Council tax: Appeals must wait until April

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Householders who want to appeal against their council tax banding cannot do so until 1 April - and the Department of the Environment has not yet issued a leaflet on how to go about it, writes Nicholas Timmins.

Home owners will have until 30 November next year to lodge an appeal. The Government says it has prepared for up to a million appeals against the 19.5 million valuations in England. Margaret Beckett, Labour's deputy leader, predicted yesterday that there would be 'millions' as people found their homes valued higher than they are now worth.

Appealing, however, against valuations fixed at April 1991 prices may be no simple process except where people moved then, or have friends and neighbours in similar houses who did so.

Colin Farrington, director of the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuations, said others would probably have to engage an estate agent to demonstrate their valuation was unfair. If the estate agents charged a fee, home owners might need to save pounds 300- pounds 400 a year to make an appeal worthwhile.

He said estate agents' particulars would contain council tax banding in future. 'It may not be in someone's interest, if they are trying to sell, to have the council tax banding saying their house was worth less in April 1991 than they are now asking.'