Press release: Unpaid carers may be missing out on tax discount because of misleading government website

Published on 4 August 2016

Lone parents who care for their adult disabled children may be missing out on a valuable tax concession because of misleading information on the government website, says the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG).

Responding to a recent government consultation on how to improve support for unpaid carers, LITRG said that improvements to their financial positions could actually be achieved in some relatively small, straightforward steps. Of particular significance would be correcting an oversimplified explanation on GOV.UK as to which live-in carers can be disregarded for council tax purposes– a move which could see many more of them applying for the ‘single person’ discount.

Council tax bills are generally based on the assumption that there are at least two adults living in the property. However, if only one adult lives in, or is treated as living in, the property a 25 per cent discount can be applied. Certain categories of adults are ‘disregarded’ when it comes to calculating council tax - including carers in certain circumstances.

The current explanation on GOV.UK as to who can be disregarded says ‘People who are severely mentally impaired, and live-in carers who aren’t family members, aren’t included when working out council tax’. LITRG points out that what the law actually says is that live-in carers who aren’t the spouse or partner of the person they care for, or their parent if they care for a child under 18 aren’t included when working out council tax - which leaves a much wider group of carers eligible to be disregarded.

Anthony Thomas, Chairman of LITRG, said:

“The current explanation on this GOV.UK page leaves us with the very worrying possibility that many types of carer, such as parents who care for adult children, nieces who care for aunts and brothers who care for sisters, may have been missing out on this very useful concession. Admittedly, you can find a qualification of the term ‘family members’ by following a link from the principal page, but this still does not give the full story.

“On the basis that the average B and D council tax is around £1,500, a 25 per cent discount can be immensely valuable to unpaid carers who will be incurring extra expenses and will probably also have had to give up full time work to undertake their caring duties.

“We call on those who run GOV.UK to change the technical explanation as soon as reasonably practicable. Further, we think an awareness raising programme should be undertaken to advise people who may have been misled into not applying, to apply for a backdated discount.”

Anthony Thomas said:

“This is not the only example of incorrect or misleading information on GOV.UK which could cause difficulties for unrepresented individuals more generally, not just unpaid carers. Much important detail on areas within our remit - tax, National Insurance and tax credits, for example - is abridged or even missing from GOV.UK. As a result, people who rely on GOV.UK as their primary source of information on government services could not only miss out on reliefs or exemptions from which they might otherwise benefit; they could also incur penalties because the information they are given about what they must do, and by when, is inadequate.

“We would be keen to discuss our concerns with the Government Digital Service at the earliest opportunity.”

LITRG's response can be read here.

(04-08-2016)

Contact: Meredith McCammon (please use form at /contact-us) or follow us on Twitter: @LITRGNews