Council tax for students: everything you need to know

Students outside a house

As a student in full-time education, do you need to pay council tax? Find out about the council tax exemption for students.

Most households in Great Britain pay council tax, which is a payment to the local authority to cover services such as rubbish collection, emergency services, schools, libraries, park maintenance and so on. Households in Northern Ireland pay rates, which is a similar scheme.

Students over 18 in full-time education don’t have to pay council tax. As with all things, there are qualifications and caveats. But by and large, if you’re a full-time student, you can tick this off your list of worries.

But it’s well worth knowing all about council tax, not least because a bill may land on your doormat at some point. So here we look at who’s exempt, what to do if you live in a household with non-students, and how to apply for an exemption if you need to.

If you do have to pay, it’s worth knowing which council tax band you fall under, as this will determine how much you need to pay.

Are full-time students exempt from council tax?

Absolutely! You should be fully exempt if you live:

  • In a house, flat or bedsit (aka studio flat) on your own
  • In a house, flat or bedsit with other students only
  • In a room in halls of residence

If you live in halls of residence, these should be classed as ‘exempt dwellings’, so council tax shouldn’t even come on your radar.

If your household entirely comprises adults in full-time education, then you should be wholly exempt from paying council tax. A council tax bill may still come through your door though, and this is your responsibility, not your landlord’s. See how to apply for an exemption below.

What if I live in a household with non-students?

If some people in the household are liable for tax, but there’s one or more full-time student, then you should be able to claim a council tax discount. This is because those in full-time education are classed as ‘disregarded people’ for council tax purposes.

To find out more about who counts as ‘disregarded’, check out how to get a council tax reduction.

If you’re a student but other members of the household aren’t, it’s important to note that you’re not jointly liable for council tax. This isn’t just a matter of goodwill – you should not be made to share the cost, even of a discounted bill. And this is true regardless of whose name is on the tenancy agreement.

Who qualifies as a full-time student?

You’ll count as a full-time student if:

  • Your course lasts at least one year
  • You need to study at least 21 hours per week

If you’re between 18 and 20, and study for a qualification up to A level, you’ll count as a full-time student if:

  • Your course lasts at least 3 months
  • You need to study at least 12 hours per week

Do I have to pay council tax if I’m a postgraduate student?

Being a full-time student doesn’t mean you have to physically attend an academic institution. If you’re working on coursework or a thesis for at least 21 hours a week, for example, that will qualify.

You may have to get a letter from your university or college proving you’re a student to show to your council. But in general, the same council tax rules apply to you as other full-time students.

Are part-time students exempt from council tax?

Generally speaking, you have to be a full-time student to qualify for an exemption. So the answer’s no, although it’s worth checking if you could get a council tax reduction for other reasons.

How do students apply for a council tax exemption?

If you live in England or Wales, you can apply for a council tax exemption via GOV.UK. This will then point you in the direction of where your local council handles exemptions.

If you live in Scotland, you can apply for an exemption via the Scottish government website. Northern Ireland doesn’t have council tax, but rather a system of rates. Find out all about rates in Northern Ireland.

Making an application may vary to a certain degree from council to council. But it’s a good idea to have the following info handy, where applicable:

  • The address and postcode of the property
  • The names of all adults living at the property (ie those over 18)
  • Everyone in the property’s date of birth
  • The dates each person moved in
  • A Student Identification (ID) number for everyone in full-time education. This’ll be on emails you receive from your uni or college, and on student ID cards.
  • You may also need to upload digital copies of your student certificates

This should all hopefully be straightforward, and you won’t have to pay any council tax for your year of study. But if you do run into any problems, don’t suffer in silence. Be sure to contact your college or university student services department, who should be able to help you out.

How else can students save money?

While you’re not earning full time, it’s always a bonus to save money where you can. Check out our cheaper gas and electricity advice for students, and how to get the best TV and music streaming deals for your downtime.