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What is Council Tax?

For most of us, Council Tax is one of the largest household bills. Even so, few of us know in detail how it is calculated or administered, exactly what it pays for, and why some people may be able to get a reduction on their Council Tax. This page is designed to answer some of the questions residents ask us most frequently, and to guide you to Council Tax information or services which may be useful to you.

What is it for?

Council Tax is a property-based tax which all householders (both homeowners and tenants) normally have to pay. It is a local tax, set by councils to help pay for local services. As a result, the rate of Council Tax varies from parish to parish within the county, based on local expenses and spending plans. Your Council Tax makes up around a quarter of the council's income, so it is absolutely vital to support local services and facilities such as the following:

Council Tax supports the council's public health work, but does NOT fund local doctors surgeries or hospitals. These are the responsibility of the NHS.

WarningWe use Council Tax to fund our services to the community as a whole. It is not a 'service charge' for individual residents, and we cannot offer reductions for services you don’t personally use or receive.

How is it made up?

Half of your Council Tax charge relates to the property you live in, and half relates to the owners or residents. This means that the amount you have to pay is based on the value of your property and the number of adults who are living there. Normally, if there are two or more adults aged over 18 in a property, the full Council Tax charge for that property is payable.
Every household has a liability for Council Tax, although sometimes you may be entitled to a reduced bill. Reasons for this may include:

  • when a property is unoccupied for a reason which is out of your control (such as long-term hospitalisation, or after a death)
  • personal circumstances which mean that you have no or a low income (such as unemployment, full-time study, a disability or a long-term health condition)

Some people aren't counted for Council Tax purposes ('disregarded'), reducing the number of resident adults we assess when we make up your bill. If you live with someone who isn't counted, it may mean that you can get a discount on your bill. If you live on your own and are not counted, then you may be entitled to an exemption from Council Tax; this means you won’t have to pay at all. To find out more, please explore the available discounts and exemptions, to see if you may be eligible.

How much will it be?

The amount of your Council Tax depends on the size and value of your home. This value band is shown on the front of your Council Tax bill, and should also appear on the sales details of any house which you may consider buying. The Valuation Office Agency, a central government body (and not your local council), is responsible for deciding Council Tax banding. 

There are eight property value bands, A (lowest), to H (highest), with Band D representing a midpoint of a typical family home. When we talk about the normal full Council Tax charge for an area, we are referring to the amount that a household in Band D will have to pay. We calculate the bill for other households in the area in relation to the charge for Band D. For example:

Imagine the full Council Tax (Band D) charge for your area is £1800:

  • properties in Band A will pay two-thirds of the Band D charge - if the Band D bill is £1800, the Band A charge will be £1200
  • properties in Band H will pay twice the Band D charge - in the same example, where Band D is £1800, the Band H charge will be £3600

For a fuller breakdown of how Council Tax banding works and to view current and previous charges for your area, please see Council Tax bands and charges.

Your Council Tax band valuation takes into account things like the size, location and layout of your home. If you substantially change your home, for example by building a large extension, or permanently removing rooms or features, it is possible that your Council Tax banding may change. Please inform us of any changes, using the button at the bottom of the page.

What does the bill mean?

To help you better understand how Council Tax works, please look at the notes we have added to this example bill, which explain all of the different information on a typical bill. 

How does the council collect it?

Council Tax bills run in financial years, from the start of April to the end of March. We issue bills to every household in March each year. Even if you are exempt from paying Council Tax, you should receive a bill which shows this. Normally, we ask you to pay your bill over ten equal instalments from April to January, with a two-month break in February and March. This gives our Council Tax team the opportunity to reconcile accounts before the new financial year. Your payment date should be the same each month: if you set up a Direct Debit to pay your bill, you can choose to pay on the 1st or the 15th day of the month. If paying the bill over ten instalments makes it hard for you to budget your household expenditure, you can request a bill with twelve monthly payments. Please read more about this and other measures we can take to help you, if you are having problems paying your Council Tax.

If there are changes in your circumstances (such as someone moving in or out, starting or losing a job), this may affect your Council Tax bill. You can inform us of any changes quickly and easily online using the form below. For any change which affects the amount you have to pay, we will issue a new bill and schedule of payment instalments within 28 days.

Tell us about a change in circumstances

Find out more about Council Tax administration or help to pay, by following the links on the panel, More about Council Tax and Benefits and services.