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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Council Tax Rebate - important

Council tax rebate for Dementia Patients

I suspect there are lots of you who are missing out. It is not difficult - basically if you are living with a person with diagnosed dementia or if they are living alone they are entitled to a rebate of council tax which can be backdated to the date of diagnosis. You phone the council ask for a council tax waiver form and then when you fill it in you do so under 'severe mental impairment' which sounds a bit harsh but isn't - and then make sure the doctor puts in the date of diagnosis.

COUNCIL TAX REBATE

Tens of thousands of people who are living or lived with someone with a 'severe mental impairment' may be able to reclaim council tax, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal, after three charities warned many overpay. One MoneySaver told us her mum was refunded £3,000 after overpaying for seven years – here's how to claim.

Someone who has been medically certified as suffering from a permanent condition that affects their intelligence and social functioning (eg, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's) is 'disregarded for council tax purposes' in England, Scotland and Wales – in a similar way that students are, for example.


Normally if there's only one person living in a home, you get a 25% council tax discount. But if you live with someone with a severe mental impairment and no other adults – or only adults who are disregarded for council tax purposes – you can also claim 25% off. You can reclaim retrospectively too.


Anyone with a severe mental impairment who's living alone shouldn't be paying any council tax at all.


Who's eligible to be disregarded for council tax purposes?

There are a number of reasons why someone could be disregarded for council tax – see the full list below. If someone's severely mentally impaired, they'll be disregarded if:
They've been medically certified as being severely mentally impaired. For example, if they have dementia, Parkinson's, severe learning difficulties or have had a stroke.

They're eligible for at least one of the following benefits: (these aren't all means-tested, and they don't actually need to claim any benefits to get the discount)

- Attendance allowance under Sec 64 of the Social Security Contributions & Benefits Act
- Severe disablement allowance
- The highest or middle rate of the care component of a disability living allowance
- The daily living component of personal independence payment
- An increase in the rate of your disablement pension
- Disabled persons tax credit
- Incapacity benefit
- Employment and support allowance
- Unemployability allowance or supplement
- Constant attendance allowance or income support including a disability premium

It's impossible to put an exact figure on the number of people who live with someone who's severely mentally impaired and overpay council tax, but three major charities – the Alzheimer's Society, Parkinson's UK and the Stroke Association – have told us awareness of the tax saving is extremely low among sufferers and their loved ones.

If you're among those who've been missing out on the saving, not only can you make sure you benefit from the 25% discount in future, you can also reclaim retrospectively if you've overpaid at any point since 1993, meaning it's likely 10,000s or even 100,000s may be due a refund.

How do I claim for a reduction or reclaim if I've overpaid in the past?

The process for making a claim varies by area, so you'll need to check your local authority's procedure, but here are the basics. Either you or the person suffering a severe mental impairment can make the claim.
You'll need a doctor's diagnosis. A registered medical practitioner must have diagnosed a condition causing severe mental impairment. In some cases you'll need to attach a written diagnosis to your claim – in others you just give your doctor's details and they'll be contacted for confirmation.


Get a claim form to apply for a reduction going forward. You'll need to contact your local authority for a claim form to register for a council tax discount (find contact details via the Government's 'Apply for Council Tax Reduction' service). Fill this in – you may be asked to attach some supporting evidence, such as the doctor's diagnosis or evidence of receipt of relevant benefits.


If the person with a mental impairment doesn't claim a benefit, you may need a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). If the person you're living with qualifies for a benefit but for whatever reason doesn't claim it (they should), then in some cases councils will ask you to get a letter of confirmation from the DWP saying you're eligible.


Apply for a backdated discount separately. If you're making a retrospective claim, you'll need to write to your local authority explaining the circumstances – you'll need to do this separately even if you're claiming for a reduction going forward as well, though you can attach your letter to the claim form.

You can claim back as far as 1 April 1993, when council tax was first introduced. You don't need to explain why you didn't apply for a reduction earlier, but you will need to prove the criteria for a discount applied at the relevant time in the past.


If you live with someone with a mental impairment who's since died, you can still claim. The process is the same – you should be able to claw back overpayments for the period when the sufferer lived with you. You'll still need proof of the sufferer's condition though, such as a doctor's letter.


In Northern Ireland it works differently. There's a rates system instead of council tax, meaning that every property is valued individually. The only roughly similar discount is the disabled person's allowance, which gives a 25% discount on rates for homes where a disabled person lives and the property has been adapted to suit their needs. 


See full info on the NIdirect website.

'My mum got over £3,000 back'

Kay, the daughter of a couple who had been paying 100% council tax unnecessarily for seven years, told us her mum was subsequently refunded more than £3,000 by Cheshire East Council after the death of her husband who had been suffering from dementia.
Kay told us: "I recently learnt that a person with diminished mental capacity is no longer required to pay council tax and on that basis applied to my local authority to reclaim overpaid tax on behalf of my late father.

"At the time when my parents became eligible for the reduction, my mum was just getting used to managing their affairs on her own. I'm not sure exactly who should have brought it to their attention but I like to think that we're relatively switched on about matters like this – I can't help but feel that if we didn't know about the discount, there may be lots of people in the same situation."

It wasn't until Kay's friend's parents were advised to apply for a council tax reduction that she realised her own mum might be entitled to a refund for overpayments. After doing some research, Kay filled out a claim form and their GP then completed a form to support the claim from details retained in her dad's medical notes.

Kay sent off these documents to Cheshire East Council and within 10 days a lump sum for more than £3,000 was repaid into her mum's bank account, which represented overpayments made between 2007 and 2014, when her dad passed away.
How many people are missing out on the discount?

The Alzheimer's Society, Stroke Association, and Parkinson's UK – which has produced a dedicated booklet on the topic – all told us they believe a large number of people living with someone suffering a severe mental impairment are failing to claim the council tax discount.

The Department for Communities and Local Government and the Local Government Association say there are no official figures – however, based on the best available estimates of the number of people affected, it appears 10,000s or even 100,000s could be eligible to reclaim.

The Alzheimer's Society says there were 850,000 people with dementia in the UK last year, while there are about 127,000 Parkinson's sufferers and more than 1.2 million stroke survivors – and while it's not known how many of these people are eligible for a council tax reduction, many with other conditions will be as well.

By contrast, as of September last year, just 205,084 households were registered as qualifying for a 25% council tax discount – and that figure includes ALL categories of disregarded people (such as student nurses and apprentices), not just those with a severe mental impairment. 

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