Do students have to pay council tax?

  • 3 min read
  • 25 Oct 2023

Students of the past, present and future will probably agree that the word tax sounds more ominous than a 9 a.m. lecture. 🫠

And just like a 9 a.m. lecture, when asked to pay council tax, students enter the denial stage. 

And we get it. Tax is confusing. But it’s particularly confusing for students. 🥴

For starters, you’re not even from that county, it isn’t actually your home, and how can you be expected to afford it? 

These are all common complaints. So, we think it’s best that we explain student council tax once and for all. And more importantly, ensure students won’t be sacrificing any nights out. 🕺

What is council tax and how does it work?

Council tax is a tax that you pay to your local council so that they can fund vital services in your community such as schools, libraries and recycling collections. ♻️ 

Every property in the UK is put into a council tax band, which is based on its size, location and value in 1991. 🏡

But, let’s press pause on the finer details for now and focus on what this all means for students. 

Do students pay council tax?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not as straightforward as a yes or no. 

So, let’s start with where it all begins. Your first-year halls of residence. Cue the nostalgia. 😢

Student halls of residence are automatically exempt from council tax. This means students still finding their feet, stashing their food and possibly dealing with a few mice, will have one less thing to worry about. 😌

But, not everyone stays in halls of residence, particularly as the years go on. So, we hope you’re paying more attention than you do in your lectures because this is where council tax changes gears. 🫡

Do full-time students pay council tax? 

Households where everyone’s a full-time student do not have to pay Council Tax. 

To count as a full-time student, your course must: 

  • Last at least 1 year 
  • Involve at least 21 hours of study per week (technically speaking 😉)

Your local council might ask for proof that you’re a full-time student. But this is easy enough to prove. 

  • Make sure you’re enrolled in your course ✅
  • Your university will generate a letter or certificate 🖨️
  • Send it to your local council 📩

What if I’m a full-time student living with a part-time or non-student? 

This is where things can become extra confusing. So let’s break it down 👇

If you’re a full-time student sharing a property with a part-time or non-student then the property won’t be exempt from council tax. 😭

Ok. Now we’ve delivered the bad news, here’s the good news – those liable for paying council tax (part-time or non-students) might qualify for a discount. Woohoo 🎉

This is because of the way council tax bills are calculated:

A full council tax bill is based on at least 2 adults living in a property.

A discount is applied for people living on their own, and for those who live with people who don’t count as adults for council tax purposes. For example, full-time students.

Let’s say you share your property with an employed person or a part-time student. There’s a 25% discount because there is only 1 eligible adult in the property. As a full-time student, you’re not considered an eligible adult. 😏

So, they’ll only have to pay 75% of the council tax bill.

But, if you share with 2 or more part-time or non-students, they’ll have to pay 100% of the council tax bill.

When does council tax student exemption end?

Your council tax exemption starts the day your course officially begins. 🔔

And, it appears that universities are institutions of symmetry, as your council tax exemption ends the day your course officially ends. That’s what we call full circle. 🛞

Here’s where people get caught out… 

Your course end date is different from your graduation date. E.g. your course might end on the 9th of June but your graduation falls on the 11th of July. So, watch out! 

The final thing to remember is that if you continue to live in the property until your tenancy ends e.g. 30th June 2024, then you WILL be liable to pay council tax for the days you lived in the property between the 9th and 30th June. 🙄

Other circumstances 

  • Taking time off from your course – if you suspend your course (e.g. because of an illness) but remain registered because you intend to go back to university, you should still be regarded as a student for the purpose of council tax.
  • In between courses – if you’ve finished a course and you’re waiting to start another one, you might have to pay council tax (e.g. if you’ve finished an undergraduate degree and plan to start a postgraduate course in the next academic year.)

Congrats! You’ve graduated from student Council Tax School

Well, that’s all for now, folks. But we’re sure we’ll meet again. Because, before long, your student days will be behind you, and thanks to HMRC (no shade) you’ll most likely have more tax questions for us. 💪

See you next time!

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