Several families have come to me recently concerned that their family lives in the marital home while they live in the lines/mess and that the council won’t give the spouse a single person’s discount on the council tax bill.
I have looked into this with the case studies in law 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 would encourage all families in this situation to approach the council to see if they will take their individual circumstances into consideration however be prepared to be told “No”.
Cat Calder, AFF Housing SpecialistBack to top
You may have seen in the March 2012 budget that the Chancellor announced that the rate of council tax relief (CTR) has been doubled and will now be 100% of an average council tax bill while deployed – with the average council tax bill in England being around £1200 per year this will mean a rebate of around £600 for a 6 month tour.
CTR is paid to those serving personnel who pay council tax while they are in the UK – it is not paid to those living in SFA who pay CILOCT as this is dealt with separately (unless you can prove that you have paid council tax on a private property in the UK during the tour period).
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 and stops being paid the day after they leave the area.
So how do you claim this?
At the end of your tour go to your 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 serving person is counted for council tax 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 salary.Back to top
Service families living in MOD housing in England, Scotland and Wales and paying council tax on their own properties in England and Scotland should automatically receive a 50% reduction in council tax on their own property (if it is not rented out). A number of service families are concerned that they now have to pay 90% of council tax on their second homes, instead of the 50% as set down in legislation under the Statutory Instruments (downloadable from the links given below). Families having problems obtaining this discount should show their local authority the Statutory Instruments, and if still unsuccessful should contact the AFF Housing Specialist (email email@example.com).
Statutory Instruments 2003 No. 3011
Statutory Instruments 2004 No. 926
Statutory Instruments 2005 No. 416
Explanatory Memorandum to Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 416
(please note that the second two Statutory Instruments are amendments to the first)
The Army Families Federation (AFF) is often contacted by military families who live in Service Families Accommodation (SFA) but who also own their own property. The majority of questions relate to whether or not a family is entitled to a 50% Second Home discount on the council tax they pay on their own property.
There follows a list of the most frequently asked questions on this issue, together with the answers. AFF has researched this issue over several years of listening to the problems that Service families have encountered when attempting to apply for this discount.
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% Second Home Council tax discount on our own property?
A. Yes you are 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% Second Home Council Tax discount but the Council is questioning which property is my ‘main residence’; the Army quarter or my own property. What difference does it make?
A. To be eligible for the 50% Second Home Council Tax 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% Second Home Council Tax 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 are required to pay a Contribution in Lieu of Council Tax (CILOCT) when occupying SFA (with some councils thinking we pay no council tax at all in SFA!). If your local council is reluctant to grant the 50% Second Home Council Tax 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 a married quarter but we have bought our own property which we are renovating at the moment. The Council refuse to grant the 50% Second Home 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% Second Home Council Tax discount for our own property but now that we are posted to Cyprus the council tell us the discount will stop – is this correct?
A. I’m afraid this is correct. The 50% Second Home Council Tax discount concession does not extend outside Great Britain. Once a military family is posted overseas the discount stops as the council automatically classes the GB property as the ‘main residence’ and not as a ‘second home’. AFF suggests that any military family who finds themselves in this position should write to their local MP requesting support for a change in legislation. AFF is already lobbying 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.
Q. I own my own property in Wales but live in SFA in England. I applied for the 50% Second Home Council Tax 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 the 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% Second Home Council Tax 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.
If you have any further questions regarding your eligibility for the 50% Second Homes Council Tax discount please contact the AFF Housing Specialist, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.