Council tax bills will rise sharply next year after the government announced plans to increase the annual price cap.
At present, local authorities can hike the tax by up to 2% a year without having to hold a referendum. However, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid revealed this will be rising to 3% for the 2018/19 tax year.
Once you factor in the additional 3% "precept" that many councils are allowed to apply to cover soaring social care costs, it means households are facing hikes of up to 5.99%.
Javid said the increase to the cap would help councils achieve "the independence they need to help relieve pressure on local services".
However, at almost twice the rate of inflation that will be a painful hike for many to absorb, with many household budgets already stretched to the limit.
If there is one crumb of good news for you in all this, it's that you might be living in one of the estimated 400,000 properties that are in the wrong tax band and could be overpaying.
Why your council tax band may be wrong
The amount of council tax you pay in England, Wales and Scotland, is based on the value of your property and the band this puts you in.
Band A properties have the cheapest bills while Band H properties (or Band I in Wales) pay the most to their local council.
The problem is these valuation bands are completely out of date.
In England and Scotland, the bands are based on property valuations made in April 1991 while in Wales they’re based on valuations from April 2003.
Northern Ireland still uses the old system of rates based on rental values, which was replaced across the rest of the UK in 1993. But this is just as bad as they are based on January 2005 prices.
Obviously many things might have happened since 1993, 2003 or 2005 that will have impacted the value of your property like renovations or changes to the surrounding area that means you should be in a different band.
If you think your council tax band is wrong it’s worth getting it reviewed.
How to challenge your council tax band in England and Wales
If your property is in England or Wales you can do this online via the Direct Gov website provided by the VOA.
You just need to find your property’s council tax band on the valuation list using your postcode and then select your property from the results.
Once you’ve selected the property you can click on the link asking ‘Do you think this council tax band is wrong?’.
From here you will need to choose the ‘Check if you can formally challenge your council tax band’ option.
This will bring up a series of questions that relate to why you think your bill is wrong, which you must answer and submit.
Once you have completed the form you will be told if you can make a challenge. If you can you will be given the option to do this online by using the ‘Make a formal challenge to your council tax band’ option.
You can also challenge your council tax band by post. You just need to download and fill out a form (there are different ones for England and Wales) and send it to the Listing Officer at your regional VOA office.
If you find you are not eligible to make a challenge you can still contact the VOA to ask for an informal review.
You just need to explain why you think the band is wrong and provide some evidence. You can call the VOA on 03000 501 501 in England or 03000 505 505 in Wales.
You’ll normally receive a decision from the VOA within two months. It might change your council tax band which will mean your bill will be revised or tell you why your band hasn’t changed.
How to challenge your council tax band in Scotland
If your property is in Scotland, you will need to use the Scottish Assessors website to challenge your council tax band.
Again, you just need to locate your property using your postcode and select it from the list of results.
Once you’ve found your property you should click on ‘Make a proposal’.
This will take you to an explanation of the process, which if you are happy with gives you the option to complete the proposal form.
A local Accessor will consider your application once you have submitted it.
How to challenge domestic property rate valuations in Northern Ireland
If your property is in Northern Ireland you can apply online to have a property revaluation after alterations to your home on the Department of Finance website.
Alternatively, you can use the CR3 form and apply by post.
The Land & Property Services – valuation regional offices will make a decision about your request and send you a certificate of valuation showing the capital valuation.