Citizens Advice Scotland is taking action to help an estimated 80,000 low income households in Scotland that could be paying too much Council Tax.
Today the charity is launching a new online tool - www.checkmycounciltax.scot - to help people check if they are entitled to reductions, deductions or exemptions.
The typical annual saving for a household on a full Council Tax reduction is £675.
In April 2013, Council Tax Benefit (CTB) was replaced with a new Council Tax Reduction (CTR) scheme. Since then the number of Scottish households receiving Council Tax Reduction has declined by 78,970, suggesting that the new scheme isn’t well known and that thousands of households could be missing out.
Reasons for being eligible for a council tax reduction include being in receipt of some benefits or being on a low income, and the amount of reduction depends on income and capital.
Also people may not be aware that discounts or exemptions are available for some people in shared accommodation if they receive housing benefit, care leavers, full-time students, people living with a severe mental impairment, or those who own a home that is empty in the short term because of a sale or refurbishment.
In March CAS commissioned YouGov to ask Scots about their finances. The survey of over 2000 adults found that:
• 47% of Scottish workers run out of money before pay day at least sometimes.
• 1 in 4, 26%, of those surveyed missed at least one council tax payment in the last year.
Launching the Council Tax Reduction tool in Edinburgh today, Citizens Advice Scotland Chief Executive Derek Mitchell said: “Council tax arrears are the most common debt issue that people approach our network for help with.
“For these households every penny matters – we know that thousands of people in Scotland struggle with bills every month.
“It’s worrying that almost 80,000 fewer households are getting Council Tax Reduction than six years ago. We can’t be sure exactly why this is the case, but we think it’s unlikely that this number of individuals and families no longer need that help. It seems more likely that people are either not aware that they could be entitled to money off their Council Tax bills or they need support in making the application.
“You can check for free by visiting your local Bureau or by using our new online tool – www.checkmycounciltax.scot. If you are eligible your local Bureau can help you make your claim.”
Council Tax arrears was the top debt issue seen by the Scottish CAB network in 2017/18 (17,197 issues).
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
• Scottish Government statistics show a drop of 78,970 CTR claimants between April 2013 (when CTR replaced CT benefit) and December 2018. This represents 14.3% decline. Source: www.gov.scot/publications/council-tax-reduction-scotland-october-december-2018/
• YouGov Plc. data: Total sample size was 2078 adults, of whom 458 are Scottish workers who have run out of money before pay day at least sometimes. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th - 23rd March 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults.