Council tax: Exemptions and discounts for mental health
Council tax exemptions and discounts are available to claim if a mental health condition permanently affects your ability to perform normal daily tasks. If you or someone you live with is diagnosed with a ‘severe mental impairment’, you could be eligible for a council tax exemption or discount.
Do I have to pay council tax if I have a mental health condition?
If you or someone you live with have a mental health condition that permanently affects the ability to perform everyday tasks, you could be eligible for a council tax exemption or discount.
What does council tax exemption mean?
Being exempt from council tax means you do not have to pay council tax. You may be entitled to a council tax exemption or discount if your mental health has a permanent and substantial effect on your ability to perform simple tasks and activities on a day-to-day basis.
How do I know if I can apply for council tax exemption?
If you have a severe mental impairment, the council should not include you as eligible for council tax. This is called being 'disregarded'.
You may qualify for a council tax exemption or discount if you or someone in your household is diagnosed as 'severely mentally impaired' by a registered medical practitioner (For example, GP, Psychiatrist, Neurologist etc.).
A form will need to be filled in by a registered medical practitioner (usually an applicant's GP) to qualify for a council tax exemption or discount. Your local authority should have further details on their website.
What is defined as 'severe mental impairment' (SMI)?
The law defines SMI as 'a severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning which appears to be permanent'.
This is a medical diagnosis. However, your impairment can be caused by conditions including dementia, Parkinson's and severe learning difficulties. If you or someone you live with is diagnosed with an SMI, you may be eligible for the following council tax exemptions:
You should not have to pay any council tax:
- If you're diagnosed with an SMI and live alone.
- You can get a 25% discount on your council tax:
- If you live with someone who is SMI but no other adults.
- If you only live with adults who are also exempt (For example, Students, Care workers). When you make a claim, remember to say you require the 25% discount because you live with someone who is severely mentally impaired.
What else do I need to qualify for council tax exemption or discount?
If you are medically diagnosed as SMI, you will also need to make a claim for a qualifying benefit before you can make a claim for council tax discount or exemption.
Qualifying benefits include:
- Incapacity Benefit.
- Attendance allowance.
- Constant attendance allowance.
- Severe disablement allowance.
- Disability living allowance (higher or middle rate component).
- Disability working allowance (based on getting income support).
- Increase in disablement pension (due to constant attendance being needed).
- Unemployability supplement or allowance.
- Armed forces independence payment.
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP) (standard or enhanced daily living component).
- Income support (which includes a disability premium).
- Universal Credit (including an element for limited capability for work or limited capability for work and work-related activity).
You must have made a claim for a qualifying benefit before making a council tax discount or exemption claim. Your council tax can be backdated to the date you first claimed a qualifying benefit. There is no time limit for this, so always check the date you first claimed a qualifying benefit before applying for a council tax discount.
Do I have to be receiving benefits before applying for council tax exemption or discount?
You need to have made a claim for a qualifying benefit before making a council tax exemption or discount claim.
How a welfare benefits adviser helped Sandra with a council tax discount
Sandra is 30 years old and lives with her 22-year-old brother Andrew. Andrew is diagnosed with SMI, so he should be considered as 'disregarded' for council tax. Sandra believes she is eligible to apply for a council tax discount.
Sandra is confused by the benefits rules so contacts a benefits adviser to help with her claim.
The benefits adviser tells Sandra that Andrew meets the SMI criteria but must first make a claim for a qualifying benefit. Speaking with Sandra, the adviser discovers Andrew is also eligible for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The adviser helps Sandra apply for PIP on Andrew’s behalf.
Andrew’s PIP benefit claim is processed by the DWP and approved. Sandra can now apply for a council tax discount.
Can I claim a discount if I am SMI but live with more than one adult eligible to pay council tax?
If you are SMI, but you live with two or more adults eligible to pay council tax, you will not receive any discount.
How do I know if my mental health condition qualifies me for council tax exemption or discount?
It can be difficult to know if your mental health illness or other mental health condition is considered a 'severe mental impairment'. Here are some questions to help you check:
Have you been diagnosed with a mental health illness, such as schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder?
Having a mental health illness like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder can permanently prevent you from performing simple day-to-day tasks and activities.
- You cannot leave the house without being accompanied by someone else.
- You need help with washing yourself.
- You need help with cooking and cleaning.
Does your mental illness or condition cause your thinking to be slow or disordered?
Having a mental health illness or other mental health condition can make simple decisions and tasks a permanent struggle to achieve.
- You always struggle to make phone calls or talk to people.
- You always struggle to decide which household bill to pay first.
- You always struggle to decide what time you should leave to see the GP.
Have you been diagnosed with dementia (including Alzheimer's), Parkinson's or another neurological illness?
Parkinson's, dementia or another neurological illness can permanently affect your ability to perform simple tasks on a day-to-day basis.
- Your hands and arms shake so badly you cannot wash your clothes, cook, or hold a pen to write things down.
- You cannot get out of bed without someone to assist you.
- You get tired quickly and fall asleep when performing simple tasks or activities.
Have you had a stroke?
A stroke can permanently affect your ability to perform simple tasks on a day-to-day basis.
- You cannot communicate clearly or at all with other people.
- You need assistance to dress or wash.
- You get tired quickly and fall asleep when performing simple tasks or activities.
Do you have a small social circle and find it hard to trust people?
Always being afraid to go outside or talk to people can make life a daily struggle.
- You have no friends or very few friends.
- You find it hard to reach out and talk to other people because you are afraid something bad will happen to you.
Do you claim PIP and score points for question 11 (Engaging with other people face-to-face)?
This PIP question concerns how your illness or condition makes it tough for you to meet and mix with people.
It also asks if you struggle to judge a social situation and whether you can behave appropriately. Finally, it also asks if you struggle to make friends.
- You always find it difficult to go to meet people or be with groups of people.
- You don't understand the social rules during a formal interview or meeting and interrupt and start to talk over other people.
- You find it hard to make friends with new people.
If you answered "yes" to any of the previous questions, you may be able to apply for a council tax discount or exemption.
Where do I go to apply for council tax exemption or discount?
Each local authority has a website and contact telephone number. You can find out which authority you come under by going to the UK Government website and entering your postcode.
When you have entered your postcode, it will show your authority. You can then apply for a council tax exemption or discount. A direct link to your council's tax exemptions and discounts page will then be displayed.
If you are receiving social care services to support your mental wellbeing, we recommend asking your social worker if they would assist with your claim for exemption.
Further Support for paying your council tax bill
You may be entitled to help with your council tax payments if you are liable for council tax but are on a low income or claim benefits.
Your local authority runs these schemes, and there are two for reducing council tax. You can get help if you're eligible for the:
- Council Tax Reduction Scheme, or the
- The Disability Reduction Scheme.
Council Tax Reduction Scheme
Your local authority, through their local scheme, manages council tax support. The Council Tax Reduction Scheme replaced the national Council Tax Benefit in 2013.
The reduction may cover some, or all, of your council tax bill, but this will depend on your household income.
How much help you can get with your council tax will depend on your local scheme. The government has reduced the money available to local authorities.
This may mean that many working-age people will have to pay their council tax to make up the difference.
It is important to make sure that your council tax bill is correct – you may be able to get your bill reduced if you live alone or are very unwell.
Disability Reduction Scheme
You may be able to get your council tax bill reduced if you or a person that lives with you needs extra space because of a disability; this reduction would be down to the next band. For example, you would be charged the band B rate if your property were in band C.
To qualify for the disabled band reduction, you would have to show that the property is the main home for at least one disabled person.
This does not have to be the person responsible for paying the council tax. The property must have an extra room to meet the needs of the disabled person.
If the room is not a kitchen or bathroom, it must be required by the disabled person. Otherwise, you need extra space to allow for wheelchair use.
You should contact the local authority that issues your council tax bill if you think you qualify for a band reduction.
Find out how Paul was eligible for a council tax reduction
Paul lives with his wife and a nine-year-old child. He has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and has flashbacks.
He is very restless and can't sleep at night, disturbing his family's work and school life. He goes to art therapy every week.
Paul uses a spare room in his house to paint and sculpt, which he finds calming. The room has everything he needs to do his art, somewhere to rest and an en-suite bathroom.
He can try to relax when he can't sleep or is feeling unwell without disturbing his family. The house is in council tax band C and costs £1,202.95 per year.
Still, as the Local Authority agreed that Paul qualifies for the council tax reduction scheme, his bill is reduced to the band B rate of £1,052.57.
Council tax: Exemption or discount for mental health checklist
If you think you or someone you know is severely mentally impaired and eligible for a council tax exemption or discount, remember the following:
- Severe Mental Impairment (SMI) is defined as having "a severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning, which appears permanent."
- Severe Mental Impairment permanently prevents you from performing simple tasks and engaging in day-to-day activities:
- For example:
- You struggle to wash or dress.
- You struggle to talk to people or engage in social activities.
- You cannot go out by yourself or need someone to accompany you.
- For example:
- Severe Mental Impairment can be caused by other conditions like Parkinson's, dementia, and learning disabilities.
- You will need a certificate from a qualified medical practitioner (usually your GP) saying that you are severely mentally impaired (SMI).
- You must have made a claim for a qualifying benefit before applying for a council tax discount or exemption.
- If you are severely mentally impaired and live alone, you are considered a 'disregarded' person by law and should not have to pay any council tax.
- If you are severely mentally impaired and live with one other adult who is not mentally impaired, you can get a 25% discount on your council tax as long as you have made a claim for another qualifying benefit (eg. PIP - standard or enhanced daily living component)
- If you are SMI and you live with two or more adults who are not SMI, you will not get any discount on your council tax.
- Your income and savings should not affect whether you can get a council tax discount.
Further information and support
- Welfare Benefits for Mental Health
- Personal Independence Payment
- Universal Credit
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Council tax: Exemptions and discounts
- Statutory Sick Pay
- Housing Benefit
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Working Tax Credits
- Support for Mortgage Interest
- Attendance Allowance
- Cold Weather Payment
- Income Support
- Incapacity Benefit
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Social Fund