50,000 low income Scots don't claim tax relief measures

More than 50,000 low income Scots are missing out on council tax exemptions which they are due, it has emerged.

Thousands of Scots are missing out on tax exemptions, Picture: John Devlin
Thousands of Scots are missing out on tax exemptions, Picture: John Devlin

A scheme to protect those households being hit by council tax band changes has not been widely picked up, new figures obtained through Freedom of Information indicates.

Just 2,000 of the possible 54,000 were using the legislation exempting low income homes from council tax increases, Labour MSP Mark Griffin has found. It means 95 per cent of eligible households are missing out on the Low Income Household Exemption scheme.

Mr Griffin said: “Over 50,000 households were meant to benefit from this exemption from higher council tax charges, but just a handful actually are. Struggling families and pensioners are missing out on key support and facing massive council tax bills as a result.

“Just days after voting down plans to top-up child benefit by £5 per week, these figures show once again the SNP likes to talk the talk on poverty, but isn’t up to the job of helping Scotland’s poorest.

“We need to see more action from the SNP to boost take-up and get people the support they deserve.”

The council tax reduction scheme affects those on low incomes with homes in bands E to H, which were increased by the Scottish Government from April 2017. Single person households with net income of up to £16,750 and all other households with net income of up to £25,000 and less than £16,000 in savings are eligible to apply for a full exemption from the increased charge. A total of 32 local authorities were asked for the numbers of awards they have made to households under the scheme, while 28 responded with the data, four were unable to generate the figures.

There were 1,998 claims awarded by the 28 councils who provided the data.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Since 2013/14 we have invested more than £1 billion in the Council Tax Reduction Scheme which has helped more than 500,000 households, while we have also made council tax fairer and included a 25 per cent increase to the child allowance in the Council Tax Reduction Scheme reforms that were introduced last year.”

She urged Scots who think they might be eligible for either the Council Tax Reduction or the Low Income Household exemption to contact their local council.