Council Tax, Explained

Whether you pay Council Tax or not right now, you will likely have to at some point if you rent or own somewhere in Scotland.

Find out more about what it is, who pays it and whether you may be able to get a reduction or exemption.

What is Council Tax?

Council Tax is a payment collected by local councils from people who stay in properties in that area. The money raised goes towards looking after local services such as bin collections, roads, schools, street lighting and more.

A Council Tax bill will include a charge for water and sewer services at your property.

Who pays Council Tax?

If you're 18 or over and own or rent a home, you will be subject to Council Tax in most cases. If you rent, check your rental agreement to see who is responsible for Council Tax payments.

There is usually one 'liable person' at an address responsible for paying the bill, this cannot be someone under 18. Couples living together will both be liable even if only one person is named on the bill.

Sometimes, the liable person is the owner of the property, even if they are not the person living at the address.

The owner is liable if:

  • The property is in multiple occupations, for example, a house shared by a number of different households who all pay rent separately,
  • the people who live in the property are all under the age of 18,
  • the people who live in the property are all asylum seekers who are not entitled to claim benefits or apply for help with Council Tax,
  • the property is a care home, hospital, hostel for homeless people or women's refuge,
  • the people who live there are residents of long-stay hospital wards included on the valuation list,
  • the people who live in the property are domestic servants in a second home occupied from time to time by the owner. The owner is liable if all the residents of the second home are either employed in domestic service or are the family members of the employee in domestic service,
  • the property is a bed and breakfast or hotel,
  • the people who live there are members of religious communities whose principal occupation is prayer, contemplation, education or the relief of suffering,
  • the person who lives there is a minister of religion of any faith who does not own the property but who lives and works there, or
  • people are staying in a holiday caravan or boat which is parked/moored on another property and is therefore not a separate dwelling.

Find more information about who is responsible for paying your Council Tax bill on the Citizens Advice Scotland site.

Some people may not have to pay Council Tax, or may be eligible to have their bill reduced.

Exemptions and reductions

Discounts, exemptions from paying or a reduction in your bill, may be available if one of the following applies to you:

  • You are a student,
  • you are a disabled person,
  • you live in a single-person household,
  • you live in shared accommodation and get housing support,
  • you or someone you live with is severely mentally impaired,
  • your home is empty and unfurnished, or
  • you own a second home or holiday home.

Use Citizens Advice Scotland's online Council Tax tool to check whether you are eligible to pay less or are exempt.

You can also check on the Scottish Government website to find out more about whether you are exempt from Council Tax or able to get a reduction. You will also find details of how to contact your local council about this. 

How much does Council Tax costs

The value of the home you stay in will determine how much Council Tax you should pay. Properties are sorted into bands 'A' through H' with A being the least expensive and H being the most.

The rate of Council Tax you pay at each band is set by your local authority. They will list this information on their website.

You can find the Council Tax band of your home by typing the postcode into the search tool on the Scottish Assessors Association website. This will also show you who your local council is.

Paying your bill

Each local council will have their own way of managing Council Tax payments.

When you move into a new property, you should get in touch with the local authority to let them know you are living there and they will be able to send you the relevant information to pay your Council Tax.

Most councils will have an online system for checking and paying your bills and you normally pay these off over 10 months out of the year. Some councils may offer the chance to pay weekly or fortnightly also, or offer a reduction if a full year is paid in one payment.

Council Tax debt

The council will be able to take action against you if you miss or fall behind on your payments.

If you are struggling to pay your bill, you should speak to them about an exemption or reduction. Or try to work out a plan for paying off any debt you have built up.

Legal action can be taken against you eventually if you do not pay your Council Tax. This may include:

  • taking money from your benefits, like Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, or Universal Credit,
  • taking money from your wages, or
  • having sheriff officers seize your goods to the value of the amount owed. Many of your possessions will be exempt from seizure.

It is important you speak to someone if you are struggling with debt. Avoiding the problem will only make it worse. You can get advice about debt online from Money Helper or Citizens Advice Scotland.

Or, contact the National Debtline:

  • Use their online tool to get debt help now
  • Webchat with an adviser, Monday to Friday 9am-8pm, Saturday 9:30am-1pm
  • Call on 0808 808 4000, Monday to Friday 9am-8pm and Saturday 9:30am-1pm

Get more information about budgeting, saving and money management on our Money & Me page.