Council tax


If you own your own property in England, Wales or Scotland, you will be liable to pay Council Tax (CT) on it. If you live in SFA/SSFA/SLA you pay CILOCT which is a contribution in lieu of CT – the MOD then distribute the funds to local authorities.

Living in your own house as your family home, you will be expected to pay the full amount of CT. If you rent it out you will have to pay the full amount between lets; however, if it is a furnished second home which you use at weekends or holidays only, whilst your main home is your SFA (and in GB), then you are entitled to a reduction.


01   AFF pushes for more consistency in council tax reductions

AFF is aware that some families are still having issues securing a 50 per cent council tax reduction on a vacant but furnished second home while they are living in SFA/SSFA and paying Contribution in Lieu of Council Tax (CILOCT).

AFF continues to help families overcome unfair disadvantages, which contradict the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant. So, we discussed this issue with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) who, after reviewing the policy with their legal team, agreed to write a letter to all Local Authorities (LA) in England reminding them that so long as a serving person meets the criteria, the 50 per cent discount should be given.

You may be asked to show your LA a copy of the soldier’s assignment order, or the license to occupy, along with the DLUHC letter; however, if you still have issues with securing the discount, please let AFF know by emailing

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02   Council Tax on second homes

If you live in MOD housing in England, Scotland and Wales and pay Council Tax (CT) on your own property in England and Scotland you should be able to receive a 50% reduction in CT on your own property, so long as it is empty but substantially furnished. By doing this, it allows the local authority to class this as a second home and not an empty dwelling ensuring that the correct discount is obtained. Please see the FAQs below.

A number of Service families are concerned that they now have to pay 90% of CT on their second home, instead of the 50% as set down in legislation under the Statutory Instruments (SIs). Please see the Houses of Commons section below for more information.

Families having problems obtaining this discount should show their local authority the SIs and, if still unsuccessful, should contact the AFF Housing Specialist at

House of Commons information:

Council tax advice – empty properties England, Scotland and Wales
Statutory Instruments 2003 No. 3011
Statutory Instruments 2004 No. 926
Statutory Instruments 2005 No. 416
Statutory Instrument 2012
Explanatory Memorandum to Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 416
Job-related discount explanatory note
(Note: the Statutory Instruments from 2004, 2005 and 2012 are amendments to the first)

Welsh Statutory Instruments 2010 No. 612
Guidance on the Implementation of the Council Tax Premiums on Long-Term Empty Homes and Second Homes in Wales

Scottish Statutory Instruments 2005
Scottish Statutory Instruments 2013

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03   The 50% second home Council Tax discount FAQs

AFF is often contacted by military families who live in Service Family Accommodation (SFA) but who also own their own property.

The majority of questions relate to whether or not the family is entitled to a 50% second home discount on the Council Tax (CT) they pay on their own property.

Most frequently asked questions with the answers…

Q. We live in SFA in England for most of the time, but we also have our own property which we use for leave/weekends. Are we entitled to the 50% CT discount on our own property?
A. Yes, as long as your SFA is classed as your ‘main residence’ and your own property (which must be substantially furnished) is classed as your ‘second home’.

Q. I have applied for the 50% CT discount, but the council is questioning which property is my ‘main residence’; my SFA or my own property. What difference does it make?
A. To be eligible for the 50% discount on your own property, your SFA must be classed as your ‘main residence’. Main residency has a legal definition and is dependent upon answers to questions, such as:

  • Where are you registered to vote?
  • Where are you registered with a doctor?
  • To which address is your bank statement sent?

If the answer to these questions is your SFA address, then the SFA will be classed as your ‘main residence’, with your own property classed as your ‘second home’. Note, however, that different councils have different criteria. If you live in Scotland or Wales, please refer to the SIs above and note that there may be different definitions depending on where your private home is.

Q. We have applied for the 50% discount on our own property, but the council insist that we are only entitled to 10%. Is this correct?
A. If your SFA is your ‘main residence’, and your own property is furnished so that it is capable of being used as a ‘second home’, then you should be entitled to the 50% discount.

However, some councils are inexperienced in dealing with Service families and are often unaware that military families pay a Contribution in Lieu of CT (CILOCT) when occupying SFA.

If your local council is reluctant to grant the 50% discount on your own property, and you feel that you fulfil all the criteria to be eligible for it, then persevere with your application and don’t be afraid to request a Valuation Tribunal so that your case can be heard formally.

Q. My family lives in an SFA but we have bought our own property which we are renovating at the moment. The council refuse to grant the 50% discount – why is this?
A. When renovating a property, it is usually completely empty of furniture. If this is the case the council will not class it as a ‘second home’ but as an ’empty dwelling’. There may be other council tax discounts available for empty properties – contact your council for details.

Q. We have been receiving the 50% discount for our own property, but now that we are posted off mainland UK the council tell us the discount will stop – is this correct?
A. Yes. The 50% discount concession does not extend outside mainland Great Britain. Once a military family is posted overseas the discount stops as the council automatically classes your GB property as the ‘main residence’ and not as a ‘second home’.

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04   Changes to council tax discounts on rental properties

As of April 2013, councils can vary the amount of Council Tax (CT) they charge for some empty properties; this means that there are different rules and charges under different councils.

What does this mean for Army families?

If you own a property which you rent out, you may now be liable for CT for the period of time it is empty between lets. If you decide to take your rental property off the open market, please ensure that it is substantially furnished to be classed as a second home and not an empty dwelling.

Contact your local council to see what their new regulations are so that you are prepared and can budget accordingly.

Remember: this change does not affect the 50% CT reduction on furnished but unoccupied second homes which Forces personnel should be entitled to under the job related dwelling section, as this was ring-fenced by Parliament so that councils cannot vary the amount of discount they give.

If you have any concerns or issues with Council tax charges or discounts, contact Cat Calder at

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05   Single person's council tax discount

Several families have told AFF that their family lives in the marital home while the soldier lives in Single Living Accommodation (SLA) and that the council won’t give the spouse a single person’s discount on the council tax bill.

AFF has looked into this and, while it is at the discretion of individual councils, there is an overwhelming mass of legal cases to show that, even if the spouse works away from home and only returns for a few days each year, the family home is considered their main residence and so the remaining spouse will not get a discount.

AFF encourages any families in this situation to approach the council to see if they will take your individual circumstances into consideration, however, be prepared to be told “No” – Council tax: members of the Armed Services.

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06   Council Tax Relief (CTR) for Service personnel on specified operations

Council Tax Relief (CTR) now amounts to 100% of an average council tax bill while deployed – with the average council tax bill in England being around £1,200 per year, this means a rebate of around £600 for a six month tour.

CTR is paid to those serving personnel who pay council tax in the UK while they are on specified operational tours – it is not paid to those living in SFA who pay CILOCT as this is dealt with separately.

CTR is paid for each day that eligible Service personnel are in the location where the relief has been declared as payable, and includes days out of theatre on Rest and Recuperation; it stops being paid the day after they leave the area. For more information, see JSP 752 Chapter 11 Section 3.

How do you claim this?

The soldier should speak to their unit HR staff, as they are the people who deal with this – take along your council tax bill for the period in question which confirms that the soldier is counted for CT at the property, and also a letter (or other proof) from the local authority showing that you haven’t been given a discount from them due to being on Op Tour.

Payment is calculated on a daily rate and CTR will be paid as a lump sum at the end of the Op Tour in the soldier’s salary.

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07   Empty Homes Premium

Billing authorities in England, Scotland and Wales have the power to increase council tax on properties which have been ‘unoccupied and substantially unfurnished’ for a long period of time. This is known as the ‘empty homes premium’. It is for the billing authority to decide whether to levy an empty homes premium.

In England, billing authorities can charge up to 200% on properties which have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for more than two years. In Scotland, billing authorities can charge up to 200%; the qualifying period is one year. Wales introduced equivalent powers to those in Scotland in 2017, alongside a power to charge up to 200% council tax on holiday homes with no permanent resident. A period of occupation of over six weeks in England and Wales (over three months in Scotland) qualifies as a break in the empty period, ‘resetting the clock’ for the purposes of the empty homes premium.

In England, Scotland and Wales, the empty homes premium cannot apply to homes that are empty due to the occupant living in Armed Forces accommodation for job-related purposes. If any Service families find that their local authority is trying to charge more than 100%, please do let AFF know by emailing

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