The little known way to get your council tax debt written off if you’re struggling09/03/2021
BRITS can get their council tax debt written off if they're struggling by using this little known way to get help.
Council Tax is considered a priority bill, as not paying it can result in bailiffs coming round, court action or even imprisonment.
But local authorities can reduce – or even write off – your council tax debt if you don't have any money to pay your bills.
They can do so under a rule called Section 13A – and it can also be used to wipe your bill if your home has been damaged in a flood or fire.
Although the amount you can get knocked off depends on your individual circumstances, you could apply to get your entire debt cleared.
However, some councils don't offer the help at all – which means it's a postcode lottery in terms of who can get support if they're struggling.
The scheme could help hundreds of thousands of Universal Credit claimants facing the looming cut to their £20 per week uplift, debt adviser Sara Williams Debt Camel said.
Ms Williams, who runs personal finance blog Debt Camel, said: "When you are having to choose between paying the rent and eating, sometimes there is no money for any debts, including council tax arrears.
"Section 13A applications to get council tax written off may become a lot more used."
It comes as experts have warned that a council tax bill "crisis" is looming as roughly seven million Brits are falling behind on their bills.
It's been fuelled by a 5% rise in council tax bills in some places across the UK
How do I make a claim?
You'll have to put in a claim to get your council tax bill written off.
To do this, you'll need to fill out a Section 13A application which you can get from your local council.
However, as each council has its own scheme in place, it may not be called a Section 13A application.
If you can't find it on your council's website, get in touch with them to ask them what help they have in place in cases of financial hardship.
You can find who your local authority is by using the gov.uk's online tool.
You'll need some important documents to hand, such as bank statements or benefit letters, to prove your earnings and how much savings you have.
Debt camel also has a handy letter template you can use when applying for the help.
How much money can I get off?
You could get your whole council tax debt written off – but it's not guaranteed.
Each council decides how much they'll wipe off your debt on a case by case basis.
According to Money Advice Hub, they may take into account the following factors when making their decision about your application:
- Evidence of financial hardship or unforeseen and exceptional circumstances that means you can't pay up
- Whether you already have a council tax discount in place and still can't pay
- You have no other money or assets you can sell to pay your bill
- You've explored all potential ways of paying your debt
- Your council tax payment history
- Whether you simply don't want to pay the bill
Each council has a different scheme in place through which you can apply for the relief – it's best to check with your local council for more detail on this.
The council should let you know its decision about your application within 14 days of receiving it.
Should I apply for the help?
As council tax debt soars, many Brits might be wanting to make the most of the scheme.
According to charity Turn2us, council tax debt has jumped by 23.5% in the last year alone, with the total bill across the UK racking up to £4.4billion.
But unfortunately, many Brits won't be eligible for the help.
Turn2us head of external affairs Sara Willcocks said: "Making an application to get Council Tax debt written off can be complicated, and it is important you properly evidence why you need this.
"We’d recommend that people seek advice from debt advice agencies or Citizens Advice before applying."
But StepChange debt advice policy manager Jonathan Chesterman said that even if you don't get all your debts cleared, you can still benefit by applying for help.
"Councils are supposed to use their discretion so, even if your precise situation isn’t covered by the policy, you can still apply and may get a good outcome.
"It’s a good idea to look over the council’s policy so you can understand what they’re looking for when you make your write-off request."
How else can I get money off my council tax?
There are other ways of seeing if you can get a reduction on your council tax bill – even if you can't get your debt written off.
You could be eligible for up to 100% off your council tax if you’re on a low income or on benefits, including Universal Credit.
But how much your bill could be slashed by depends on where you live, as each council runs its own tax reduction scheme.
Those living on their own can get 25% off their tax bill. This includes where one adult and one student are living together, or one adult and one person who is classed as severely mentally impaired.
If you live with someone who officially doesn't have to pay council tax, such as a carer, or someone who is severely mentally impaired, you can get 50% off.
A full list of circumstances that exempt you from paying council tax can be found on Citizens Advice.
If you live in an all-student household you can get 100% off your council tax.
A full reduction is also possible in households where someone under 18 is living with someone who is severely mentally impaired.
You can apply for a council tax reduction through Gov.uk.
There’s a different scheme you’ll need to apply to if you live in Northern Ireland.
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