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Do I need to pay council tax?

Friday 22 September 2017 Info and advice

So you've started university, you're feeling pretty grown up, you've bought your own toaster. But suddenly you hear about something which makes you shudder and question whether the adult life really is for you: COUNCIL TAX. We're here to break it down for you - it's not that scary.



First things first: do I need to pay?

Council tax is applied to properties, not people, but there are some exemptions from paying it based on the sort of people who live in the property.

A property is exempt from council tax if everyone who lives there falls into at least one of several categories, including:

  • full-time college or university students

  • 18 or 19-year olds in full-time education 

  • children under 18 years old 

  • anyone aged over 18 for whom child benefit is payable

  • people on some apprenticeships and trainee schemes

  • a student’s overseas partner (if they entered the UK on a visa that denies the right to work or claim benefits, or if they have the right to work but not to claim benefits).

  • live-in carers who look after someone who isn’t their partner, spouse or child

See the government’s full list of council tax exemptions. Student halls of residence are automatically exempt (woohoo!)




What exactly does 'full-time student' mean?

If you still need some clarification, there's a specific definition of 'full-time student' for council tax purposes. To count as a full-time student, your course must:

  • last at least one calendar or academic year, where you’re required to undertake the course for at least 24 weeks out of the year

  • involve at least 21 hours of study, tuition or work experience per week during term time.

If you’re under 20 years old and you’re studying for a qualification up to A level, Scottish Higher National Certificate, NVQ/SVQ level 3 or equivalent, your course must:

  • last at least three months

  • involve at least 12 hours of study per week.

Check out the council tax guidelines for full-time students.

If you get a council tax bill even though your household is exempt - don't panic! -  you can apply for an exemption.

If, however, someone lives in your household who’s not a full-time student according to these criteria, you may get a bill. But it's worth seeing if you can get a discount because of the other exemption criteria. See What if my property is liable for council tax?



Okay...what about if I'm a post grad?

Full-time postgraduate students get the same exemption as all the above, but sometimes fit's really hard to secure their rightful council tax exemption (you deserve it!)

Some local authorities don’t believe their periods of study, tuition or work experience meet the requirements – often because the periods of study don’t take place on the university campus. However, the legislation DEFINITLEY states that study doesn’t need to be at campus and you should 100% challenge any refusual you might get on these grounds. You can quote The Council Tax (Discount Disregards) Order 1992 at them if you have to 😉

You might also have problems during the thesis ‘writing up’ period after the formal end of the course. While some local authorities are sympathetic and will extend your student status after the end of the course, others have been known to regard such students as liable. If this affects you, seek advice from your students’ union or institution’s advice centre.


And if I defer for a year?

If you’re a full-time student you may need to take some time off from your studies. If you remain registered on your course because you intend to return, you should still be exempt! 


Okay so I think I'm exempt. What now?

It's pretty simple and the sooner you do it the better (that's you and your housemates who are also exempt!) You'll need to get a certificate of student status provided by your university or college. Just call up or email your central administration department. They're used to getting asked for them and legally have to provide it when asked. Pretty straightforward! 


Council tax, sorted. Next up: buy a tin opener.