Martin Lewis warns anyone who has moved since 1993 could be owed money
More than £230million is currently unclaimed in 1.7million closed or inactive council tax accounts in England, Scotland and Wales – here’s how to check if it affects you
Money-saving expert Martin Lewis says anyone who has moved since 1993 could be owed money in the form of overpaid council tax.
An investigation by MoneySavingExpert.com revealed more than £230million unclaimed in 1.7million closed or inactive council tax accounts in England, Scotland and Wales.
Martin Lewis, founder of the consumer website, said: “The advice is sitting on a staggering amount of money, at least £230m spread across 1.7m accounts, which equates to an average of well over £100 sitting in each closed account.
“And while councils are trying hard to track down those who are owed, many are not doing it well enough, especially when people have moved out of their area and are no longer their responsibility.
“That means we all have to take responsibility.”
The owners of these 1.7 million municipal tax accounts should have been reimbursed when the account was closed.
The credit in them accumulates as households pay council tax a month or a year in advance, which means it’s common for people to have a credit balance when ‘they’re moving.
A credit is also added if a person overpays their council tax bill, if a resident moves out, or if a person living in the property dies.
Who might we owe money to?
MoneySavingExpert.com researchers believe you are more likely to claim a refund if you have left a local authority area within the last 29 years and were not paying council tax by direct debit.
The report advises anyone who has moved since 1993 to check whether they owe more than £100 due to overpayments and credit.
The easiest and quickest way to verify and claim is to complete an online claim form with your former council.
Search for the name of the council and the words “council tax refund form” online, which should lead you to the correct document if it is available for that council.
Another way to check is to email, live chat or call the council – details of which can be found on the Gov.uk website.
Are you on the right band?
MoneySavingExpert estimates around 400,000 households in England and Scotland may also be paying too much because they are in the wrong tax bracket.
Disputing your council tax first requires a bit of research and comes with some risk – for example, you might end up finding out you’re in too low a bracket and end up paying more.
Before you consider contesting your council tax, you must first do your research.
If it turns out that you’re on too low a council tax bracket, you’ll start paying a higher amount if your challenge doesn’t go as planned.
Your neighbors will also be affected if your entire street is found to have been underpaid.
The first step to check if you are likely to succeed is to see what council tax bracket your neighbors are in.
You can check council strips online for free, so you don’t need to ask your neighbors – just be sure to try and compare houses of similar sizes and values.
Use the GOV.uk website to do it for homes in England, or the Scottish Appraisers Association for properties in Scotland.
This is only a rough guide, so it’s worth warning again that your entire street may just be in the wrong strip.
Before issuing a challenge, you should also find out how much your property was worth in 1991, as this is when council tax was introduced by the government.
MoneySavingExpert has a free calculator to help you do this, as well as a chart on which band you should have been placed in.
Once these checks have been carried out, if you think you have a good file in your hands, you can contact the Assessment Office Agency (VOA) in England and Wales.
For home in Scotland you will need to contact the Scottish Appraisers Association (SAA) to submit your challenge.
If you pass, the assessment office will contact you and the group will be changed – and you will be refunded.
You can appeal to an independent assessment tribunal if you are unhappy with the decision.
How to reduce your property tax bill
The type of municipal tax reductions or reductions you may be eligible for depends on your situation.
The help offered also varies between local authorities, so it is best to contact your council to see what you might be eligible for.
For example, if you apply for benefits – such as Universal Credit or Pension Credit – you could be entitled to up to 100% off your council tax bill.
Other situations where you might get money include if you live alone or live with someone who is not eligible to pay council tax.
You will usually get 25% off in these scenarios.
And the maximum reduction of 100% could apply to someone with severe mental impairment who lives alone, or if you live in an all-student household.
See more tips on how to lower your municipal tax bills here.