Rates, council tax, community charge, poll tax, whatever you want to call it, if you live in a house, you have to pay some kind of tax.
Comparing UK Council Tax with Australian Rates
If only I could, but it would be quite an impossible task. When you compare one thing with another, it’s a good idea to go ‘like-for-like’.
Here in Australia we have six states and two territories which between them contain over 561 different local governments by way of boroughs, cities, councils, district councils, municipalities, regional councils, rural cities, shires, towns, community government councils, Aboriginal shires, island councils and ‘unincorporated’, whatever that is.
In the UK there are 433 principal authorities in the UK: 27 county councils, 55 unitary authorities, 32 London boroughs, 36 Metropolitan boroughs, 201 districts, 32 Scottish unitary authorities, 22 Welsh unitary authorities and 26 Northern Ireland districts.
The point is, how can I possibly compare like for like? Almost 1000 different authorities charging different amounts of money and providing vastly differing services.
On top of that, Council Tax in the UK is based on property valuations as at 1 April 1991 and split into eight bands. Band D is regarded as average, but if you lived in a more expensive house you would pay more or if your houses value is less than average you pay less.
All UK Council Tax figures quoted in this article relate to Band D.
Here in Brisbane, rates are based on land values and are revised each year and I’m pretty sure that’s how it works elsewhere as well.
So comparisons really are impossible. So let’s do one then.
Council Tax UK and Rates Australia Compared
When I was in the UK I lived in a small town called Billericay which came under Basildon District Council. Here in Australia, I live in the western suburbs of Brisbane and therefore under Brisbane City Council.
Are the two comparable?
Both places are what I would call ‘nice areas’; good schools, pleasant housing, good facilities, nice people, clean streets, reasonable services and the rubbish gets picked up every week, so in that respect they are similar. The weather here is much hotter, but that’s not thanks to the Council.
The thing is though, with Council Tax and Rates, it’s nothing much to do with comparable areas, it’s more to do with how efficient the Council is with your money. Believe it or not, in the UK 2014–15 the cheapest Council Tax (based on Band D) in the whole of the UK was in Westminster, slap bang in the middle of London, at just £678.14. The most expensive was from the local authority of Weymouth and Portland in the County of Dorset at £1726.04. My thanks to The Telegraph for those gems.
That’s a massive difference.
According to the UK government the average Council Tax in the UK last year was £1468.
Let’s put what we know so far into a small table:
Council Tax UK 2014/15 (Band D)
- Most expensive – £1726
- Least expensive – £678
- Average – £1468
Getting similar averages for Australia isn’t so easy. For example, I could find very little information on rates and charges in New South Wales.
I found an interesting document issued by MAV from which I could calculate that average rates in Victoria for 2014/15 were $1650.
The most comprehensive information I found though was from where I live, Brisbane. Brisbane City Council have charted the rates for every single authority in the area.
According to the Courier Mail last week Brisbane rates have risen by 2.5% for this coming year, an average of $32, taking the average rates bill to $1322 per year. By simple maths that means in Brisbane for the year we are looking at, 2014/15, average rates were $1290.
The Brisbane Times has listed the rates for each and every one of those 183 suburbs and a quick scan of the figures reveals that the suburb of Inala has the cheapest rates at $683 and the most expensive rates were in Chandler at $2538.
Wow! That’s a massive difference again.
Let’s put that into another small table:
Rates, Brisbane City Council 2014/15
- Most expensive – $2538
- Least expensive – $683
- Average – $1290
Finally, just for the record, if I still lived in the UK I would be currently paying Basildon District Council £1553 for a Band D property per year, where I now live in western suburbs of Brisbane my rates are $1224.
At the moment the exchange rate is pretty much two Australian dollars to one British pound. So from my point of view, there is no debate, rates in Australia are much cheaper. I would be paying over $3100 if my rates were as high as they were in the UK, that’s more than 2 1/2 times what I’m paying now.
That’s an absolutely massive difference!
I can also tell you that:
- The UK’s most expensive Council Tax bill is 36% more expensive than Brisbane’s highest bill
- The UK’s lowest Council Tax bill is almost double that of the lowest in Brisbane
- The average UK Council Tax bill is more than double that of the Brisbane average
- The average UK Council Tax bill is over 77% higher than the average bill in Victoria
These are surely mind-boggling figures?
How much do you pay?
I did say at the beginning of this article that this was an impossible comparison, and it is. I do realise that what I’ve done here is in no way a definitive guide in comparing rates and Council Tax between the UK and Australia, but it’s the best I could do.
What I really wanted to do though was open up the debate. You can join in in the comments below, simply tell us where you live and how much you pay each year in rates. Also, what’s included? My rates bill does not include water and sewerage, I pay that separately, and I’m pretty sure that’s the case in the UK as well.
So, come on, what are you paying?