BENEFITS EXPERT: Why it’s worth questioning your Council Tax

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Q When you recently advised a reader to claim a reduction in their Council Tax it encouraged me to do the same.

I am glad to tell you that, as a result, I have had £19 a week knocked off my Council Tax and it has been back-dated for three months.

I am sure there are too many people, particularly pensioners, who are paying too much Council Tax.

Being a pensioner this is very helpful. Do you think there are many others who are paying more Council Tax than they need to?

Mrs C (Middlesbrough).

A I always like to hear from people who have successfully claimed benefit because they have read an answer to a reader’s query in this column without having contacted me directly themselves.

I would welcome more like this so I can share people’s good experiences with other readers.

Yes, I am sure there are too many people, particularly pensioners, who are paying too much Council Tax.

It is difficult to give simple guidance on who should be claiming, because the rules are complicated and different types of income affect benefit in different ways.

Savings have an effect as well, but people may still be able to qualify with savings up to £16,000 and in some cases more.

Since April 2013, Government cuts have meant that even certain people on the lowest incomes have to pay something towards their Council Tax.

People who have reached Pension Credit qualifying age, however, may still qualify for full rebates.

As a very rough guide, and I stress very rough, it is worthwhile a single pensioner claiming a Council Tax reduction if their weekly income is under £240.

In the case of couples I would put the guide figure at around £340 a week.

Some incomes, such as Attendance Allowance, are not counted and the rules are more generous for certain severely disabled people and carers.

Even if you have too much coming in to qualify there are discounts available that do not depend upon income.

For example, those who live alone are entitled to a 25% discount. Certain people can be treated as living alone and receive this concession, even if someone else lives with them.

This is because particular categories of people who live with you are ignored.

These include people who are severely mentally impaired, anyone under 17 and certain other young people, as well as any full-time student.

There is also a Disability Reduction Scheme which does not depend upon income either.

This reduces the Council Tax if anyone in the home is substantially and permanently disabled and the property meets certain conditions.

Anyone wanting to claim a reduction in their Council Tax, for whatever reason, should contact their local council.