Tens of thousands of ‘Severely Mentally Impaired’ (SMI) people who are entitled to a Council Tax discount could be missing out on about £400 a year, says MoneySavingExpert.com
If someone is diagnosed as SMI, they can be ‘disregarded for council tax purposes’ in England, Scotland and Wales – similarly to students.
By law, to qualify, someone must be medically certified as having a severe mental impairment (i.e. one that severely and permanently affects their intellectual and social functioning). This is a medical diagnosis, but the underlying cause could be a condition such as dementia (including Alzheimer’s), severe learning difficulties, or something else.
It’s important to note that having an underlying condition does not automatically mean a person is SMI.
If a person is diagnosed with SMI, this means you can claim:
A 25% discount – if you live with someone who’s ‘severely mentally impaired’ and no other adults, or only adults who have also been disregarded for council tax purposes. Effectively you get a single person’s discount – but when claiming, specify you require a discount because you are living with someone who is severely mentally impaired.
A 100% discount – if you’re severely mentally impaired and live alone, you shouldn’t pay any council tax.
Who is eligible for the discount?
Both of the following must apply for someone who’s severely mentally impaired to qualify for the council tax discount:
- They have been medically certified as being severely mentally impaired. For example, this may be the case if they have dementia (including Alzheimer’s), Parkinson’s, severe learning difficulties, or a stroke. It will depend on each individual’s case, though having been diagnosed doesn’t automatically mean they qualify – a doctor must also certify they are severely mentally impaired. GPs are not allowed to charge you for this certification.
- They are eligible for (but NOT necessarily receiving) at least one of the following benefits:
- Incapacity benefit
- Attendance allowance
- Severe disablement allowance
- Disability living allowance (higher or middle-rate care component)
- Increase in disablement pension (due to constant attendance being needed)
- Unemployment supplement or allowance
- Constant attendance allowance
- Income support (which includes a disability premium)
- Personal independence payment (standard or enhanced daily living component)
- Armed Forces independence payment
- In England, you can also be eligible for:
- Disability working allowance (based on getting income support, including disability premium)
- Universal credit (including an element for limited capability for work or limited capability for work and work-related activity)
How to claim the discount
The process for making a claim varies by area, so you’ll need to check your local authority’s procedure. But here are the basics (for England, Scotland and Wales) :
- Get a claim form from your council. You’ll need to contact your local authority for a claim form to register for a council tax discount (find contact details via the Government’s ‘Apply for Council Tax Reduction’ service).
- Then, you’ll need a doctor’s diagnosis. A registered medical practitioner must have diagnosed you as severely mentally impaired. In some cases, you’ll need to attach a written diagnosis to your claim – in others, you give your doctor’s details, and they’ll be contacted for confirmation. GPs are not allowed to charge you for this certification.
- Fill the form in and send it off to your council. You may be asked to attach some supporting evidence, such as the doctor’s diagnosis or evidence of eligibility for relevant benefits.
Procedures vary by council, so if you want to know how long the discount will take to apply, it’s best to check with yours directly.
How to get a rebate if you’ve already overpaid
Here it gets a bit trickier – not all councils allow you to apply for a backdated discount, though we think they should. If your council does allow you to make a retrospective claim, here is what you will need to do:
- You’ll need to write to your local authority explaining the circumstances. You’ll need to do this separately, even if you’re claiming for a reduction in the future, though you can attach your rebate letter to the claim form.
- You don’t need to explain why you didn’t apply for a reduction earlier. But you must prove the criteria for a discount applied at the relevant time in the past.
- It’s worth noting that different councils seem to have varying interpretations of the reclaim process. However, the most common way of calculating when the reclaim should be backdated to seems to be based on when the person who is ‘SMI’ first started receiving a qualifying benefit.
If you lived with someone who was ‘SMI’ and who has since died, you may still be able to claim. You may be able to get a rebate on payments for the period when the person who was impaired lived with you. The process is the same, so you’ll still need proof of the person’s condition, such as a doctor’s letter.
With thanks to an article in MoneySavingExpert.com by Megan French, Assistant News & Features Editor.