Student Life: Do Students Pay Council Tax?

Navigating student life in the UK comes with its own set of financial responsibilities and challenges. Among them, council tax — a local tax that funds services provided by local authorities — often pops up as a significant concern for students. So, the question arises: Do students need to pay council tax? In this blog post, we’ll delve into this matter, shedding light on the circumstances and rules surrounding council tax for students.

Council tax and model of home from wood.
Council tax and model of home from wood.

Who Is Eligible for Council Tax?

Council tax applies to adults living in a property. Typically, the person who falls into the ‘liable’ category (usually the homeowner or tenant) will receive the bill. The amount varies depending on the valuation band of your property and the local council rate. However, not everyone will necessarily pay the same amount, and certain discounts and exemptions apply.

Full-time Students and Council Tax

According to UK regulations, full-time students are generally exempt from paying council tax. A full-time student is defined as someone:

  1. Enrolled in a course lasting at least one academic year, and
  2. Undertakes studies for at least 21 hours per week for a minimum of 24 weeks within an academic year.

If everyone living in a household is recognised as a full-time student, then that property is exempt from council tax altogether. Students will often need to provide a certificate from their institution as proof of their student status.

Discounts and Exemptions

While full-time students can enjoy complete council tax exemption, part-time students might still get some relief. If you’re a part-time student, you’re not automatically exempt, but you may qualify for discounts based on your specific circumstances.

  • Single Adult Discount: If a property is inhabited by two adults, and one of them is a full-time student, the non-student can apply for a 25% discount on council tax, since full-time students are disregarded when counting the number of adults in a property.
  • Student Exemption: If all but one of the adults in a property are students, the property will still qualify for the 25% single adult discount.

Shared Accommodations and HMOs

HMOs, or Houses in Multiple Occupation, are common living arrangements for students. Typically, if all occupants of an HMO are full-time students, the entire property will be exempt from council tax.

However, complications arise when an HMO has both student and non-student occupants. In such a situation, the council tax is charged to the property owner rather than the individual tenants. It will be up to the landlord and tenants to negotiate how the bill is split.

What If You Take Time Off Your Course?

If a student takes a break from their studies or drops out, they may lose their student exemption status. The council should be informed promptly of any change in student status to adjust the council tax billing accordingly.

For instance, if a student suspends their studies due to illness but remains enrolled with the intention to return, they might retain their exemption status. However, if a student decides to leave their course entirely, they will likely need to start paying council tax.

Living with Non-students

If a student shares a property with non-students, the council tax becomes a bit more intricate. As mentioned earlier, full-time students are ‘disregarded’ for council tax purposes. So, if there’s one non-student adult living with students, they will be billed at the single person discount rate of 25% off. If there are two or more non-student adults in the property, the full council tax is charged.

How to Apply for Discounts or Exemptions

To claim a student exemption or discount, one needs to contact their local council. Typically, the process includes:

  1. Getting a student certificate from your university or college.
  2. Contacting your local council and providing them with this certificate and any additional required details.

Ensure you regularly check your status and inform the council of any changes to avoid potential penalties or backdated bills.

Understanding council tax and its implications for students is crucial for financial planning during your academic years. While many students may be exempt, it’s essential to be proactive, inform the local council of your student status, and ensure you’re not paying more than necessary.