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Council tax > Council tax - a guide (VO7858W)

This booklet applies only to Wales

CONTENTS

Introducing the Valuation Office Agency

The purpose of this booklet

The council tax bands

Defining the property

Allocating the band

Changes in the property market

Changes in banding

A word of warning

Querying your band

Using home for business

Provisions for people with disabilities

The council tax bill

Paying the bill

Further information

 

Introducing the Valuation Office Agency

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is an Executive Agency of the Inland Revenue.

We are responsible for:

•      the council tax bands in Wales and England

•      the rating assessments of all non-domestic property in Wales and England

•      valuations of land and property for capital gains tax and inheritance tax

•      right to buy determinations in Wales, England and Scotland

We also carry out valuations for other government departments and some local authorities.

Information is available at all our offices and on our website explaining these areas of work and the standards of service provided. Our offices in Wales are listed at the back of this leaflet.

Further information about the VOA can be found on our website at:

www.voa.gov.uk

The purpose of this booklet

Council tax is a local tax based upon the value of each domestic property (usually a home), at a fixed point in time. The income from council tax is collected by local councils in Wales to help pay for local services.

The VOA is the government organisation responsible for allocating a council tax band to all homes in Wales. The VOA is also responsible for compiling and maintaining the list of council tax bandings. The current list for Wales came into effect on 1 April 2005.

This booklet explains the council tax bands that are currently in effect in Wales, how the council tax bands are allocated to properties, and what this means for your council tax bill.

This booklet should not be regarded as a complete guide to the law.

If you require this booklet in an alternative format, please contact your local Valuation Office.

The council tax bands

The Welsh Assembly Government sets the council tax bands for Wales. The table below shows the current range of values for each band:

A
under £44,000
B
£44,001       to   £65,000
C
£65,001       to   £91,000
D
£91,001       to   £123,000
E
£123,001      to   £162,000
F
£162,001    to   £223,000
G
£223,001    to   £324,000
H
£324,001    to   £424,000
I
£424,001 and above

These bands came into effect on 1 April 2005.

Defining the property

One of the nine bands,A to I, detailed in the previous section, is allocated to each property. A list is then created, which shows all homes in Wales and their corresponding band. The list shows only the band that has been allocated to the property, not the actual value of the property. The list can be viewed online at www.voa.gov.uk

A home is a separate unit of living accommodation, together with any garden, yard, garage or other outbuildings attached to it, all occupied by the same person(s) and within the same area of land.

If part of the property – for example, an annexe – is separate and self-contained, that, too, will count as a separate home in its own right. The fact that a property shares common services and cannot be sold on its own does not prevent it from being self-contained and separately banded for council tax purposes. Certain other properties, however, such as houses occupied by more than one household who share cooking and washing facilities (for example, groups of bed-sits or some hostels), will generally be treated as one home.

When considering whether any living accommodation is a self-contained unit, the VOA must have regard to several key points. These are:

  • The physical character and layout
    a self-contained unit must be physically capable of use as separate living accommodation.
  • The physical identity of the accommodation
    a self-contained unit will normally not be spread over different parts of a building. For example: accommodation consisting of a living room and a kitchen with a bedroom and a bathroom situated across a common hallway is not a self-contained unit.
  • The provision of standard facilities
    a self-contained unit must have its own living area as well as cooking and washing facilities and a WC.

Allocating the band

The VOA takes account of the size, age and character of the property as well as the area it is in, and uses sales price data to arrive at the correct band for the property. The basis of assessment of a property, in order to allocate a council tax band to it, is the amount that, subject to certain assumptions, it would have sold for on the ‘open market’* by a ‘willing vendor’** on 1 April 2003***.

The assumptions when allocating a council tax band to a property are made to ensure that a fair and consistent approach is always adopted. The assumptions are set out by law and are as follow:

  • The sale was with vacant possession
  • Houses were sold freehold
  • Flats were sold on a 99 year lease
  • Properties were in a ‘state of reasonable repair’****
  • The property had no potential for any building work or other development requiring planning permission
  • The size, layout and character of the property as well as the area it is in must be considered as they actually were on 1 April 2005***

Inspections of properties are carried out where necessary, but most assessments are made using details held on the VOA’s database. This is continually updated with information received from taxpayers, occupiers and local councils.

* ‘open market’ - Where the property is offered openly with adequate publicity given to the sale. Please note that if your property was purchased under a discount scheme (such as ‘Right to Buy’) this does not fall within the definition of ‘open market’.

** willing vendor’ - Someone who willingly sells a property and is not in any way forced to do so.

*** 1 April 2003/1 April 2005 - The current council tax bands came into effect on 1 April 2005. However the process of allocating a council tax band to every home in Wales started some time before this. Legislation sets the valuation date prior to 1 April 2005 so that the bands can be allocated to all properties using data from the same point in time. This is the only way to ensure a fair and even system. The valuation date for the current list is 1 April 2003. Even if your property was built after this date, a band is allocated to it based upon what its value would have been, had it existed, on 1 April 2003. We do this by using sales information from similar properties in your area.

**** ‘state of reasonable repair’ - The state of repair it would be reasonable to expect for a property, taking its age, character and the area it is in into consideration.

Changes in the property market

Assessments are based on the price a property would have fetched if it had been sold on the open market on 1 April 2003. Any increase or decrease in a property’s value caused by general fluctuations in the housing market will not affect its valuation or band, until the next revaluation. During a revaluation, all domestic properties in Wales are reviewed to bring them into line with changes in the property market.
The Welsh Assembly Government has proposed that the next revaluation should take place in Wales in 2013.

Changes in banding

Individual properties may have their banding re-assessed after the council tax list comes into effect. This may apply to you if:

  • Your home decreases in value because
    -      part of it is demolished
    -      the physical state of the local area changes
    -      alterations have been carried out to make it suitable for use by a person with a physical disability
  • You start or stop using part of your home to operate a business, or the balance between business and domestic use changes
  • Your home increases in value because you have carried out improvements to it, such as building an extension.

A word of warning

If a property has had improvements made to it, since 1 April 2005, which increase its value, the banding cannot generally be re-assessed until it is next sold or at a revaluation. If you are considering buying a property that has been extended, you should be aware that the council tax band could be increased after the sale has taken place.

If it is necessary to re-allocate a band to your property for one of the reasons outlined above, the re-allocation will be based on what it would have been expected to sell for on 1 April 2003. If the change in value is only slight, it may not be enough to move your home from one council tax band to another.

It is also possible that the banding of your home could change if information is brought to light that makes it clear to the VOA that an error was made with the original allocation.

Querying your band

If you have questions about your council tax band, or you feel it may be wrong, contact the VOA on 0845 600 1748. You can speak to dedicated staff who will answer your questions and explain how the council tax band has been allocated to your property.

If, having raised your query with the VOA, you are not satisfied with the outcome and feel that your band is incorrect, you can appeal. An appeal firstly takes the form of a ‘proposal’ to have your property placed in a different valuation band. You can complete a proposal form online at www.voa.gov.uk, or in writing - the appropriate form is available from your local Valuation Office.

If your proposal to alter your band is unsuccessful and you are still not satisfied that your band is correct, it will be heard as a formal appeal, if you wish to proceed, by a local valuation tribunal. A leaflet detailing the whole appeal process ‘What to do if you disagree with your council tax band’ is also available at www.voa.gov.uk or from your local Valuation Office.

IMPORTANT: You must ensure that you continue to pay your council tax while you have a query or appeal pending.

Using home for business

Property used for both domestic and business purposes includes, for example, public houses, shops with living accommodation and farms. There is a separate basis for the allocation of a band to such properties, which are described as ‘composite’. If you use space within your domestic property for working from home, your property may also be classed as a composite.

The part of the property used for work may be liable to business rates, whilst the remainder of the property will continue to be liable to council tax, although a different band may be allocated to it.

For identification purposes, any property that is composite is shown in the council tax list with the abbreviation ‘comp’ next to its entry.

Provisions for people with disabilities

Any special fixtures designed to make your home suitable for a person with a disability, which add to its value, are disregarded when the property is allocated a band. Your home is therefore not placed in a higher band because of them.

Similarly, if your home has special fixtures that reduce its value, they are taken into account in the banding and your home may be placed in a lower band than it otherwise would have been. If your home has special fixtures that reduce its value but you think the fixtures have not been taken into account, you should contact the VOA on 0845 600 1748.

There is a scheme available, referred to as ‘relief’, which can give you a discount on your council tax bill. A separate relief scheme exists for people with disabilities. If you, or someone living with you, need extra space to use a wheelchair within the property, or an extra room, kitchen or bathroom to accommodate the needs of someone with a disability, you may be eligible for a reduction in your bill.

If you think that you might be eligible, you should contact your local council for an application form. Eligibility is at the discretion of the local council.

The council tax bill

Your local authority sets the level of council tax. The amount you pay depends on how much the local authority and other public bodies in your area spend and how much money they get from elsewhere. The amount you have to pay (before any reductions) also depends on which band your home is in. The lower the band that your home is in, the less you will pay.

Within a local area, basic council tax bills for each of the different bands will differ according to proportions laid down by law. The proportions are:

A
6
B
7
C
8
D
9
E
11
F
13
G
15
H
18
I
21

So, for example, if the council tax for a home in band A is £480, the bill for one in band D will be one and a half times that amount (6:9) = £720 – for one in band H three times that amount (6:18) = £1440 – and for a home in band F, the bill will be £1040 (6:13).

Paying the bill

You will normally receive your council tax bill in March or April each year. The bill will tell you the amount you have to pay and how that amount has been worked out. The bill will also set out the amount of each instalment and the dates on which each one should be paid.

Your local council will be able to answer any queries you may have about your bill.

Further information

Valuation Office Agency

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has a statutory duty to allocate a council tax band to all homes in Wales, maintain the list of bandings and deal with queries and appeals. This is carried out on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government. A leaflet on the VOA’s standards of service ‘Our charter for council tax’ is available from your local Valuation Office.

www.voa.gov.uk     Helpline: 0845 600 1748

Office locations

Bangor

01248 287 800

northwalesgroup.vo@voa.gsi.gov.uk

Ty Glyder

339 High Street

Bangor LL57 1YA

Newport

01633 205600

southwalesgroup.vo@voa.gsi.gov.uk

2nd Floor

Clarence House

Clarence Place

Newport NP19 7AA

Cardiff

02920 806800

southwalesgroup.vo@voa.gsi.gov.uk

Ty Rhodfa

Ty Glas Road

Llanishen

Cardiff CF14 5GR

Swansea

01792 497700

southwalesgroup.vo@voa.gsi.gov.uk

Ty Nant

180 High Street

Swansea SA1 1JR

Carmarthen

01267 322200

southwalesgroup.vo@voa.gsi.gov.uk

Government Buildings

Picton Terrace

Carmarthen SA31 3BT

Wrexham

01978 200000

northwalesgroup.vo@voa.gsi.gov.uk

Regent House

Regent Street

Wrexham LL11 1PR

Merthyr Tydfil

01685 358000

southwalesgroup.vo@voa.gsi.gov.uk

Government Buildings

Castle Street

Merthyr Tydfil CF47 8TX

 

Local councils

Local councils calculate council tax liabilities, assess eligibility and apply reliefs where applicable, issue bills and collect payments. They operate within the policies set by the Welsh Assembly Government and the legislative framework made by the National Assembly for Wales.

Contact details for your local council can be found on your council tax bill.

Valuation Tribunal Service

The Valuation Tribunal Service is an independent organisation that deals with, and arbitrates over, appeals relating to council tax.

www.valuation-tribunals-wales.gov.uk

Welsh Assembly Government

The Welsh Assembly Government is the executive arm of the National Assembly for Wales and is responsible for policy development around setting the number of bands for council tax and setting the threshold values within each band. The National Assembly for Wales enacts all council tax secondary legislation including provisions as to eligibility criteria for relief schemes.

www.wales.gov.uk

counciltaxpolicy@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Local Government Finance Division

Welsh Assembly Government

Cathays Park

Cardiff

CF10 3NQ

VO7858W


 
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