There have been a number of changes to the welfare system in 2013 including some changes to council tax. The information in this factsheet is up-to-date but more detail will be added in the near future.
Council tax is levied by local authorities on residential properties in England and Wales in order to help meet the cost of local services. People with dementia, and those who care for them, may be eligible for relief on their council tax bill.
The amount of council tax payable on each dwelling depends on which of the eight charge bands it comes into, the rate of tax set by individual local authorities each year, and whether those paying are eligible for reductions or exemption. The tax applies to both owner-occupied and rented homes.
Northern Ireland has a rates system in which every property is valued individually. For information on discounts and exemptions in Northern Ireland, contact the rebate section of the rate collection agency in your local area. The address will be in your telephone book.
One or more people can be legally responsible for paying the council tax for each dwelling, although only one bill will be sent to the dwelling regardless of the number of people who live there. Joint owners and joint tenants are both responsible, as are husbands and wives and people living together as partners.
Where there is joint responsibility and one person fails or refuses to pay, the other will be liable for the whole amount. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, a severely mentally impaired person would not be responsible for paying the council tax owed by their partner, providing they are receiving an appropriate disability benefit (see 'Discounts, disregards and exemptions', below).
In the case of residential and nursing homes, and some houses in multiple occupation, the owner will be responsible for paying the council tax and not the residents.
Discounts, disregards and exemptions
You may be eligible for one or more type of relief on your council tax bill, or for exemption, but you will need to apply. Check with the council tax section of your local authority or an advice agency or telephone the Benefit Enquiry Line (see 'Useful organisations').
The best way to understand the complex system of discounts and exemptions from council tax is to look at the series of examples below, each of which involves someone with dementia. You may find that some local authorities ask for a doctor's certificate to confirm severe mental impairment, in addition to proof that the person with dementia is receiving appropriate disability benefits.
The bill for each home is calculated on the assumption that two or more adults are living there. People living on their own are entitled to a 25 per cent single person's discount.
Example 1: The person with dementia who lives alone
Anyone with a severe mental impairment, including some people with dementia, who are living on their own and receiving an appropriate disability benefit (such as attendance allowance, higher or middle care components of disability living allowance, or either of the care components of personal independence payments) are exempt from paying any council tax.
Example 2: The person with dementia who lives with a partner or family member
If the person with dementia is receiving appropriate disability benefits, they are not included when counting the number of people living in the property. If they live with one other person, that person can get the 25 per cent discount that someone living alone is entitled to.
Example 3: The person with dementia who lives with a paid carer
Individuals who live with and care for a person with a disability for at least 35 hours a week, and who are claiming care allowance, may be disregarded for council tax purposes.
The carer must not be the partner of the person with dementia or a child under 18 years. The person they are caring for should be receiving the higher rate of the care component of the disability living allowance, or attendance allowance, or certain other disability benefits.
However, even if the carer and the person with dementia are both disregarded for council tax purposes, 50 per cent of the council tax due on the property will still need to be paid. This will be paid by the carer, who may qualify for help to pay it.
Exemptions on properties
Some domestic properties are exempt from council tax. These include properties left empty, furnished and unfurnished because someone is in long-term hospital care, a residential home or a nursing home, or has gone to live with someone else who will provide them with necessary personal care.
You may also be able to claim an exemption on a property if you have to move elsewhere to provide personal care for another person.
Second homes and holiday homes are liable for council tax, but there is a discount because nobody lives there. In England, the discount is between 10 and 50 per cent. In Wales it is either 25 per cent or 50 per cent, or there is no discount.
Reduction for disabilities scheme
You may be able to claim a reduction in your bill if someone living in your home has a disability and needs special facilities. These could include a room that is mainly used by the disabled person, an extra bathroom or kitchen, or space inside the home so that a person can move around in a wheelchair.
The facilities do not have to be specially installed, but they do have to be important for the well-being of the disabled person. If your home is eligible, your bill will be reduced to that of the band immediately below − although it will still be shown in the original band in the valuation list. Those with band A properties (the lowest band) can apply to have their bills reduced proportionally.
If you think you may be entitled to a reduction, apply to your council. If it refuses, you can appeal to a valuation tribunal. However, if you are already receiving full council tax benefit, it is probably not worth applying for this reduction.
Council tax support – a new localised scheme
As part of the welfare reform changes, council tax benefit was abolished in April 2013 and replaced with a local scheme called council tax support. Local authorities have a duty to ensure that those who have reached state pension age do not lose out under the new scheme and the amount of help available should not change for this group.The reductions, disregards and exemptions mentioned in this factsheet for some people with dementia and some carers, are not affected and continue to be available. They are not means tested but do depend upon the person meeting the qualifying conditions.
Can I claim council tax support?
Support available may depend upon factors such as which benefits are received, the age of the people living in the property, their income and savings and who lives with them. There may be more support available if someone receives a disability or carer’s benefit.
Contact the local council for information about the local council tax support scheme.
There are different ways to appeal against various decisions taken on council tax and council tax benefit. Check on the appropriate procedures with the council tax section of your local authority.
The UK's leading care and research charity for people with dementia and those who care for them. The helpline provides information, support, guidance and referrals to other appropriate organisations.
Benefit Enquiry Line (BEL)
National, free telephone advice and information service on benefits for people with disabilities, their carers and representatives. Note that advisers can send out forms and give advice but they have no access to personal records. They cannot help with claims that have already been submitted.
Last updated: April 2013
Last reviewed: May 2010
Reviewed by: Luke Warren, Information Officer (Legal and Welfare Rights), Alzheimer's Society
If you have any questions about the information on this factsheet, or require further information, please contact the Alzheimer’s Society helpline.
0300 222 11 22
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