Any questions? I’m a student moving home to start my new course – will I have to pay council tax?

Published on 19 August 2019

We regularly receive queries via our Tax Guide for Students website. We do not give advice, but we try to signpost sources of further information and support. Some of the replies might be useful to others, so occasionally we will post them anonymously as ‘question and answer’ news items. We have received a question recently on whether a new student moving from home will have to pay council tax.

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Please note – this is posted as a ‘news’ item, which means the information and links are not reviewed and updated. You should not rely on it without checking the full facts of your case with your local council or a tax adviser.

Question:

I am 18 years old and starting my university course soon so will be moving to shared student accommodation. Will I have to pay council tax and how do I do this?

Answer:

We often get questions about whether students pay council tax and have a page on our Tax Guide for Students (TGFS) website which covers many of the common situations students may find themselves in. 

Council tax (called ‘rates’ in Northern Ireland) is a local tax and is administered by councils (local authorities) to pay for services such as rubbish collection and policing. It is charged on the value of domestic properties (including mobile homes and caravans) whether they are owned or rented. Local authorities set their own rates of council tax and any exemptions from the tax.

Generally, if you are a full-time student living in accommodation with other full-time students then the property you are living in will be exempt from council tax. Halls of residence are usually treated as exempt.  Many universities deal with council tax exemptions on your behalf so you may want to check with their advice services. There is information on our TGFS website on what to do if your university will not sort out your council tax exemption.

To be classed as a full-time student for exemption purposes you must be undertaking study, tuition or work experience at a recognised establishment for 

  • at least on average 21 hours per week in each academic/calendar year
  • at least 24 weeks per academic/calendar year
  • at least one year.

This seems straight forward but sometimes a change of circumstances can affect the exemption on the property, so it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the more common scenarios, which we explain below.

For example, if you move into your property before your course officially starts or remain at the property after it officially ends then you may be charged council tax for that time. We have had students contact us about being charged council tax for the week before their course started, so be aware that depending on your local authority this may happen to you if you move into your student accommodation before your course commences.

If someone in your student house decides not to carry on with their full-time studies but remains living in the accommodation, then the property will no longer be fully exempt. Usually this person will be liable to pay the council tax and it may be possible to claim a council tax reduction of 25% from your local authority. That still means that 75% of the council tax will have to be paid.

For more information on council tax such as if you are an international student, or on a postgraduate course or studying in a devolved administration (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) see the TGFS website.

(19-08-2019)

Contact: Claire Thackaberry (please use form at Contact Us) or follow us on Twitter: @LITRGNews