Ultimate Guide to Student Council Tax Exemption…
If you are a full-time student, then it is very likely that you will not have to pay council tax. However, this will not apply in every case and so you need to make sure that you are not eligible to make a payment. The following guide should help you determine whether you are exempt from paying council tax.
What Is Council Tax And What Is It Used For?
Council tax is paid per household and is a annual charge, although it is commonly paid over ten months. The charge is calculated according to the value of the property you are living in.
Every property in Great Britain, excluding Northern Ireland, is allocated a band between A-H in England and Scotland, and A-I in Wales. The amount that you owe will depend on your postcode and what band the property falls into.
Payments are made directly to the local council. They cover the cost of services such as bin collection, roadworks and street cleaning. In Scotland it also pays for the treatment of sewage.
There is no council tax in Northern Ireland because they did not adopt the system in the 1990s, whereas the rest of Great Britain did. The bad news for students is that they still use the system of domestic rates, and students are not exempt from these rates.
Do Students Need To Pay Council Tax?
If a household is exclusively inhabited by full-time students, then it will usually be exempt from paying council tax. In order to qualify as a full-time student your course will need to last for at least one year and require you to do at least 21 hours of study every week.
If you are only a part-time student, then you may need to pay, but there may still be exemptions that you can take advantage of. You may be exempt if you can prove that you are studying for more than 20 hours a week. This will vary by council so you should check with your local authority.
If you are a part-time student living in a shared house with full-time students, then you will be the only one that is required to pay council tax. If this is the case, then you could apply for a single person discount, which is currently 25%.
If a shared house has a mixture of full-time students and part-time students or people that are not students at all, then some people will be paying council tax but others will not. This can make things difficult if all other bills are shared equally, because some household members will be paying more than others.
Qualifying For Exemption From Council Tax
You need to be considered a ‘disregarded person’ by the local authority in order to be exempt from paying council tax. To be disregarded, at least one of the following need to apply to you.
- You are a full-time student
- You are under 20 and studying for a course up to A-Levels for more than 12 hours a week. The course needs to last for at least 3 months.
- You are under 25 and are part of a government training scheme or are taking other specified training.
- You are the child, spouse or civil partner of a full-time student but do not have the right to work in the UK.
- You are a student nurse but are not already classed as a full-time student.
- You are an apprentice working towards a qualification and you don’t earn more than £195 per week.
There are some exceptions to these rules, and there may be other reasons why you could be classified as a disregarded person. If you are unsure about the rules that apply to your own situation, then you should contact your local council.
Do Postgraduate Students Have To Pay Council Tax?
When you are an undergraduate, you will not have to pay council tax in the summer breaks between academic years. However, this is not the case in the summer break between you graduating and then starting a postgraduate course, because you are not officially a student during this time. This will also be the case even if you are finishing your thesis over the summer, because it is still technically outside of term-time.
One of the most common ways to get around this is to move back home for the summer. You will need to prove to the council that you are not living in the property during the summer and then you will not receive a bill. If your parents are feeling generous, they may not charge you for your share of the council tax bill on their property.
How Do You Apply For Student Council Tax Exemption?
The process for applying for council tax exemption may vary between councils. Some councils can take care of everything online or over the phone, while others may expect you to provide paperwork.
If the council does ask you for a ‘certificate of student status’, then you should be able to get one of these from the admissions office at your university. Some universities make these certificates available on an online portal where you are able to log in and send the certificate directly to the council.
The length of time this will take to sort out will largely depend on how efficient both the council and the university are. If you are able to do everything online, then it may only take a few minutes. If you have to post documents off, then you may have to wait a week or so for confirmation.
What Should You Do If You Have Been Charged For Council Tax?
If you have been sent a council tax bill, then you should contact the council to explain that you are exempt. It is a good idea to put everything in writing so you have evidence of contact with them.
At some point they may ask you to prove your status as a student, so it may be wise to get a certificate from your university, so that you already have it if you are asked.
The council must respond to your initial letter within two months. If you still disagree with their decision then you can make an appeal to the Valuation Tribunal. This is a free service, but you will be responsible for any costs that you incur.
If you are sure that you don’t have to pay council tax, then it is worth standing your ground if the council do insist that you need to pay. There have been cases when councils have kept on insisting that students should have to pay and the situation has only been resolved when the matter has gone right to the top.
Do You Need To Pay Council Tax In The Summer Or On A Break From Studying?
You shouldn’t need to pay any council tax during your summer breaks because the exemption covers the whole length of your course. This means you do not have to pay in the summers between the different years of your course, or if you get a job at any point.
If you take a break from studying, then you should remain exempt as long as you are still registered with the university during your break.
The general rule is that your exemption will start on the day that your course begins and finish on the day it ends. It is worth noting that the final day of your course will be the last day of your final semester, not the day of your graduation.
Should You Pay Council Tax Before You Move In?
It is not uncommon for some councils to try and charge you council tax from the day your tenancy begins, not the day that you move in. They are not allowed to do this your exemption as a student begins from the day your tenancy starts, regardless of when you actually move in.
If you receive a bill for any date while you are a full-time student, then you should appeal it immediately. Most councils will admit that they have made a mistake, but others may try to insist that they are right. Make sure you keep copies of all correspondence in case you need them further down the line.