You may be held liable for Council Tax if you fail to inform us that tenant(s) have moved into and out of your property.

If your property is uninhabitable as it requires, or is undergoing / has undergone major repair works or structural alteration, you may be able to claim a 50% discount for up to 12 months. If during the twelve months the repairs are complete, a discount of 50% will still apply. However this will only be up to the first anniversary of when the repairs started, or at the end of six months from when the repairs were complete, whichever date comes first.

Second homes

If you have a furnished second home you will not be able to claim a discount on your bill for this property, except if your second home is needed for work, or is a pitch occupied by a caravan, or a mooring occupied by a boat which are effectively second homes, then you may be entitled to a 50% discount on this property.

Council Tax Property Exemption-Discount Form

To claim an exemption or discount you will need to complete and sign a Council Tax Exemption-Discount Form by either:

To falsely claim an exemption or discount is a criminal offence and may be dealt with by a court of law. This may mean being subject to a financial penalty.

What happens after you claim an exemption or discount

It is normal Council practice to visit your property to confirm that the exemption or discount should apply. Once we are satisfied that the property qualifies for an exemption or discount, we will send you a revised bill. If your bill shows that an exemption or discount has been given, you must tell the Council of any changes that affect your entitlement, within 21 days of the change. If you do not do this, the Council may charge a penalty.

If you have been given an exemption or discount on your bill the Council will periodically send you a form to confirm whether it still applies. If you do not return the form to confirm whether your exemption or discount still applies it may be cancelled.

  • If you are claiming a single person’s discount after someone has left your property, it is normal Council practice to contact the person(s) who have left to confirm that they live in another property as their sole and main residence. Once we are satisfied that you qualify for the discount, we will send you a revised bill. If, at a later date, anyone over the age of 18 moves into your property or a member of your family reaches that age, you must notify the Council immediately as this will affect your discount.
  • If a reduction due to a disability is awarded, the property is moved into the next valuation band down, for example, a property originally in band B would be moved to band A after a reduction had been allowed. (From 1 April 2000 a property in Band A will receive a reduction of 1/9th). Once we are satisfied that a reduction applies, we will send you a revised bill. If your bill shows that a reduction has been given, you must tell the Council of any changes that affect your entitlement, within 21 days of the change. If you do not do this, the Council may charge a penalty. If you have been given an reduction on your bill the Council may periodically send you a form to confirm whether it still applies. If you do not return the form your reduction may be cancelled.

Discretionary reduction

The Council has additional discretionary powers to enable it to reduce the Council Tax liability where statutory discounts, exemptions and reductions do not apply. Details of the discretionary reduction in liability are set out in the Discretionary Reduction in Liability Policy (pdf)