Council tax

Overview

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.

Contents

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 Communities and Local Government (DCLG) 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. Read the letter here. You may be asked to show your LA a copy of your soldier’s assignment order, or the license to occupy, along with the DCLG letter; however, if you still have issues with securing the discount, please let AFF know by emailing housing@aff.org.uk.

Back to top

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 furnished.

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).

Families having problems obtaining this discount should show their local authority the SIs and, if still unsuccessful, should contact the AFF Housing Specialist at housing@aff.org.uk.

AFF has received reports that some councils in Scotland are not giving the 50% discount as, while the Scottish SI includes job related dwelling, unlike the English and Welsh SIs it doesn’t specifically mention Armed Forces personnel.

AFF has written a brief outlining the issue and is in the process of talking to the Scottish Government to push for a change to the SI, click here for the brief.

If you’re having any issues with gaining the discount for a second home in Scotland, contact the AFF Housing Specialist at housing@aff.org.uk.

House of Commons information:

Council tax: Discount on second homes and long-term empty properties
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
(Note: the Statutory Instruments from 2004, 2005 and 2012 are amendments to the first)

Welsh Statutory Instruments 2010 No. 612

Scottish Statutory Instruments 2005
Scottish Statutory Instruments 2013

Back to top

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.

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 are 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 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’.

AFF suggests that any family who finds themselves in this position should write to their local MP requesting support for a change in legislation. AFF is already approaching the government in support of Army families; the aim being to achieve an extension to the council tax discount concession to Service families posted overseas. Click here to download the AFF brief.

Q. I own my own property in Wales but live in SFA in England. I applied for the 50% CT discount in 2009 but was turned down. I understand that the regulations for Wales may have changed – is this true?
A. Military personnel who own homes in Wales but live in Service accommodation elsewhere now qualify for a 50% Council Tax discount.

In 2008, AFF wrote to the Welsh Assembly to highlight the anomaly between the Welsh position on Council Tax discounts for Army personnel and the English and Scottish positions, where the 50% discount was already granted. The Welsh Assembly agreed to review the regulations and the Council Tax (Prescribed Classes of Dwellings) (Wales) Regulations 1998 were amended with effect from April 2010.

For more information regarding your eligibility for the 50% second homes CT discount, contact the AFF Housing Specialist, at housing@aff.org.uk.

Back to top

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.

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 housing@aff.org.uk.

Back to top

05   Single person's council tax discount

Several families have told AFF that their family lives in the marital home while their 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.

Back to top

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 operational tours (a current list of those tours which apply can be found in Annex A to Chapter 2 Section 5 of JSP 752 (available on DII)) – 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.

How do you claim this?

Your 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 your 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 your soldier’s salary.

Back to top

What our families say about AFF

“AFF - just a thank you for all that you do!!”

“What an awesome organisation”

“Thank you so much Army Families Federation!”

Find out more
7,151enquiries received between January and June 2018
1,354responses to our UK Disturbance Expense quick poll
27,120 unique website views during October
100%positive feedback at our Foreign & Commonwealth events