You may have heard of ‘Council Tax’ – a charge that is paid on properties in the UK. In this post, I’ve selected the top 11 council tax questions students frequently ask. I will also share with you how you can avoid having to pay council tax by applying for exemption.
What on earth is ‘Council Tax’ and why does it exist?
In the UK, local government authorities are called ‘councils’. Councils are responsible for delivering services in a specific area within a city or town, relating to schools, transport, roads, rubbish collection and much more. As residents benefit from the services and facilities offered, they help fund them by paying a tax to their local council. This tax is known as ‘council tax’.
How much is Council Tax?
Council tax is based on the price of a house or flat. There are eight different ‘price bands’, with Band A being the cheapest and Band H being the most expensive.
I’ve read that most properties in the UK fall within Band D. But because each council decides what the council tax should be for properties within its area, the council tax can vary depending on the location of the property. For example, last time I looked up the council tax for Band D properties, the cost was between £80 per month in the cheapest council and £145 per month in the most expensive area. Prices have probably gone up since, too.
Is council tax paid per person?
Council tax is paid on a property, no matter how many people live there. Whether two or ten people are sharing a house or flat, the council tax charge is the same. The only exception is: If only one person lives in a property, that person gets a council tax discount of 25%.
I’m a full-time student – do I have to pay?
Here’s the deal: As a full-time student, you don’t have to pay council tax – provided your course lasts at least one year. This applies to international students also. But as a university student, you’re not exempt if your course is part-time (if you’re here on a student visa, your course will be full-time) or shorter than one year.
You also won’t be exempt if you’re writing up your thesis but you’re no longer officially enrolled with your university as a student (or you’ve interrupted your studies).
Am I automatically exempt from paying council tax?
The short answer to this is: Not really. To be exempt from paying council tax you have to either:
If you’re staying in a university student hall where only other full-time students live, you will be automatically exempt. But, especially in postgraduate halls, some of the other residents may be staff, family members of students or visitors. If you’re living in such a hall, you’ll probably need to apply for ‘council tax exemption’. You also need to apply for council tax exemption if you rent a property outside the university.
Is it difficult to apply for council tax exemption?
Applying for council tax exemption is very easy really. If you’re renting privately or your student hall isn’t automatically exempt from council tax, you will need to get a ‘Council Tax Exemption’ certificate from your university and send this to your local council.
Where and how you can get this certificate depends on your university, but usually you would get it from ‘Registry’ or similar, either online or by visiting the relevant office. To give you the certificate, your university will probably ask you to complete a short form, giving them:
By the way, if your course is longer than one year, you will need to annually renew your council tax exemption. So you will need to get a new certificate from your university every year.
Errr…. so which is my local council?
Finding out the name and address of your local council is also pretty straightforward. You can look it up by entering your address or postcode on this website:
If for some reason this doesn’t work for you, you can always ask your student housing office (if you’re staying in university accommodation) or your letting agent or landlord, if you’re renting a student room privately.
Help! Some of my housemates are not students.
If you share a property with anyone who is not a full-time student, the property won’t be exempt from council tax. Personally, I think you shouldn’t have to pay – because you’re a full-time student – but you will need to clarify things with your housemates as your local council will invoice the property.
The good news for your housemates is: They get a 25% discount on their council tax bill thanks to you being a full-time student. But, you’ll still need to get an exemption certificate from your university and send this to the council.
I’m lodging. Can my landlord charge me for council tax?
Absolutely not! Your landlord will have to pay council tax because he or she is not a student but, remember, you are exempt. In fact, one thing that makes students attractive lodgers to some landlords is the fact that the landlord can apply for a 25% discount on their council tax bill because they share a property with a full-time student.
What if I live with my family?
If your family join you in the UK – or perhaps you’ve joined them here – nothing changes for your council tax status: You personally are still exempt as long as your course lasts at least one year and is full-time.
But, any family members over 18 years of age will have to pay council tax and will receive a council tax bill. Again, they can apply for a 25% discount because they’re sharing a property with you, a full-time student.
There’s an important exception. If your family members are here on a visa that says they can’t work or receive financial help from the British government (“no recourse/access to public funds”), it seems that they wouldn’t have to pay council tax. But please always check, as the rules might change / have changed.
What if I receive a council tax bill?
If you rent a property that’s not exempt from council tax and you don’t send in your council tax exemption certificate, you’ll probably soon get a council tax bill in the post.
Whatever you do, don’t simply ignore the bill. This will get you into trouble.
Send your exemption certificate or contact your council in case you need to clarify any details. Keep in mind, you can always ask for advice from your university’s student support office if you’re not sure what to do.
Council tax is a local government tax on property. The tax amount is the same, no matter how many people live in a property. However, a person living alone can get a discount.
As a full-time student, you don’t pay council tax. If you live in a university hall where only full-time students live, you’re automatically exempt. If you share a property with non-students, you will need to apply for council tax exemption.
If you get a council tax bill by mistake, contact the council to clarify the situation, but don’t simply ignore the bill.