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Students & council tax

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I'm a student, do I need to pay council tax?

The easy answer to that is 'no'. However, the full answer depends on the kind of student you are and who you live with.

If you're a full-time student and you share with other full-time students then you shouldn't pay any council tax. To qualify as a full-time student you'll need to be:

  • Studying at a 'prescribed place of eduction' - most colleges and universities are covered by this
  • Taking a course that lasts for at least one academic year and involves 21 hours study per week for 24 weeks of the year, or
  • If you're under 20 taking a course that leads to a qualification up to (but not above) A-level standard. The course must last 3 months or more and involve at least 12 hours study a week

Evening classes, distance learning and day release qualifications don't count.

As council tax is billed per property rather than by occupant, you'll need to live with other students to avoid paying council tax on your property. If you live with employed people then the property as a whole is likely to be liable. Here's an excerpt from our book The Essential Guide to Flatsharing, which explains this in a little more detail:

If some or all of your party are students this will affect your council tax. A flatshare with only students in it is usually exempt from paying council tax. However, if there is a mix of students and professionals then those in employment will still get a council tax bill. As council tax is per household, not per person, the full amount will still be payable (unless there's just one employed person, in which case they can probably apply for a 25% discount). This can mean that some households end up with a couple of people paying a lot of council tax so you should take this into consideration before moving into a mixed house.

An example:

John, Paul, George and Ringo rent a flat for which the council tax bill is £800 a year.

Scenario A

John is at art school full time and Paul is doing a full time degree in Astrophysics (or something equally rock 'n' roll). George and Ringo both work full time. As John and Paul are both students, and therefore exempt from paying council tax, this leaves the others paying £400 each a year (unless, in the spirit of friendship, they decide to split it 4 ways anyway).

Scenario B

John and Paul live with other students so their house isn't subject to council tax.

Scenario C

George and Ringo live with 2 other employed friends (Mick and Keith). Therefore the £800 bill is split 4 ways and they only pay £200 each.

As you can see, scenario A (where students and those in employment share) results in someone paying over the odds - either the students who shouldn't pay at all or the employed sharers who have to take up the shortfall.

Clearly this is a simplified example but you get the picture. We're not saying don't live in a mixed household - just beware of the implications.

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