BENEFITS EXPERT: Concerns over council tax

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My mother is a pensioner receiving a 25% single occupancy discount on her Council Tax and a further reduction because of her low income.

My brother, who is away at university, will be staying with her during the summer. Will this affect her Council Tax payments?

C.P. (by Email).

Full-time students are not counted as residents, so your mother will keep her deduction for living alone.

From 2013 each council has had its own scheme for helping Council Tax payers on low incomes. Pensioners, however, are covered by the old scheme under which no contribution is taken from a full-time student. So your mother’s situation will not change.

My daughter, who is a lone parent, has just been laid off. Weekly, she now gets £72 Income Support (IS), £49 Child Tax Credit (CTC) and £20.70 Child Benefit.

She lives in a Gentoo house, paying £13 a week rent and £12 a week Council Tax. Are these amounts correct?

Dad (Sunderland).

The maximum CTC in respect of one child is £63.94 a week.

Someone who, like your daughter, is not eligible for Working Tax Credit will be entitled to this if their annual taxable income is under £16,105.

She might be receiving less than the maximum because her award is based on last year’s income.

If this is the case she might wish to explain that her expected income for the current year will be less than last year.

Or she might be repaying a past overpayment by having deductions made from her current award.

However, if she is entitled to maximum Tax Credit, as she appears to be, the award should only be reduced by 10% in respect of overpayment recovery.

I would suggest your daughter contacts the Tax Credit Office on 0345 300 3900 to ensure they have her up to date information and to obtain an explanation of how her award has been calculated.

People on IS qualify for maximum Housing Benefit.

In the case of a Gentoo tenant, this usually means they only have to pay water charges. £13 a week seems rather high for water charges alone, so I suggest she queries this with the council.

A person on IS, like your daughter, is also eligible for maximum help under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme. In Sunderland this usually means the person has to pay only 8.5% of their Council Tax.

£12 a week looks like full Council Tax, so again I suggest she contacts the Council. Unless she still owes Council Tax for a past period, she should only be paying a pound or two a week.