RESIDENTS in rural Wales could face higher council tax bills under new Welsh Government proposals, with a full revaluation of homes set to be undertaken.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, house prices in mid and north Wales - and especially in rural Wales - have boomed.
The Welsh Government has launched a consultation into changes to the council tax system that could include extra bands and a revaluation of properties in a bid to make the system "fairer."
The Institute for Fiscal Studies, in a report, said that the changes could lead to higher tax bills in rural areas where house prices have risen.
The Welsh Government said: "A key goal in making the system fairer is that the changes do not seek to increase the overall amount of council tax raised, and any redesign should raise the same amount of council tax across Wales as the current system would.
"The current system is 20 years out of date, and it is unfair, with people living in homes in the lowest council tax bands paying a relatively higher amount of council tax in relation to the value of their homes, than people who live in higher value homes."
"The consultation includes different potential approaches designed to make the tax fairer, including adding new council tax bands, changing the tax-rates charged for each band, and reviewing discounts and reductions.
"The consultation also asks about the pace of change people would like to see.
"The earliest date for any changes coming into effect is 1 April 2025.
"However, changes could be deferred until the next Senedd term, or introduced in stages.
"In parallel with this work, the Valuation Office Agency, is preparing to carry out a proposed revaluation of all 1.5 million homes in Wales to ensure valuations are up-to-date and in line with current property values."
Under the plans, revaluations would happen every five years to "ensure people are paying the right amount of council tax in relation to the value of their property."
"This also provides an opportunity every five years to keep looking at the tax bands and tax-rates, so we can keep making it fairer," the Welsh Government added.
"While property prices have generally increased, this does not mean that council tax bills will automatically rise.
"Many people’s bills would stay the same after reforms and some would fall."
The Welsh Government’s three proposed approaches are:
Minimal reform – a revaluation of properties to check they are up-to-date but keeping the current 9 bands and tax-rates. This would bring the current system up-to-date and result in a small move in the direction of fairness.
Modest reform – a revaluation plus further reforms to the tax-rates charged for each band, to spread council tax more fairly. This means bills for households in lower band properties would fall, and bills for those in the highest band properties would rise. This would address both the outdatedness of the current system and also its unfair, regressive nature.
Expanded reform – a revaluation plus further reforms including additional tax bands and changes to the tax-rates. This approach would see the number of bands increase from 9 to 12, adding 1 band at the bottom for the lowest value properties in Wales, and 2 more bands at the top, for the most expensive properties valued at over £1.2 million. This would be a decisive move in the direction of fairness.
Nearly half of households in Wales currently receive a discount or reduction on their council tax bill, through the numerous discounts and exemptions, and our national Council Tax Reduction Scheme. This will not change because of this work.
Minister for Finance and Local Government, Rebecca Evans, said: “We are asking people to help us shape the future of council tax in Wales.
"Achieving a fairer council tax will be one of the single most beneficial actions this government can take towards making Wales a more equal nation.
"The benefits will be felt in the pockets of many households.
“This is not about raising more money from taxes and changes are not going to happen overnight.
"We see this very much as being a gradual process and that is why we are also asking for views on the pace of change.”
This work is being carried out in collaboration with Plaid Cymru, as a part of the Co-operation Agreement commitment between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.
Plaid Cymru Designated Member Cefin Campbell said: “It is widely recognised that council tax is outdated and long overdue for reform.
"This consultation is asking for the views of people across Wales on what a council tax could look like in the future and how we can make it fairer.
"While change is needed, it will take time meaning bills will not change immediately.
"We are consulting not only on what needs to change, but when the changes could come into place.”
Sam Rowlands, the Conservatives’ shadow local government minister, criticised plans for a council tax re-evaluation.
“Since 1999 council tax in Wales has gone up by nearly 200%,” said the former leader of Conwy Council.
“The Labour Government, in the typical spirit of wanting to make taxation more ‘progressive’, is stealthily planning on hiking up council tax for hard-working people.
“The last time a revaluation took place in Wales one in three families were hit with higher bills – we can’t allow this to happen in the current cost-of-living challenge.
“It’s vitally important that any council tax revaluation is fair and justified and doesn’t hit hard working people across Wales.”
Ministers are also consulting on scrapping the 50 per cent empty property discount and changing the exemption for properties unoccupied since the former resident’s death.
Jane Dodds, leader of the Lib Dems in Wales, said: “People across the country have seen their council tax increase over recent years, and as one of the most unfair taxes we have, change is long overdue.
“These plans from the Welsh Labour Government and Plaid Cymru come at a time when house prices are incredibly inflated.
“If the revaluation is done at the wrong time, plans designed to ease the burden on rate payers could cause further harm.
“We also can't escape the fact that councils are under huge financial pressure too, and any impact on council funds could put more pressure on services and staff.
“It is also disappointing that the plans fall far short of the fundamental overhaul of the system we need.”