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Take your share of £52m council tax refunds before bills rise by 5% this month

FIGHT against the increase in the cost of living by claiming reimbursement of your housing tax.

On average, annual local authority bills jumped by up to 5%, or £65, this month.

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Fight against the increase in the cost of living by claiming the reimbursement of your housing taxCredit: Shutterstock

Meanwhile, thousands of people are still waiting for the £150 council tax refund to reach their bank accounts.

Last year, households clawed back more than £52m from local authorities, according to new data obtained by Sun Money.

Now Lucy Alderson reveals how you might be owed money, from disputing your council tax band to getting a reduction and even finding lost accounts.

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Challenge your council tax bracket

AN estimates that 40,000 households are potentially in the wrong council tax bracket, according to MoneySavingExpert.

Council tax brackets are based on the value of your property on 1 April 1991 for England and Scotland and 1 April 2003 for Wales.

You can contest your council tax installment by contacting the Valuation Office

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You can contest your council tax installment by contacting the Valuation OfficeCredit: Alamy

Find out which strip your neighbors are on with similar sized properties.

Challenge your group by contacting the Valuation Office Agency in England and Wales or the Scottish Assessors Association in Scotland.

If you are moved to a lower bracket, you will get a refund going back to the date you moved into the property.

But be warned – the VOA might find you’re in a lower band than you should be and you might end up paying more.

Get a discount

YOU may be able to get a reduced council tax bill if you are on a low income, live alone or apply for benefits.

For example, singles get 25% off their bills.

Singles get 25% off their council tax bill

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Singles get 25% off their council tax billCredit: Getty

Check with your town hall. You will need information about your financial situation at your fingertips.

find lost money

MILLIONS of pounds of overpaid municipal tax bills are owed to households.

According to data analyzed by The Sun, a whopping £33.7m sits in closed or dormant council tax accounts.

Millions of pounds of overpaid municipal tax bills are owed to households

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Millions of pounds of overpaid municipal tax bills are owed to householdsCredit: Alamy

The highest amount owed is £27,150 to a household in St Albans.

In total, the council has £484,362 in cash left behind by residents.

We surveyed 58 councils and found the average due was £6,160.

Money is lost when a credit account is closed, either because the resident changes address or dies.

Martyn James, of complaints handling service Resolver, said: ‘It’s a scandal that money is sitting unclaimed at a time when every penny counts. Councils should do a lot more to make sure people get their own money back.

You should contact your counsel if you believe you are owed money.

Debt help

HARD-UP households could see their debt reduced or wiped out if they are really in trouble.

Households must complete an application form known as Section 13A.

Struggling households could see their debt reduced or wiped out if they are really struggling

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Struggling households could see their debt reduced or wiped out if they are really strugglingCredit: Getty

Almost £2.7million was scrapped by local authorities in 2020/21.

The highest amount was paid by Sheffield City Council, which paid off £3,210 of debt for one family.

The councils will give you a decision within 14 days of submitting your application form.

‘Check that the rise of the group is correct’

MUM-OF-ONE Melanie Garraway saved hundreds of dollars on her municipal tax bill by challenging her band.

The 35-year-old accountant, who lives with her husband and son, Dexter, in Leadenham, Lincs, was told by North Kesteven District Council in January 2020 that her group would be upgraded from a C to an E three months later late.

Melanie Garraway said:

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Melanie Garraway said: ‘With bills going up like energy, electricity, it makes a big difference’Credit: collect

This meant his bill would rise from £1,652 a year to £2,330 – an increase of more than 40% or £678 a year.

“We were extremely worried,” she said.

“We had a one-year-old baby at the time, so budgeting for everything was complex anyway.”

She immediately decided to challenge the decision by calling the Agency’s Assessment Office.

“I looked online at properties on our street to see what their council tax bracket was and if mine was higher,” Melanie said.

“All the other properties on our street were either Band C or Band D.

“Since there is not much difference between our house and that of our neighbors, I did not see why ours was so high.”

The VOA told Melanie that her property was listed as 234 square meters, but Melanie knew that was incorrect.

She checked the measurements in an old sales brochure for her house and it was listed at 136 square meters.

The VOA reassessed the council tax bracket again and moved the property to a D bracket.

This meant her bill went up by £254, but Melanie was delighted to have saved £424.

She said: “With bills going up like energy, electricity, it makes a big difference.

“You can live more comfortably, you don’t have to worry about the bill.”

Make the most of energy assistance

Households in difficulty are invited to apply for help with the energy bill as soon as possible.

Providers offer subsidies to people who are vulnerable, low-income or in arrears.

Households in difficulty are urged to apply for help with the energy bill as soon as possible

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Households in difficulty are urged to apply for help with the energy bill as soon as possibleCredit: Getty

EDF added a further £5m to its hardship fund, while Octopus doubled its relief fund.

But demand is high and some suppliers, including Ovo Energy, have shut down their systems after reaching capacity.

Sue Anderson, from debt charity StepChange, says: “If you are struggling with energy costs, talk to your supplier and consider applying for relief funds. Some companies have funds for their own clients.

“Others are open to anyone in difficulty.” How to apply varies by provider.

Octopus said there are no specific criteria for customers to qualify for a grant from its Octo Assist Fund.

To apply, you complete an online form with details about your finances. So far, 36,000 clients have benefited from a subsidy.

To obtain assistance from EDF, customers must complete an online form.

EDF said funding is granted on a case-by-case basis and customers must continue to pay their bills while their application for assistance is processed.

British Gas, meanwhile, is offering grants of up to £750 to its customers – subject to certain criteria.

You will NOT be eligible for support if you have more than £1000 in savings, for example.

To get help, you must be or face energy poverty.

And help is always available elsewhere, points out Sue Anderson of StepChange.

She says: “If you need more extensive support with debt on your wider finances, charity advice like StepChange can help.”

From this month, thousands of households have received council tax refunds worth £150 to help ease the pain as bills rise.

Energy customers will also receive a £200 refund on their bills in October.

You can also get help from the government’s £1 billion Household Support Fund.

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Local councils received money from a central pot to distribute to residents in their area. It is up to each local authority to decide what help it will give and who will benefit from it.

To find out if you are eligible, contact your town hall.