More people in Preston are fighting council tax charges

Big rise in challenges in city as campaigners call for scrapping of the tax

Increasing numbers of Preston residents are challenging their council tax bills.

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".

The Valuation Office Agency – which gives the Government property valuations and advice – received 120 challenges from Preston residents over their council tax bill in 2020-21.

Rise in council tax challenges launched in Preston

This was up from 70 the year before.

Of the 100 challenges resolved last year, 40 (40 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.

Across England and Wales, 40,620 challenges were launched last year – down from 43,650 in 2019-20.

Of the 38,070 resolved disputes, 11,670 (31 per cent) resulted in the council tax band being decreased – up from 29 per cent in 2019-20.

Just 40 households saw their council tax band increase.

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Bright Blue said the rise in successful challenges is evidence that England's domestic property tax system is out of date.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 £670m 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 £12bn directly to councils in England since the start of the pandemic and we continue to keep the position of councils under close review.”