Introduction

Local councils can make decisions about the amount of discount awarded or premiums charged locally for certain types of property. Councils also have powers to create their own discounts and exemptions.

Somerset Council was formed on 1 April 2023 from the former Somerset County Council and four district Councils in Somerset (Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset West and Taunton Council and South Somerset District Council).

In the lead up to the new Somerset Council, Somerset County Council, under powers granted by The Somerset (Structural Changes) Order 2022 and as the ‘Continuing Authority’, made decisions at its meeting on 23 November 2022. The decisions were about Council Tax discounts and premiums for the new Somerset Council effective from 1 April 2023.

Somerset Council made decisions at a meeting on 20 December 2023. This was in respect of changes to the qualification period for long-term empty property premiums, effective from 1 April 2024. And to introduce premiums for second homes, effective from 1 April 2025. These decisions have been made in accordance with changes introduced by the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023.

The discounts, exemptions and premiums applied by Somerset Council

These discounts, exemptions and premiums will be applicable from 1 April 2023 unless otherwise specified. In respect of any period prior to 1 April 2023 any discounts, exemptions and premiums will be determined in line with the policy in operation for that period by the relevant former district council.

Empty properties

Unoccupied and substantially unfurnished properties will count as empty for Council Tax purposes.

No discount will apply for these types of properties.

Properties under Structural Repair or in Need of Major Repair

This includes properties that are unoccupied, substantially unfurnished and requiring or undergoing structural alterations or major repair.

No discount will apply for these types of properties.

Long Term Empty and Substantially Unfurnished Dwellings

Properties are classed as being ‘long term empty’ where they have been continuously empty for a specified period of time. Premiums (additional charges) will apply as detailed below.

  • For the period 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024, a 100% Premium, where the property has been empty for more than two years (2x charge)
  • From 1 April 2024, a 100% Premium, where the property has been empty for more than one year (2x charge)
  • A 200% Premium, where the property has been empty for between five and ten years (3x charge)
  • A 300% Premium, where the property has been empty for more than 10 years (4x charge)

The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023 provides councils with the power to reduce the qualification period for the long-term empty property premium from two years to one year. Somerset Council has made the decision at its meeting on 20 December 2023 to reduce the period to one year.

Government have indicated their intention to introduce a number of specific exemptions from premiums for long-term empty properties. The details of these exemptions and how to apply for them will be provided when available.

Care Leavers

The council has created a 100% discount for care leavers, where:

  • they are liable for Council Tax as an occupier in the property for which they are claiming the discount whether or not they live alone;
  • they are below the age of 25; and
  • they are a registered care leaver with Somerset Council or any other relevant local authority within the United Kingdom (and subject to the provision of proof of registration, where required).

Foster Carers

The council has created a 50% discount for foster carers or qualifying special guardians where they:

  • are fully approved as a foster carer by the new Council and meet the care skills standard;
  • have provided foster care to a child for a total of 26 weeks (182 days) in the previous 12 months from 1 February to 1 January;
  • maintain their approval as a foster carer with the Council;
  • maintain their availability to foster;
  • live within the Somerset area;
  • claim all relevant benefits and discounts to which they would usually be entitled;
  • claim this discount only on the one dwelling which is their main residence; and
  • agree to receiving this Council Tax discount.

You do not need to apply for this discount. The Foster Care and Kinship teams will identify where you qualify for the discount and will contact you.

Second Homes Premiums

The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023 provides councils with the power to charge a premium in respect of second homes. Somerset Council has made the decision at its meeting on 20 December 2023 to charge a second homes premium.

Second homes for Council Tax purposes are dwellings that are furnished but unoccupied – they are no one’s ‘sole or main residence’. This includes furnished unoccupied properties which may be subject to a planning restriction on occupation.

A 100% premium (2 x charge) will apply for these types of properties from 1 April 2025.

Full details of the Council Report and decisions

Government have indicated their intention to introduce a number of specific exemptions from second home premiums. The details of these exemptions and how to apply for them will be provided when available.

The Council has also agreed a new Council Tax Reduction (support) scheme from 1 April 2023 onwards. Details of this scheme can be found here.

Other statutory discounts and exemptions will continue to apply in respect of Council Tax and cover a variety of different circumstances, as detailed below.

See the Council Tax Exemptions at 100% table at full width
See the Council Tax Exemptions at 50% / 25% table at full width

Last reviewed: December 21, 2023 by Jenny

Next review due: June 21, 2024

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