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Council tax explained

What is Council Tax?

Council tax is a tax paid to your local council for the delivery of local services. It generally needs to be paid in respect of all domestic properties.

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Your council tax bill will depend on what council tax band your property is placed in, and the level of council tax set each year by your local council.

There are eight bands – from A to H – based on the value of the property. The highest paying band is Band H, with the amounts charged going down progressively to the lowest paying band, Band A. The council tax band of your property is decided by the Valuation Office Agency.

Council Tax bills are based on a charge for each financial year which runs from 1 April to 31 March every year - your council tax liability is calculated on a daily basis.

The options below explain who has to pay, how to pay, what discounts and exemptions are available and what to do if your account is in credit:

You usually have to pay council tax if you are 18 or over and own or rent a home. While council tax is normally paid by the person living in a property, there are a few circumstances where the owner is responsible for paying council tax. For example:

  • Empty homes
  • Nursing homes and other similar homes.
  • Houses in multiple occupation (where rooms are let individually)

If you are a tenant and think your landlord or somebody else should be paying Council Tax rather than you, you should contact us and seek further advice.

Usually at least one person over 18 living at a property is liable to pay the Council Tax.

In certain cases, more than one person may be jointly liable to pay the Council Tax, for example, joint owners, joint tenants, residents who are married, or live together as husband and wife, or civil partners.

If a number of people live in a property, there is a process for deciding the order of liability to pay the council tax

The order goes as follows:

  1. A resident owner-occupier who is the freeholder of all or part of the property,
  2. A resident owner-occupier who is the leaseholder of all or part of the property,
  3. A resident tenant,
  4. A resident who lives in the property and who is not a tenant, but has permission to stay there,
  5. Any other resident living in the property,
  6. A mortgagee in possession of an owner’s interest, and then
  7. An owner of the property where no one is resident.

If you move in or out during the year, your council tax liability is calculated on a daily basis.

This useful Plain English guide provides information on how your council tax bill is set, and how you can check that you are not paying more than you should.

Are you paying the right level of council tax?

The council tax system provides support to help people in various circumstances, or who might otherwise struggle to pay. There are many discounts and exemptions that can be applied to council tax.

Generally, if a council tax exemption applies, no council tax will need to be paid on the property. If an exemption doesn’t apply, but you qualify for a discount or disregard, you will receive a reduced bill.

You can pay your council tax bill online or by various other methods such as direct debit.

Find out how to pay

Your account could be in credit because you have:

  • overpaid
  • moved out of Cornwall
  • been awarded a discount or exemption
  • been awarded Council Tax Support
  • had the band of your property reduced
  • The property has been re-let

We will only issue a refund if you do not owe any further amounts of Council Tax to us.

You’ll get an automatic refund if you’ve paid too much money by Direct Debit.

If you don’t pay your Council Tax by Direct Debit, we will need your bank details so that we can organise a Bacs refund.

Our refunds are usually authorised once a week and issued to customers the following day.

If you’ve moved within Cornwall and have overpaid

You won’t lose out – we will credit any overpayment to your Council Tax bill for your new address.

If you have a query about a refund please use our contact us form.

If you think your council bill is wrong, please tell us straight away. For example, if you think the amount of the bill is wrong, it’s in the wrong name, or you think you should get a discount.

Report a problem

Your Council Tax is usually paid over 10 months, giving you two months in the year where you don’t have to pay. These are normally February and March.

However, you can ask to pay your Council Tax over 12 instalments. This means your monthly payments will be slightly lower. However, you would have instalments to pay all year round.

If your request to pay in 12 instalments is received in any month after March, you will only be given instalments for the remaining months until March of the following year. For example, if your request is received in June you will be given nine instalments from July to March. If your request is received in November, you will be given four instalments from December to March.

When new bills are issued the following April, your payments will automatically be divided into 12 instalments.