Do Students Pay Council Tax? | TOTUM
Holly BarrowJanuary 19th

If you're a student living in university halls or a house share for the first time, you might find yourself asking the question: 'Do students pay council tax?'

Perhaps it hasn't even crossed your mind yet - if you've just moved out of your family home, council tax might be something you've never had to think about before. While it might not be the most riveting topic, it's definitely one worth reading up on.

To make life easier for you, we thought we'd answer some frequently asked questions on all things council tax - specifically when it comes to whether students have to pay it.


What is council tax?

Let's take it back to basics. Council tax is one of those tedious adult responsibilities we have to get to grips with.

It's an annual fee that you pay to your local council to contribute to the services it provides throughout the year; rubbish collection, road maintenance, libraries, street cleaning, school and nursery facilities... the list goes on.

All of these things are crucial to our everyday lives, even if we sometimes take them for granted.

Usually, council tax is split into monthly payments to make it more manageable and is paid per household rather than per person. It's calculated by the value of the property you live in, your personal circumstances, and how much your local council needs to fund its services.

For those in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland), council tax is split into different value bands: A-H in England and Scotland, A-I in Wales. Your council tax band depends on how much your home was worth in April 1991 for English properties, or April 2003 for Welsh properties.

Northern Ireland operates a slightly different system; council tax isn't something residents need to consider, however domestic rates are. Unfortunately, even full-time students in Northern Ireland typically aren't exempt from paying domestic rates, so it's something you'll need to budget for!

This guide is specifically tailored to students in England, Wales and Scotland.


Do students pay council tax?

Sadly, it's not as clear-cut as you might expect.

The good news is, university halls of residence are automatically exempt - so fear not freshers, you don't need to worry about council tax.

If you live in a property in which everyone (yourself included) is a full-time university or college student, your household will generally be exempt from paying council tax. However, you might need to provide evidence to your local authority's council tax office - usually your certificate of enrolment is sufficient. You can get help with this from your university/college.

To be considered a full-time student, you must be on a course that is at least a year long and requires a minimum of 21 hours of study per week.

It can become a little more complicated if you're sharing a property with somebody who isn't a full-time student, as we'll explain below.

Do part time students pay council tax?

Here's where things can get tricky. If you or somebody you're living with is a part-time student, the household will typically be expected to pay council tax. Only the part-time student themselves will be billed, so if one part-time student is living with a house of full-time students, the part-time student will have to foot the council tax bill themselves.


They may, however, be eligible for a discount or an exemption. Depending on eligibility, the bill may be reduced for part-time students either by:

  • Exemption - Total charge is removed

  • Discounts - Partial removal from charge

  • Reduction - Total charge is reduced

A part-time student is one that is not enrolled on a full-time course and typically studies at half the rate of a student who is on a full-time course. If you're a part-time student, it's definitely worth checking with your council to see if you qualify for an exemption or reduction.

If you are a non-student living with students, you will unfortunately be liable to pay the household's council tax bill by yourself (or split with any other non-student). But again, if you're the only person liable to pay the bill, you will be eligible for a 25% single person discount - so make sure you take advantage!

Who is eligible for council tax exemption?

To quickly summarise, you will qualify for council tax exemption if you are one of the following:

  • A full-time student at college or university.

  • Under 25 years old and receiving funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

  • An apprentice on a scheme which pays no more than £195 a week and works towards an accredited qualification.

  • A student nurse whose course is not classed as 'full-time'.

  • Under 20 and studying for a qualification up to A-Level (your course must last at least 3 months and involve at least 12 hours study per week).

There are other exemptions, but these are specifically relevant to students.


How to apply for council tax exemption

First thing's first, if you're unsure whether you're eligible for council tax exemption, your education provider should be able to assist or at least point you in the right direction.

Remember, if you're living in uni halls, your household is automatically exempt so there's no need to do anything. If not, you might be required to send proof to your local council, demonstrating that you're a full-time student or that you meet other exemption criteria (as outlined above).

In some cases, it's as simple as ringing your council and providing them with your name, student ID and the course you're studying. In others, you might need to provide your student certificate - this is a simple enough process as your uni can provide you with a copy.

Some universities are especially helpful and have a specific online system for students to log their details, automatically generating a letter to send to the council.

To establish which route you need to go down, your first port of call should likely be your college/university.


Hopefully now that you've swotted up on all things council tax, you'll know whether or not you need to pay it.

There's no single answer to the question 'Do students pay council tax?', but we've tried to cover all bases.

For further assistance, reach out to your students' union or contact your local council. Or, feel free to read more on the GOV.UK website.

Check out more of TOTUM's student advice and hacks here, including everything from our Top 5 Tips For Surviving Online Classes to Student Security Tips To Protect Your House From Burglars.

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