Council Tax Considerations for Students

Most people assume that students don't have to pay council tax and usually this is correct. But there are some exceptions. Here we explore this topic in more detail.

For anyone starting out as student, Council Tax is usually a mundane matter that, in all likelihood, hasn’t come under consideration.

Moving out, or heading to college or university? Let’s face it: there are more interesting things to think about. For those a little more forward-thinking, figuring out such matters can be complicated, and it can sometimes be quite difficult to determine whether or not you’re liable for Council Tax, or if, as a student, you can acquire an exemption.

The good news is that in most cases, if you’re enrolled on a course as a full-time student, there’s nothing to pay. But certain situations and circumstances can and do trigger a demand, so before blowing your budget on a big night out, it’s best to do a little research and determine where you stand. Could a bill soon be landing on your doorstep?

These are our Council Tax Considerations for Students.

What is Council Tax?

Council Tax is a local charge that is payable throughout most of the UK (the system differs in Northern Ireland), with charges made per household, based on the value of the property that you’re living in. Properties are divided into different bands, depending on valuation and postcode, with a charge imposed that is payable in instalments that are levied throughout the calendar year.

The monies collected go to the local authority, or council, to cover things such as street cleaning, road maintenance, refuse collection, schools, policing, maintaining parks and more. Those local services and amenities that most people take for granted? These are paid for – or subsidised – by Council Tax.

Do students have to pay Council Tax?

Student working out if they have to pay council tax

This is the all-important question! Students tend to assume that they’re not liable for Council Tax and, in most instances, they’re correct. But our best advice is to take nothing for granted, for in certain situations, charges can be levied. The general rule of thumb is that if you live in a household in which everyone is a full-time student, that household will be exempt from paying Council Tax.

But if someone in the household is not a student – or not studying on a full-time basis (for at least 21 hours a week, on a course that lasts for at least 12 months) – it can become more complicated. If you’re a part-time student (or in households with a mix of those studying on part and full-time courses), you won’t be exempt, but you might be eligible for a Council Tax reduction. Do a little research before moving in. It pays to be prepared.

What if I live in halls of residence?

Students living in halls are not liable for Council Tax, as these are classed as ‘exempt dwellings’. But things can be less clear for those residing in private student rental accommodation. Students living in households filled with full-time students can breathe easy, but if a housemate is not enrolled on a full-time course (if someone drops out, for instance, or is studying on a part-time basis), the household could still receive a bill.

The good news in such a case is that, as a full-time student, you will be personally exempt and so not jointly liable alongside the person who isn’t a student. But such things can make for an uncomfortable and awkward atmosphere in a shared house, so be clear about respective responsibilities and liabilities from the outset.

How do I apply for an exemption?

The system varies depending on the council in question. It can take a little time, so our advice is to be proactive, get ahead of the curve and act before an issue arises. Some councils can process exemptions during a quick telephone call, whilst others will require certification from your college or university. For those unsure, help is at hand and showing willing goes a long way.

Check with the admissions office or deal directly with your local council. You should find further details and all the contact information you require online.

What if I’ve been charged incorrectly?

This can and does happen, so if you think you have been charged Council Tax in error, don’t panic! The first step is to contact the local authority and explain the situation. If you’ve applied for an exemption and followed the rules, you should be on safe ground here. Even if you haven’t, you should be able to resolve the issue quite quickly.

Be prepared to provide evidence of your status as a full-time student and, if you’re finding it difficult to make progress, speak to the admissions office or university administrators. If you don’t agree with the council’s decision, you can appeal to a Valuation Tribunal. But the chances are it’ll never come to this, with most genuine disputes resolved without issue.

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Student council tax considerations