South east London Council Tax challenges prove successful

Greenwich residents are among the most successful in England and Wales at challenging their council tax bills – as hundreds of people in other south east London boroughs join them as well.

The Valuation Office Agency – which gives the Government property valuations and advice – resolved 190 challenges from Greenwich residents over their council tax bill in 2020-21 – with 100 (53 per cent) resulting in a reduction.

Of areas in England and Wales with at least 100 challenges resolved, this was one of the highest success rates, and well above the 9 per cent seen in Windsor and Maidenhead, in the South East, and Oldham, in Greater Manchester.

Across the two nations, 11,670 resolved disputes (31 per cent) resulted in a resident’s council tax band being decreased last year – up from 29 per cent in 2019-20.

Just 40 households saw their council tax band increase.

Overall, 40,620 challenges were launched nationally in 2020-21 – 200 of them in Greenwich.

Bromley

The Valuation Office received 210 challenges from Bromley residents over their council tax bill in 2020-21 – though this was down from 230 the year before.

Of the 200 challenges which were resolved last year, 60 (30 per cent) resulted in the occupier’s council tax bill decreasing, but between one and four in an increase – though some of these may have been submitted in previous years.

Bexley

The Valuation Office Agency received 190 challenges from Bexley residents over their council tax bill in 2020-21.

This was up from 150 the year before.

Of the 160 challenges resolved last year, 50 (31 per cent) resulted in the occupier’s council tax bill decreasing, and 100 in no change – though some of these may have been submitted in previous years.

Lewisham

The Valuation Office Agency received 150 challenges from Lewisham residents over their council tax bill in 2020-21 – though this was down from 210 the year before.

Of the 160 challenges which were resolved last year, 40 (25 per cent) resulted in the occupier’s council tax bill decreasing, and 120 in no change – though some of these may have been submitted in previous years.

Dartford

The Valuation Office Agency received 80 challenges from Dartford residents over their council tax bill in 2020-21 – though this was down from 90 the year before.

Of the 70 challenges which were resolved last year, 10 (14 per cent) resulted in the occupier’s council tax bill decreasing, and 60 in no change – though some of these may have been submitted in previous years.

Think tank Bright Blue said a rise in the proportion of successful challenges across England shows that the country’s tax system has “long passed its sell-by date”.

All homes are given a council tax valuation band by the VOA based on its value in April 1991 – these range from the cheapest band A to the most expensive band H, with band D the most common.

Bright Blue said the rise in successful challenges is evidence that England’s domestic property tax system is out of date.

Joseph Silke, communications officer at the think tank, said: “The banding system devised three decades ago disproportionately burdens those with more modest means.

“If the Government wants to level up, council tax and stamp duty should be entirely replaced with a fairer annual proportional property tax.”

There are three ways households can contest their council tax, with proposals – formal challenges that do not require evidence – the most used across England and Wales last year, at 57 per cent of all challenges received.

If the VOA rejects this, an appeal (responsible for seven per cent of challenges) can also be made.

Taxpayers can also bring a potential inaccuracy to the VOA through a band review, though they do not have the right of appeal.

The Institute of Economics Affairs said the council tax system is too vulnerable to “arbitrary” challenges by individual households which can affect a lot of people.

Andy Mayer, IEA chief operating officer, said: “Often one person’s appeal triggers the revaluation of a whole group of homes, leading to further appeals.

“Pandemic restrictions have made this more difficult, leading to a backlog of cases.

“At some point the whole system will need to be rebooted, and potentially replaced.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it has no plans to reform council tax.

An MHCLG spokeswoman added: “We are providing councils with £670 million of new grant funding to enable them to continue reducing council tax bills this year for those least able to pay.

“We have allocated over £12 billion directly to councils in England since the start of the pandemic and we continue to keep the position of councils under close review.”

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Bristol – Metro