Thump! Yes, the annual council tax bill is landing. The increase this year is well above – or slightly below – inflation depending on where you live and which government price index you believe.
But you might be able to take your tax back to its 2004 level if your home is one of the hundreds of thousands that have been put in the wrong band.
Step 1: check on your neighbours. If you live in a row of similar houses the chances are they should all be in the same band. You can check what they pay at the valuation office agency website and click on the council tax link on the front page. In Scotland go to Scottish Assessors Association and put in your postcode.
If any of your neighbours pay less council tax than you, look at their home and see whether you think it should be the same. Remember how the property was when bands were assessed in 1991 (or when the home was built if that is later). If your band is higher than that of similar homes nearby, it is worth going on to the next step.
But here comes the big but. One outcome might be your neighbour’s home is raised to your level, or there is also a chance your home will be re-banded upwards to meet theirs.
Step 2: contact your local listing officer in England or the local assessor in Scotland. Find out where yours is at www.voa.gov.uk/where/index.htm or www.saa.gov.uk/saacontacts.html. (In Wales don’t bother – they were revalued in 2005. In Northern Ireland the system is different but try www.mycapitalvalueni.gov.uk). A valuation can be reviewed if you have a genuine reason to think it is wrong. If you want more evidence, use the internet to find a rough valuation of your property at April 1991 prices. More details at www.moneysavingexpert.com/council.
If your request is rejected, the local office will explain how you can appeal. If you succeed, the change should be backdated to the start of council tax in April 1993. If your home is moved up a band, that only applies for future years. Phew!
One final tip. If you live alone your council tax should be cut by 25%. Contact your council. It should be backdated to the day you first lived there alone. Now that is an easy £350 saved. Magic!
Paul Lewis is a freelance writer who presents Money Box on BBC Radio 4