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By Keith A. Forbes. Disabled, he lives in Eastbourne and writes, administers and webmasters this website. He is a member of the UK's The Society of Authors and an activist for the elderly and disabled.
Council Taxes have been described by leading British newspapers as Britain's most hated taxes, for their nation-wide unfairness.
As merely one prominent newspaper's international condemnation see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10431722/Britons-pay-the-highest-property-taxes-in-the-developed-world.html published in June 2016. Massive inequities since 1991 have been deliberately ignored by the British Government and Members of Parliament of all political parties. They have never en masse changed the system, nor have county councillors, their Local Government Association, Citizens Advice Bureau, Rip-off Britain, etc. The UK's present system of low council taxes even at the highest Band H for the most expensive central London properties but in comparison huge council taxes beyond the City of Westminster is manifestly unjust.
Councils throughout the UK have not changed or amended their Council Tax methodology via re-assessments and re-valuations on domestic (non-commercial) properties since 1991, unlike in the USA, Canada, Bermuda, Barbados, Australia, much of the EU, etc. There, they are required by law to review their property tax assessments at every five years, sometimes every year. In the re-evaluation process they try to ensure that properties of a similar assessed or market value, irrespective of whether a flat or townhouse or single family home, are taxed uniformly, in various extended tax bands based solely on assessed or comparable market value. Since Council Tax took over from Poll Tax in April 1991, there has never been a subsequent or thorough re-evaluation.
Councils in Eastbourne and rest of the UK are required by law to and routinely re-assess their business rates (taxes, in lieu of domestic Council Tax) every five years. Businesses pay their rates taxes via a complex formula, based not on property market values but perceived or assessed annual rental value. In some cases, it is known that this tax on businesses is merely a fraction of what domestic property owners or occupiers have to pay in Council Taxes. For example, a hotel or guest house or bed-and-breakfast business that uses a 2-3 bedroom detached cottage or similar building on the property as the residence of the property's manager will pay in rates the equivalent of Band A in Council Tax but if it was not such a business the domestic property Council Tax could easily be a C, D or E.
From March 2020 during the Covid 19 pandemic crisis, with most businesses closed there was relief from business rates. But there has been no relief to owners or leaseholders of residential properties.
But it has to be seen to be balanced, fair, equitable, logical and consistent. It should be a reliable indicator of the fair market value of a property including the house or flat or cottage or bungalow, land on which it sits, what outbuildings or garages there are. It should not matter for evaluation purposes whether the property is a house or flat or cottage or bungalow, exactly the same criteria should apply, instead of it being so discriminatory as it is now. What should matter are the actual or accurately assessed market price, a legislative methodology to ensure the entire valuation system is reviewed regularly at least every five years, the assessment is open enough to ensure that every property bought and or sold routinely shows both its market price and its council or property tax on property particulars and by doing so avoid any accusation of discrimination, with the valuation of every property open for public inspection to achieve complete transparency. It should not be just a single isolated local authority tax but one mindful of and comparable with council taxes in other areas. It should have enough council tax banding width to easily ensure that unless a property is equal in total value to Buckingham Palace it should be council taxed at merely a fraction of the latter's council tax. And if/when market prices fall instead of going up, the property tax should also fall.
Examples of unfair comparative council taxes
A spacious penthouse 3 bedroom apartment in the affluent area of Silverdale Road, Lower Meads, Eastbourne, was advertised for sale at £385,000 showing Council Tax D but a 2 bedroom upper ground floor apartment on San Diego Way, Sovereign Harbour North, Eastbourne, worth much less, £260,000, has to pay a higher tax, in Council Tax Band E.
A 4 bedroom house on Cheviot Close, Eastbourne BN23 was advertised for sale at in excess of £450,000, had a Council Tax of Band E.
There is no single uniform council tax system throughout the UK. Every every council can set its own council taxes providing they abide by the parameters established as 1991 Property Valuation Bands. That is why there are such huge differences. Because the UK Council or Property Tax system completely ignores a property's land and outbuildings, places like Buckingham Palace and all other massive properties, which often have significant areas of land including lakes and outbuildings galore, especially those in exceptionally affluent areas, the latter pay far less tax than leasehold not freehold 2 bedroom flats or apartments with no land our garages or outbuildings owned by the property. Under the present system dating back to 1991 and never changed since then, with Council Tax Bands of only A to H, not A-Z, the less well-off are significantly over-taxed and the much more affluent are hugely under-taxed.
Unfortunately, no such fair, decent, consistent, regularly updated methodology applies to Council Taxes in Eastbourne. Instead, it and its East Sussex Council partner applies such a massively unfair council tax system that even small modest two bedroom flats with a market value of under £260,000 and no property-owned land at all pay appreciably more Council Tax than (a) other local properties with an often far higher market value. One example is Buckingham Palace, London, 775 rooms, 90 miles away, worth 980 billion and similar multi-million properties in central London. In comparison, in Eastbourne's Sovereign Harbour, a modest (market value £260,000) 2 bedroom leased (not owned) flat pays significantly more,
Above: Eastbourne 2021-2022 Council Taxes, compared with 2021-2022 City of Westminster Council Taxes below
City of Westminster, London, 2021-2022 Council Taxes, compared with Eastbourne 2021-2022 Council Taxes above
Why does this Eastbourne semi-detached house, so much smaller in size and value than Buckingham Palace shown above and other central London multi-million pound properties, have to pay so much more in Council Tax than they do? The UK is the only place in the democratic world where this grotesque Human Rights Wrong exists.
Bungalows have an unjustifiably higher Council Tax banding compared to single family homes with more than one storey and worth much more. They may take more airspace than the latter but their owners pay more in Council Taxes than properties with more than one floor and staircase and have a higher market value.
In contrast, park homes pay less. For example, a spacious 2-bedrrom £224,950 bungalow park home at Eastbourne Heights, Oak Tree Lane, Eastbourne, was advertised for sale in 2021 with Council Tax Band A.
Councils could save huge amounts of money annually in salaries and benefits presently paid to their employees by combining Council Taxes and Business Rates into one new uniformly applied Property Tax system applicable to all domestic owners or occupiers and businesses based solely on present market value, and re-assessed every five years.
In the USA and beyond, property taxes are based on two components: a home’s assessed value and the county’s tax rate. Taxes rise or fall depending on current or accurately assessed values.
In the USA and elsewhere, but not in the UK, property tax exemptions or heavy discounts for the disabled seniors, those over 65, are common USA-wide. All American states without exception and their local authorities have long been offering routinely to their senior citizens over 65 mostly when earning under US$50,000 annually, the disabled of any age and military veterans. Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, and European countries have followed the US example. There, they either no longer charge their disabled or over 65 year old owner-residents any council-tax equivalent property taxes if below a certain taxable value or apply a generous discount of up to 50%. In stark contrast, most elderly in the UK who are home owners or renters get no Council Tax relief at all unless they are either earning a means-tested minimum income to qualify or, if (a) disabled and (b) can qualify in one-band facilities requirements where they live.
In the USA, in 2019 the median property tax throughout the country was $2,232. (The only exceptions to this are Westchester and Rockland counties, both in New York). Hugely more than in London, England. (The median is $216 a year in Tunica County, Mississippi.)
Here in the UK, revenues raised from property taxes typically pay for things like schools, parks, libraries, transportation infrastructures. They used to include police and fire services but in places like Eastbourne, East Sussex, these are now extra. Council taxes on domestic properties have never been reduced, even when market prices of properties have declined significantly.
In none of the cities or towns of Europe, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc. do any such similar massive property tax wrongs occur. Everywhere else revises their methodology at least once every five years and makes appropriate corrections to help ensure no one property is taxed higher than an equivalently priced property. There, property taxes are paid on both land and buildings owned by that property.
|A||Up to and including £40,000|
|H||More than £320,000|
These property Valuation Bands, still being used today, are, in 2021, 30 years out-of-date. Very few properties in the Eastbourne area are worth less than £88.000 and there are many properties worth considerably more than 320,000. It is obscenely unfair, a massive Human Rights wrong, that all properties valued below £320,000 should have to pay such high Council Taxes when properties worth millions of pounds pay so little.
Eastbourne and region council tax bills are divided between East Sussex County Council (73%), Eastbourne Borough Council (12%), Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (10%) and East Sussex Fire Authorities (5%(.
Why are there only 8 banding areas of A-H? There should be 26, covering A-Z. As mentioned earlier, It is massively unfair that all properties valued below £320,000 should have to pay such high Council Taxes compared to properties worth far more, even millions of pounds, that pay no pro-rata higher Council Taxes at all.
Council Taxes for 2021-2022 are 4.9% higher than in 2020-2021
Council Taxes for 2020-2021 were 4% higher than in 2019-2020.
Council Taxes for 2019-2020 were 5.6% higher than those in 2017-2018 which were nearly 6% higher than those shown for 2016-2017 which were increased by 3% from the previous year.
Eastbourne has one of the highest Council Taxes costs to consumers in the country, with the latter not including Water or Waste Water rates. The Water and Waste Water are paid separately. There is an additional charge for Police and Fire Services protection, unlike in most other Council Tax areas. Plus, if you live in the Sovereign Harbour area, whether you live in a house or flat each owner or leaseholder or renter has to pay an additional charge of over £260 a year, irrespective of whether a property is worth £165,000 (a few) or under £300,000 (most) £1.4 million (six) as an Estate Rental Charge for sea defences and harbour maintenance, the only such charge of its type anywhere else in the UK or Europe or the world. Plus, if you live in the applicable section of Sovereign Harbour South, there is a separate Water Feature charge. New Sovereign Harbour area residents do not pay the same rate of Council Taxes as the rest of Eastbourne, they are at least one band higher even when the market values of Sovereign Harbour houses or flats are appreciably lower than in, for example, Meads.
The table above shows the Council Tax required by the four authorities listed above. Over 3% of the increase is for higher social welfare funding alone - to benefit only some, by no means all - of their council tax payers, only those with total assets of under £16,250. Why are they being raised at all? Because Members of Parliament, collectively, irrespective of political parties, but led by Conservative Governments have voted en masse over the past six years to decrease significantly the funding they give to local councils, including all the social care costs the Parliament, not local councils, once paid for. Which means the latter have to both pass on the cost to their taxpayers and cut many council services they once had. Yet the central government, not local councils, continues to fund all hospitals. Why one but not the other, especially when the National Health Service is so chronically in need of extra staff and more funding to help cope with unprecedented demand that have made headlines galore in the news media? Members of Parliament, not just local councils, are principally to blame for all local council tax increases over the past six years. Yet MPs have not ever, in the last 26 years, legislated for wholesale revisions, or re-valuations, in Council Tax methodology, unlike in all other countries. If they truly represented, instead of ignoring for so long in these respects, the hopes and needs of their constituents they would legislate for nationwide revaluations first, then try to soften the blow with justification for Council Tax increases.
Constant additions to council taxes without simultaneous proper re-valuations are costing homeowners disproportionately, especially those in council tax bands D and E
It is stated, wrongly, that the amount of Council Tax you pay is based on the value of your property. That was deemed to be the case in April 1991, 26 years ago, when Council Taxes started but it is manifestly obvious it is not the case today. It is probable that as many as 46% of all Eastbourne homes could be wrongly Council Taxed when present market values are taken into account.
Why are the total area of properties, including land, garages and outbuildings, ignored? In the democratic counties (of which the UK is clearly not, based on Council Tax injustices), they must by law be included.
The Valuation Office, the Government's agency ultimately responsible for Council Taxes in the Eastbourne area and beyond, has no transparency. Its website does not allow you to see council taxes payable elsewhere. In other parts of the world, the information is readily available. In Scotland, by contrast, even though the same injustices apply, you can access the Scottish Assessors Association website and, if you are patient enough, can find out online council tax details for any Scottish property.
In most of Eastbourne, persons buying or selling apartments, flats and other types of homes cannot compare different Council Tax rates in different areas before they buy. Why not? Because estate agents now hardly ever make any mention of the Council Tax payable at the property being marketed. Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act Act 2008 they are now required by law to do so. Local councils must therefore permit those of us in small or modest sized homes and flats in one area of Eastbourne to know they will pay appreciably more in Council Taxes in Bands D and E than on other areas of Eastbourne. When you compare Council Tax bands in Sovereign Harbour with other parts of Eastbourne you come across some outrageous higher Council Tax banding here compared to there. The present banding system is so blatantly unfair that even when properties in a certain apartment building have more bedrooms than others, or garages when others do not, homeowners often pay the same in Council Tax. And properties such as apartment buildings which are adjacent to each other, and have similar pricing and facilities, such as at Eugene Way and at 12, 14 and 16 San Diego Way, both in Eastbourne's Sovereign Harbour North, have different Council Taxes. At Eugene Way they are a D but at 16 San Diego Way they are an E. On the topic of apartments or flats, their owners incur restrictions such as not having central heating, not being able to hang their washed clothes on their balconies, not being able to have their own garages, not having any land of their own, etc. but pay more in council tax than single family homes with all these features. At all the three Chatsworth Strand buildings, some have garages while others do not, yet all pay the same council tax.
After Council Tax Hikes: Impact on Properties and People. See https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/after-council-tax-impacts-property-tax-reform-people-places-and-house-prices. .
Social Care Needs More Money, But Council Tax is not the way to deliver it. See http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2016/12/john-oconnell-social-care-needs-more-money-but-higher-council-tax-is-not-the-right-way-to-deliver-it.html.
Disabled band reduction
Empty property discount
Exemption for imprisonment
Exemption for long-term hospital or care home stay
Exemption for unrelated live-in carers
Full-time student discount
Furnished second home discount
Pension credit discount
Self-contained ‘Granny annex’ discount for a retired or otherwise qualified person or persons
Severe mental impairment discount
Single person discount
Apply to: Listing Officer, Valuation Office, St. Anne's House. Eastbourne BN21 3LG. Telephone: 03000 501 501. Fax: 01323 530 099.
Making an appeal against a Council Tax Reduction decision. If you as a newcomer believe you are being unfairly Council Tax-banded, be sure to lodge your appeal within six months of your property purchase or rental or lease. To appeal against the Valuation Office's decision regarding a Council Tax Reduction application, you must write to that office identifying the decision and telling them why you think they are wrong. The technical term for this is making a ‘grievance." The Valuation Office will write to you within two months from the date of receipt. It will tell you whether it agree or not with your appeal (grievance). If after it writes, you still disagree, or if you have not been replied within two months from the date the Valuation Office has received your appeal (grievance) then you may appeal to the Valuation Tribunal Service. You will need to fill in an appeal form. You can do this online at www.valuationtribunal.gov.uk or by telephoning: 0300 123 1033. You must send your appeal to the Valuation Tribunal within two months of the date of it writing to you, or if you have not received a reply within two months. Note that well over 90% appeals are dismissed, with the valuation office dismissing them for such things as unobstructed sea views very unfairly when this has already been built into the market place paid by a buyer. Also, instead of having appeals heard at the Eastbourne Valuation Office they are heard in often-out-of-the way areas which often make it difficult for appellants to attend. When they don't attend, their appeals are dismissed.
If this appeal procedure does not work, and you genuinely feel you have good grounds, then appeal to your Member of Parliament.
Councils in Eastbourne and throughout the UK must completely change or amend their methodology. Keeping it at 1991 levels and making consumers with far less affluent properties pay more than owners of £ multi-million properties is a fundamental Human Rights wrong. Everywhere else revises their methodology at least once every five years and makes appropriate corrections to help ensure no one property is taxed higher than an equivalently priced property. There, property taxes are paid on land, buildings, garages and outbuildings owned by that property. That appears to be the norm everywhere these authors have investigated. Councils should be required by law to review their property tax assessments every five years and in the process ensure that properties of a similar assessed or market value, irrespective of whether a flat or townhouse or single family home, are taxed uniformly, in various extended tax bands based solely on assessed or comparable market value. The councils' present policy of making consumers pay appreciably more for town houses or flats than single homes with a much higher market price is another Human Rights wrong.
Councils should cease having only 8 banding areas of A-H. There should be 26, covering A-Z. Under the present system dating back to 1991 and never changed since then, with Council Tax Bands of only A to H, not A-Z, the less well-off are significantly over-taxed and the much more affluent are hugely under-taxed.
Why do business rates on business properties get raised or lowered based on market value every five years but this has never happened in the case of domestic properties? For several years Eastbourne had a significant decline in property values but this has never resulted in lower council taxes.
Councils could save huge sums of salaries and benefits presently paid to their employees by combining Council Taxes and Business Rates into one new uniformly applied Property Tax system applicable to all domestic owners or occupiers and businesses based solely on present market value, and re-assessed every five years.
Councils, Members of Parliament and the Government in power should think seriously about a third alternative, Health & Social Care Integration as part of their complete change of methodology. It has been the norm in most of the EU countries now for over 25 years and was recently approved by Scotland's parliament and legislated to apply to all Scottish Councils. By incorporating Council and jurisdictional NHS budgets it eliminates the problems the NHS as a stand-alone institution has been having almost daily in waiting times for patients of up to 13 hours according to headline news-media reports.
The Valuation Office, the Government's agency ultimately responsible for Council Taxes in the Eastbourne area and beyond, should have complete transparency. Its website should allow you to see council taxes payable elsewhere. In other parts of the world, the information is readily available. In Scotland, by contrast, even though the same injustices apply, you can at least access the Scottish Assessors Association website and, if you are patient enough, can find out online council tax details for any Scottish property.
Councils should require buyers and sellers of homes and all other properties to reveal the property's council tax, not hide them.
Elderly homeowners of modestly priced properties should receive an appreciable discount or exemption, such as in places such as Barbados, Bermuda and elsewhere where homeowners do not have to give financial information to justify their requests.
Properties re-assessed under new methodology should be for any number of people living there in one unit, not based on one or two as presently with a single occupant getting a 25% discount.
When so re-assessed, facilities suitable for the disabled should be noted. Presently, it seems, from the fact a council member has to visit when a disabled person applies for one-banding relief, councils don't know what is in the property they are council-taxing. In any re-assessment, consideration should not be given, as some have suggested, to the income of the homeowner. It is the property's market or properly assessed present value that should be the only determining factor, not the homeowner's affluence or lack of it.
By this same author
researched, compiled and website-managed by Keith A. Forbes.
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