I am a student – do I need to pay council tax?
You may have recently received a Council tax bill for 2016-17 – this is an area of tax that students find particularly confusing. Often students are unsure whether they are responsible for paying council tax and if they are responsible then whether they are exempt from paying it.
What is council tax?
Council tax (or “rates” in Northern Ireland) is charged by local authorities (councils) to pay for services such as rubbish collection, policing and the fire service.
Council tax is charged on the household. It is based on the value of the property and not on what the household earns.
If you are the property owner then it will be your responsibility to pay the council tax. If you are moving into rented accommodation then check your lease agreement as it may be yours or your landlord’s responsibility. Halls of residence are usually classed as exempt from council tax.
Even if it is your responsibility to pay council tax you may be exempt depending on where you live and who you share the house with.
Location, location, location
So why does it matter where you live? Because the rules on who pays council tax vary depending on which country and which local authority you live in.
The general rule in England and Wales is that if you are living with full-time students then the household should be exempt from council tax. However, each local authority has the power to set its own rules so it is worth checking to make sure your household is exempt.
There is more information about the rules in Scotland and Northern Ireland in our tax essentials section.
Who are your housemates?
So as explained above, many student households will be exempt from council tax if they are all full-time students. To be classed as a full-time student you need to be on a course for at least 12 months and studying for more than 21 hours a week, for at least 24 weeks in a calendar or academic year.
If you are living in a household where not all of you are full-time students then the household may still qualify for a discount or rebate – check with your local authority to find out what you are entitled to.
It may be that the circumstances of someone in your household change, for example, they may decide to become a part-time student or leave their course altogether. This may mean that the household loses their complete exemption, however as explained above you may still be able to reduce your council tax through a council tax reduction.
We have updated our council tax guidance so it covers more topics which may affect students including information if you are an international student, on a sandwich course or a postgraduate on the Tax Guide for Students website.