Do students pay council tax? Everything you need to know about council tax as a student in the UK

Navigating the complexities of council tax can be a daunting prospect for many students. Whether you’re studying full-time or part-time, understanding your obligations and potential exemptions is crucial.

Council Tax Bill

What Is Council Tax and Who Has to Pay It?

Council tax is a system of local taxation collected by councils to cover the cost of essential services like rubbish collection, policing, and fire services. Most people over 18 who own or rent a home are liable to pay council tax. However, full-time students can often be exempt.

Do Students Pay Council Tax?

  • Full-time students: Typically, if you’re a full-time student, you’re entitled to a council tax student exemption. However, you must prove your student status.
  • Part-time students: Unlike their full-time counterparts, part-time students are not automatically exempt. The council tax for a part-time student is usually charged similarly to non-students, although there might be provisions for a student council tax discount.
  • International/Masters/PhD students: These categories of students are treated similarly to domestic students. If you’re studying full-time, regardless of the level, you may qualify for a council tax exemption.

Do Students Pay Council Tax When Renting?

Students renting a property won’t have to pay council tax if everyone in the shared accommodation is a full-time student. This council tax exemption remains valid throughout your course. Landlords do not cover council tax for students unless it’s included in the rental agreement.

Do students pay council tax if they live with non-students?

Council tax implications change when students live with non-students. In a household with both full-time students and professionals (or non-students):

  • If there’s only one non-student, they may receive a 25% student council tax discount on the bill.
  • With two or more non-students, the standard council tax usually applies without any student council tax reduction, as the property is considered a non-student household.

Understanding Full-Time Student Status for Council Tax Purposes

For council tax purposes, you’re considered a full-time student if your course:

  • Lasts at least one calendar or academic year, undertaken for at least 24 weeks out of the year.
  • Involves at least 21 hours of study per week.

Postgraduate students, including those pursuing masters or PhDs, are often considered full-time and may be eligible for council tax student exemption.

Do Part-Time Students Pay Council Tax?

The council tax status of part-time students in the UK differs significantly from their full-time counterparts. Generally, part-time students do not qualify for a council tax exemption and are required to pay council tax in the same way as individuals who are not in education. This rule applies whether you are renting or own your home, reflecting the council’s stance that part-time studies afford the opportunity for part-time employment.

However, there may be circumstances where part-time students can avail of some discounts or reductions, depending on specific situations such as low income or if they live alone. Here are a few points to consider:

  • Single Occupant Discount: If a part-time student lives alone or no one else in their household counts as an adult for council tax purposes, they may be entitled to a 25% discount on their council tax bill.
  • Council Tax Reduction (CTR): Part-time students on a low income might be eligible for CTR, a benefit designed to help individuals who have a low income to pay their council tax.
  • Disability Reduction: If a part-time student or anyone in their home has a disability, and certain conditions are met, they might qualify for a reduction in council tax.

The specifics of eligibility for these discounts can vary from one local authority to another. It’s important to check with your council to understand what proof they need for any reduction or discount and how to apply for the same.

Council Tax Specifics for Different Types of Students

The council tax status can vary for different student categories:

  • Placement students: If your course includes a work placement, you’re still considered a full-time student if the placement is a necessary part of the course, maintaining your eligibility for exemption.
  • In-between courses: If you’re waiting to start a new course, having completed a previous one, you might need to pay council tax in the interim.
  • Dropping out: Students who drop out of university are required to start paying council tax, losing their exempt status.

Do International Students Pay Council Tax?

Understanding council tax obligations is crucial for international students residing in the UK. The good news is, if you’re an international student studying full-time, you’re usually treated the same as domestic students in terms of council tax and typically qualify for a council tax exemption.

Here’s what international students need to know:

  • Full-Time Course Requirements: You are considered a full-time student if you’re enrolled for at least one full academic or calendar year and your course requires you to study for a minimum of 21 hours per week for at least 24 weeks per year. If you meet these criteria, you should be eligible for a council tax exemption, meaning you don’t have to pay council tax.
  • Living Situations: If all residents in a property are full-time students, the household is entirely exempt from council tax. However, if you’re residing with non-students, the property will not be exempt, but it may qualify for a discount. The non-students would be the responsible parties for paying the council tax bill, potentially with a student discount applied.
  • Documentation Needed: To claim your exemption, you’ll need to provide proof of your student status. This proof is usually a certificate from your educational institution, known as a council tax student certificate. You’ll need to submit this certificate to your local council to confirm your eligibility for the exemption.
  • Short Courses and Language Schools: If you’re in the UK for a short course or language school and it doesn’t meet the full-time status requirements, you’ll likely have to pay council tax.
  • PhD Candidates: If you’re in the UK as a full-time PhD student, you are usually exempt from paying council tax until your course end date, which is the last day of the academic session for your final year. However, if you continue to stay in the property outside the term time after the course has ended, you might be liable for council tax.

Understanding these nuances ensures compliance with local tax laws and helps international students manage their finances effectively during their studies. It’s important to communicate with your local council to understand your specific circumstances, as rules may vary slightly by region.

How to get a Student Council Tax Exemption Certificate

For students in the UK, securing a council tax exemption can significantly ease financial burdens. However, to obtain this exemption, you’ll need something crucial: a Student Council Tax Exemption Certificate. This certificate is your key to proving full-time student status and avoiding council tax. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get your certificate:

  1. Verify Your Eligibility:
    • Ensure you’re enrolled in a qualifying full-time course. Typically, this means you’re attending for at least one full academic year, and the hours of study average 21 hours per week over at least 24 weeks per year.
    • Understand that part-time students, including those in evening classes and some distance learning students, usually do not qualify for this exemption.
  2. Request a Certificate from Your University or College:
    • Most educational institutions automatically issue a Student Status Certificate or Certificate of Student Status at the start of the academic year; however, if this isn’t the case, you’ll need to request one.
    • Contact your university or college’s student services, registrar, or administration office. They handle these certificates and can provide one upon request.
    • Some universities have automated this process through their student portal websites, where you can download the certificate directly.
  3. Check the Details:
    • Once you receive your certificate, check all the details carefully. It should include your name, the course details, the start and end dates of your course, and an official stamp or signature from the educational institution.
    • Any discrepancies or mistakes in these details could lead to complications with your exemption, so it’s crucial to get them rectified immediately.
  4. Submit to Your Local Council:
    • With your certificate in hand, you need to submit it to your local council. This submission process might vary; some councils may accept a digital copy via email, while others require a hard copy by post or hand-delivered.
    • Accompany your certificate with any additional documents required by your council. This information is usually listed on their website or communicated during initial inquiries.
  5. Follow Up:
    • After submission, make sure to follow up with your council. Confirm they’ve received your documentation and ask for an acknowledgment of your exemption status.
    • Keep copies of all communications with the council and your exemption certificate, as you may need these records later.
  6. Annual Renewal:
    • Remember, student council tax exemptions are not always automatically renewed. For each academic year, you may need to submit a new certificate.

By following these steps, you can secure your council tax exemption. If any issues arise or if there are changes in your student status, immediately inform your local council to prevent any future complications or unexpected bills. Stay proactive about understanding your tax obligations and maintain open communication with both your educational institution and your local council. This diligence will ensure a smooth, stress-free experience as you focus on your studies.

Do Students who drop out of University have to Pay Back Council Tax?

When a student discontinues their studies partway through the academic year, the implications for council tax can be a source of concern. Understanding how dropping out affects your council tax status is crucial to avoid unexpected debts and legal complications.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Change in Student Status: If you drop out of university, you’re no longer considered a full-time student, which directly impacts your eligibility for student exemptions from council tax. From the date you officially leave your course, you’re regarded as a non-student and become liable for council tax payments for your current residence.
  • Pro-rated Council Tax: The council doesn’t require you to ‘pay back’ the council tax for the time you were enrolled as a full-time student and exempt. However, you will be expected to start paying council tax from the point you’re no longer a student. The council tax bill will typically be calculated on a pro-rata basis, meaning you’ll be charged for the remaining portion of the council tax year (which runs from April to March) following your change in status.
  • Notification Responsibilities: It’s your responsibility to inform both your educational institution and the local council of your decision to withdraw from your studies. The university will update your student status, and the council will adjust your council tax status accordingly. Failure to notify the relevant parties can lead to complications, including backdated charges and potential fines.
  • Potential Discounts or Exemptions: If, after dropping out, you find yourself in a vulnerable financial situation, or you live alone, you might be eligible for certain discounts or support schemes. For instance, single adult households receive a 25% discount on council tax, and low-income individuals might qualify for Council Tax Reduction (CTR).
  • Shared Accommodations: If you were living in shared student accommodation, your withdrawal could affect the council tax status of the entire household, especially if it was previously classified as a full student household. The property may lose its exemption status, impacting all occupants.

Navigating the transition from student life can be complex, and the implications of leaving your course early are significant. Should you find yourself facing financial hardship or uncertainty regarding your council tax obligations, it’s advisable to seek guidance from your local council or a student advice service immediately. They can offer crucial advice or point you towards appropriate financial support based on your circumstances.

Moving Accommodations and Council Tax

If you move during the academic year, you must inform your local council promptly to transfer your council tax student exemption or student council tax reduction. Failing to do so can result in being double-charged.

Handling Council Tax Payment Difficulties

If you’re facing difficulties paying your council tax, it’s crucial to contact your local council immediately. They can guide you on any available support, such as payment plans or possible exemptions.

Council Tax Legalities and Responsibilities

It is illegal to avoid paying council tax if you are liable for it. Non-payment can lead to legal action and additional charges. Students living with parents are generally covered under the parents’ council tax payments.

Council Tax Calculation and Variations Across the UK

Council tax varies depending on the local council and the valuation band of your property. Living in an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) could influence the calculation, and variations exist depending on which part of the UK you reside in. Always check with your local council for precise figures.

Stay Informed and Compliant

Understanding your council tax obligations as a student can save you from unnecessary stress and financial strain. If you’re unsure of your status or need more detailed advice, contact Nicholas Humphreys today. Our knowledgeable team is ready to guide you through the process, ensuring you benefit from any entitlements. Stay informed, plan your budget wisely, and focus on what matters most: your studies. For further assistance, reach out to our team, and we’ll be delighted to help navigate these complexities with you.