Discounts and Exemptions

Discounts

In certain circumstances a discount may be given on a council tax bill - either 25%, 50% or 100%.

Empty property discount

An unoccupied and unfurnished property can qualify for a discount of 100% for the first month since it was last occupied. After that, no discount is available.

Any property that has been unoccupied and unfurnished for a period in excess of two years will attract an empty property premium of an additional 50%.

Single occupier (single person discount)

The full council tax bill assumes that there are two adults living in a dwelling - if only one adult lives in a dwelling the bill will be reduced by 25%.

Certain people are not counted when looking at the number of residents in a dwelling. This means if there are two or more adults in a dwelling and all but one of them is disregarded, the bill will be worked out as if only one adult lives there and single person discount will apply.

In some households all the adults may be disregarded and a maximum discount of 50% may be given.

The following groups of people will be disregarded and may result in a discount being given:

In some instances if all the residents in a dwelling would be disregarded (for example, students) the property becomes exempt from council tax altogether.

A person who is disregarded may still remain liable for payment of the bill (unless they are severely mentally impaired) even though they are not counted for the purpose of establishing the level of the charge.

Single Person Discount review Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the SPD review being undertaken? The Audit Commission reports that over £200m of Single Person Discounts may be inappropriately awarded nationally and as such impacting upon the already overstretched budgets of LA’s all over the country.

As such Darlington Borough Council, in partnership with Northgate Public Services are undertaking an evidence based Single Person Discount review, using a combination of Council data, third party data sources and specialist validation services. This is to:

  • Reaffirm the discount for genuine claimants efficiently and accurately.
  • Remove ineligible or erroneous claims and increase revenue for the council
  • To provide ‘fairness for all’ citizens so that those who are paying the correct level of Council Tax are not subsidising their fellow citizens who are erroneously claiming the discount.

How can Northgate Public Services undertake this review for us?

This is done in accordance with the Local Authorities (Contracting Out of Tax Billing, Collection and Enforcement Functions) Order 1996 – SI1996/1880, Section 12 – Ascertaining entitlement to discounts.

Who are Northgate Public Services ?

Northgate Public Services are a well known, reputable company who specialise in the provision of Revenues and Benefits software, and dealing with Revenues and Benefits processing work for many Local Authorities throughout Great Britain. They employ a large number of highly experienced staff to carry out this work and have successfully conducted single person discount reviews for a number of Local Authorities

Northgate Public Services have recently conducted reviews for more than a million single person discount claimants nationally.

How do Northgate Public Services and Experian check the validity of the SPD?

In order to do this, all the accounts that are currently in receipt of the Single Person Discount are passed to Experian who do a search against the property and not the individual as Experian receive no names. No Credit Checks are undertaken against an individual. Experian then compare these addresses against over 1 billion records covering 45 million UK residents drawn from over 750 data sources and provide Northgate Public Services with a list of adults who are associated with the property.

These searches are drawn from Consumer Credit Agreements, previous credit applications, the electoral register, address links (unique to Experian) where the customer gives a forwarding/previous address to a lender, Alias data (again unique to Experian) and Mortality data (taken from deaths register, insurance records etc).

What information do Experian provide to Northgate Public Services (and ultimately the LA)?

The only information that Experian pass to Northgate Public Services are the names and date of birth of the associated adults, information which is available in the public domain along with a first and last transaction date of any history of that person’s association to the property and an occupancy score which gives a sliding scale on the strength of the data. We have no indication of what records have associated the adult to the property e.g. mortgage, catalogue application, electoral register etc.

Does this not breach the Data Protection Act?

All personal data is processed securely & in compliance with the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998 and is used under s29 (1)(a) – the prevention and detection of crime and s29 (1)(c) - the assessment or collection of any tax or duty or of any imposition of a similar nature, Data Protection Act 1998.

Northgate Public Services do not hold on to the data for any longer than is legally required. All data, be it paper or electronic, is shredded to destroy it. We are not compiling a database that could be shared and accessed by other bodies and sources.

In light of all of the recent data security breaches (i.e. laptops being stolen) is there a chance my data will my data be lost also?

No. All personal information is transferred between the LA and Northgate Public Services and Northgate Public Services and Experian using a Secure File Transfer Protocol Server (SFTP). This is the most secure way of transferring personal data and as such means no information runs the risk of being released into the public domain. All of the staff involved have been baseline security checked also.

I have received a canvass/reminder form but the return address is a Twickenham address. Is this genuine?

Yes! The Twickenham address is an imaging centre employed by Northgate Public Services to ensure both outgoing and incoming correspondence is dealt with as efficiently and securely as possible. The forms are sent from and returned there as they are set up to deal with mail in large volumes as this is their primary function. All forms once received and scanned are returned to the council and any images are destroyed so no data is held there longer than is necessary.

Unoccupied but furnished property

A dwelling that is noone’s sole or main residence but which is furnished (and not otherwise exempt from council tax), will be regarded as a second home. Second homes do not qualify for a discount, unless the person liable for the council tax (or their partner) has the second home for particular job related reasons there may be a 50% discount.

Second home for job related reasons - discount form [pdf document]

Family annexe discount

If you currently have an annexe which is lived in by a family member, you can receive a 50% council tax discount on the annexe from 1 April 2014. The new discount is based on the use of the annexe by the resident of the main building or occupation by a family member.

If a non-family member occupies the annexe the discount will not apply.

Family annexe discount application form [pdf document]

Exemptions

Certain dwellings are exempt from council tax altogether. 

Each different reason a dwelling could have for exemption is set out in law by a particular class:

ClassDescriptionForm
B An unoccupied dwelling owned by a charity and last used for charitable purposes - a maximum period of 6 months Exemption form (class B) - Owned by a charity [pdf document]
D An unoccupied dwelling where the liable person is in detention Exemption form (class D) - Persons in detention [pdf document]
E An unoccupied dwelling where the liable person is a permanent resident in a hospital, care home, nursing home or hostel Exemption form (class E) - hospital home or hostel resident [pdf document]
F An unoccupied dwelling where the liable person is a personal representative where no grant of probate or letters of administration has been made - limited to 6 months once probate / letters of administration made. Exemption form (class F) - dwelling left empty by a deceased person [pdf document] 
G An unoccupied dwelling where occupation is prohibited by law Exemption form (class G) - occupation prohibited by law [pdf document] 
H An unoccupied dwelling held available for a minister of religion Exemption form (class H) - minister of religion [pdf document]
I An unoccupied dwelling where the liable person is receiving care other than in a hospital, care home, nursing home or hostel, because of old age, disablement, illness, alcohol / drug dependence or mental disorder Exemption form (class I) - living elsewhere to receive care [pdf document]
J An unoccupied dwelling where the liable person is providing care to a person because of old age, disablement, illness, alcohol / drug dependence or mental disorder Exemption form (class J) - living elsewhere to provide care [pdf document]
K An unoccupied dwelling where the liable person is a student Exemption form (class K) - dwelling left unoccupied by a student [pdf document]
L An unoccupied dwelling where there is a mortgagee in possession Exemption form (class L) - mortgagee in possession [pdf document]
M A dwelling that is a hall of residence for the accommodation of students  
N A dwelling occupied entirely by students (and/or school leavers and a students spouse or dependent who is not a British citizen) Exemption form (class N) - students, colleges and school leavers [pdf document]
O A dwelling that is part of armed forces barracks or married quarters  
P A dwelling occupied by visiting armed forces  
Q An unoccupied dwelling where the liable person is a trustee in bankruptcy Exemption form (class Q) - trustee in bankruptcy [pdf document]
R A property that is a pitch or mooring without a caravan or boat on it Exemption form (class R) - unoccupied caravan pitches and boat moorings [pdf document]
T An unoccupied dwelling which is an annexe Exemption form (class T) - unoccupied annexe [pdf document]
S A dwelling occupied wholly by persons under the age of 18 Exemption form (class S) - under 18s [pdf document]
U A dwelling occupied wholly by persons who are severely mentally impaired Exemption form (class U) - severely mentally impaired [pdf document]
V A dwelling occupied by persons with diplomatic immunity  
W A annexe flat or similar self-contained property occupied by a dependent relative of a person living in the main part of the building Exemption form - (class W) - occupied annexe [pdf document]

Disabled band reductions

Disabled persons reduction application form [pdf document]

A reduction to the council tax bill may given to households with a permanently and substantially disabled resident(s)  
 
The reduction will be given if the property includes any of the following;

  • A room other than a bathroom, a kitchen or a lavatory that is mainly used by and required to meet the needs and well being of the disabled resident
  • An additional bathroom or kitchen required to meet the needs and well being of the disabled resident
  • Space for a wheel chair used by the disabled resident inside the dwelling

The reduction given is equivalent to a re-banding of the dwelling into the valuation band immediately below that shown in the valuation list (although the list itself will not be altered).  For example, if the reduction is awarded for a property in band D, the council tax bill will be the amount payable on a property in band C.   

A dwelling which qualifies for a reduction and is in band A will get a reduction of 1/6th of the charge for property in band A (or 1/9th band D).

Only one reduction may be awarded for a dwelling, even if it qualifies under more than one of the conditions and/or there is more than one disabled resident.

Information for carers

You or the person you care for may be able to receive a reduction in Council tax for any of the following reasons:

A. The nature of the Property 

1.   Exemption - certain dwellings are exempt from council tax altogether, including:

  • A dwelling where all the adult residents are severely mentally impaired
  • A dwelling where all the adult residents are severely mentally impaired and/or students
  • An annexe, flat or similar self-contained property occupied by a dependent relative of a person living in the main part of the building
  • An unoccupied dwelling where the liable person is receiving care elsewhere other than in a hospital, care home, nursing home or hostel, because of old age, disablement, illness, alcohol/drug dependence or mental disorder and is not expected to return
  • An unoccupied dwelling where the liable person is providing care elsewhere to a person because of old age, disablement, illness, alcohol/drug dependence or mental disorder.

2.   Disabled reduction - a council tax bill can be reduced if the property has been adapted to meet the needs of a permanently and substantially disabled resident.

B. About the people living in the property

A discount may be given on a council tax bill. This is because certain people are disregarded (not counted) when looking at the number of residents in a dwelling. Some of the groups of people who are disregarded are carers, care workers and people who are severely mentally impaired. 

If there are two or more adults in a dwelling and all but one of them is disregarded, the bill will be worked out as if only one adult lives there and a discount of 25% awarded. In some households all the adults may be disregarded and a maximum discount of 50% may be given.

1.   Carers a person could be disregarded if they provide care for someone and the following criteria are met:

  • They live in the same dwelling as the person they care for
  • The person being cared for is not their spouse, partner or child under 18 years old
  • They provide care for at least 35 hours a week on average, and
  • The person being cared for is entitled to one of the following benefits;
    • Higher Rate of Attendance Allowance
    • High Rate Care Component of Disability Living Allowance
    • Increase in Constant Attendance Allowance under the Industrial Injuries or War Pension Scheme
    • Highest Rate of Constant Attendance Allowance on top of Full Rate of Disablement Benefit paid for Industrial Injury.

The carer does not have to receive a carers allowance themselves and it is possible for more than one person to be disregarded as a carer if they meet the criteria.  

Carer - discount form [pdf document]

2.   Care workers – a person could be disregarded for council tax if they are employed to provide care to someone and the following criteria are met:

  • They live in a property provided by the employer to enable them to provide better care
  • They are employed by a charitable organisation or a public authority, or they were introduced to the person(s) they care for by a charitable organisation or a public authority
  • They provide care or support for at least 24 hours a week, and
  • They get less than £44 each week from the employer for providing care or support (before any deduction for things such as income tax).

Care worker - discount form [pdf document]

3.   People who are severely mentally impaired - a person could be disregarded for Council Tax if they are severely mentally impaired and the following criteria are met;

  • They have a severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning which appears to be permanent
  • Their impairment is confirmed by a registered medical practitioner, and
  • They are entitled to one of the following benefits (or would be entitled if they were not of pensionable age, or if their partner was not getting a premium in their Job Seeker’s Allowance for them
    • Attendance Allowance
    • Income Support including Disability Premium
    • Care Component of the Disability Living Allowance (payable at higher or middle rate)
    • Increased Disablement Pension (where constant attendance is needed)
    • Constant Attendance Allowance
    • Severe Disablement Allowance
    • Disabled Working Allowance
    • Unemployability Allowance
    • Incapacity Benefit
    • Unemployability Supplement

Severely mentally impaired - discount form [pdf document]

Council Tax Discretionary Discount

Council Tax Discretionary Discount form [word document]

Council Tax legislation provides a wide range of discounts, exemptions and reductions that have the effect of reducing the level of Council Tax due.

Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (as amended by section 76 of the Local Government Act 2003), provides the Council with the discretion to reduce the amount of Council Tax which a person is liable to pay to such extent as it thinks fit.

The Council will only consider requests for relief in exceptional circumstances, for example:

  • Council Tax payers in receipt of Council Tax Support who are experiencing severe financial hardship, or
  • Council Tax payers who, through no fault of their own, have experienced a crisis or event that has made their home uninhabitable.

However, all applications will be assessed on their own individual merits.

Severe financial hardship

For Council Tax payers on low incomes, the Council has set a Council Tax Support (CTS) scheme, which provides support to those deemed to be within financial need.

The scheme has been designed to take into account the financial and specific circumstances of individuals through the use of personal allowances, additions and income disregards.

The level of support provided through the CTS scheme is the maximum support that the Council can financially afford to provide to customers.  As part of developing the scheme, it has been necessary to restrict maximum relief to 80% of the Council Tax liability to working age customers.

The Council will consider applications for discretionary discount from Council Tax payers who have qualified for support under the CTS scheme, but who are experiencing severe financial hardship.

For the purposes of these applications, severe financial hardship is defined as a situation resulting in debt, or the possibility of debt, where the situation could or has rendered the person in a state of poverty. In this context, poverty means a person who is unable to meet their normal day to day living expenses.

Other crisis or event

The Council will consider applications for discretionary discount from other Council Tax payers who, through no fault of their own, have experienced a crisis or event that has made their home uninhabitable, where they remain liable to pay Council Tax and for which they have no recourse for compensation.

This will be something that is outside the customer’s control, for example due to a flood, storm damage, fire, explosion or other major incident, which forces them out of their home.