Do I need to pay council tax?

Starting University can be a very exciting time, as you may be living away from home for the first time. This also means that you could be facing new responsibilities (such as paying bills) which can be overwhelming.

This page aims to provide guidance on all you need to know about Council Tax and how to apply for an exemption, if you’re eligible.

person looking concerned about bills

First things first: do you need to pay?

Council tax is applied to properties, not people, but there are some exemptions from paying it; based on the categories of people who live at the property.

A property is exempt from council tax if everyone who lives there falls into at least one of several categories, including:

  • full-time college or university students
  • 18 or 19-year olds in full-time education
  •  children under 18 years old
  • anyone aged over 18 for whom child benefit is payable
  • people on some apprenticeships and trainee schemes
  • a student’s overseas partner (if they entered the UK on a visa that denies the right to work or claim benefits, or if they have the right to work but not to claim benefits).
  • live-in carers who look after someone who isn’t their partner, spouse or child

Please note:  Student halls of residence are automatically exempt

What do we mean by 'full-time student' in for council tax purposes?

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

  • last at least one calendar or academic year, where you’re required to undertake the course for at least 24 weeks out of the year
  • involve at least 21 hours of study, tuition or work experience per week during term time.

What should I do if I receive a Council Tax Bill

You may still get a Council Tax bill if someone lives in your household who’s not a full-time student and in these circumstances it's worth seeing if you can get a discount based on other exemption criteria.

If you do receive a council tax bill even though your household is exempt – there’s no need to panic! As you can apply for an exemption.

What happens if you defer your studies for a year?

If you’re a full-time student and you need to take some time-off from your studies, you should still be exempt from paying council tax if you remain registered with the intention of returning to your course.

What if you are on a postgraduate course?

All full-time postgraduate students are entitled to the same exemption as other full time students.

However, there have been some cases where securing rightful council tax rebates have proven difficult. Set out below are a few common issues faced by postgraduate students.

  • Some local authorities challenge if postgraduate students’ periods of study, tuition or work experience meet the requirements. This is often because the periods of study don’t take place on university campus. However, the legislation states that study doesn’t need to be at campus and you should challenge any refusal you might get on these grounds.
  • Every local authority judges the formal ending of postgraduate courses differently. For example, some may assess the period during the thesis ‘writing up’ as the formal end of the course, while others will extend council tax student status after the end of the course. If your local authority decision affects you, you can seek advice from your students’ union or an advice centre.

I think I'm exempt. What now?

The sooner you sort this out the better for you. You will:

  • Need to get a certificate of student status provided by the university.
  • You can call up or email your central administration department whom will aim to get back to as soon as reasonably possible.

Useful Links.

How to apply for an exemption 

The Council Tax (Discount Disregards) Order 1992