You can only get council tax if:
- you normally live in Scotland
- you are ‘habitually resident’, including having a ‘right to reside’
- you are not a ‘person subject to immigration control’.
You can only get council tax reduction if you ‘normally live’ in a home in Scotland, and are liable to pay council tax for it. To decide whether you normally live somewhere, the local authority considers any other homes you sometimes live in, whether they are in Scotland or not.
Once you get council tax reduction, it can continue during a ‘temporary absence’ from your home. If you go abroad, this can normally only last for a maximum of one month, unless your job means you have to work outside the UK.
If you are not abroad, you council tax reduction can sometimes continue for up to one year, depending on why you are away from home. Contact your local authority if you get council tax reduction and are going to be away from your home (other than for a short holiday), and explain the situation.
If your council tax reduction is stopped, get advice about whether this is correct. If it is not, you should challenge the decision within two months.
To get council tax reduction, you must be ‘habitually resident’ in the common travel area (which is the British Isles, including Ireland). This normally requires that you have lived in one of these countries for the last one to three months, and it is the country that you have the closest current connection to.
As part of this test, the local authority considers whether you have a ‘right to reside’.
If you are a British or Irish citizen you automatically have this right. If you are a national of another European Economic Area country, this depends on how long you have been in the UK, and what you and your family have been doing since you moved here. The rules are complex and local authorities often make incorrect decisions. Get expert advice if you are refused council tax reduction as you do not have a right to reside.
Most nationals of countries outside the European Economic Area may be ‘subject to immigration control’. This can include not being able to access types of financial support that count as ‘public funds’. Council tax reduction is included in the list of public funds.
Applying for council tax reduction if you or a member of your family is not allowed to get public funds can affect your right to stay in the UK or extend your visa. You should get expert immigration advice before you apply for council tax reduction if you are unsure of your immigration status or that of someone in your family. You can find immigration advisers in your area using the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner’s adviser finder.