How to get a student exemption on council tax

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By in Bills & Utilities, Student Accommodation. Updated September 2014.

Finding a council tax bill on your doormat can be a bit of shocker, especially as they’re often more than £1,000 a year. The good news is you don’t have to pay.Council-tax-studentNot all students are aware that if you’re studying full time you can get an exemption on your council tax – basically that just means you don’t have to pay. Woopie!

The whole process is surprisingly easy, and you can often find it’s sorted in under 30 minutes. So, ya know, what are you waiting for?

What is council tax?

whatmeanOkay, so it isn’t the most exciting of subjects, but it is perhaps worth knowing what you’re about to not pay for.

Council tax is a yearly charge by your local council to pay for things such as policing and rubbish collections.

It’s based on at least two adults living in a house or property and the cost depends on how much the house is worth. Basically, the more the house costs to buy, the more tax you pay.

Who can get a student council tax exemption?

thewhoPut simply, any household which is only lived in by full time students will qualify for a full exemption on council tax.

To qualify as a full time student your course must last at least one year (academic or calendar) and involve 21 hours of study a week. Don’t panic – this doesn’t mean you have to have 21 contact hours, it includes expected private study times as well.

If you’re studying a course up to A Levels and you’re under 20 you can also qualify for a discount if your course lasts at least 3 months and you study for 12 hours a week.

Other exemptions include if you’re under 25 and undertaking specific types of training, if you are a student nurse or if you’re an apprentice and working towards a qualification.

There are a few exceptions and rules to this, so if you’re unsure check out the government website.

What if all the tenants aren’t students?

Student-ImposterIf you’re living in a house where one of more of you is not a student, apprentice or fit into any other exemption category then your house will get a bill for council tax.

You will however still get a discount of 25% off the standard rate. This is regardless of the ratio of the student to ‘real life adult’ – even if there’s nine students and just one grown-up, you’ll still only get a quarter off the going rate.

How you decide to split the bill (if at all) is entirely up to you and your housemates.

How to get council tax exemption

ponderingDepending on how your council does things, applying for your discount can happen any number of ways. In the first instance just ring up your council to ask for their procedure.

Some high tech councils will have a database to crosscheck students on, so all you need to do is ring up or write to them with your name, student number and course and they’ll sort it out from there.

Alternatively you may have to get a form from the university confirming you’re a full time student. This is often as simple as going to the admin office and getting it printed there and then.

Other universities have online systems which you can log into and it will automatically generate a letter and send it to the council. Either way, it’s easy to find out and do.

It is okay to send one letter on behalf of all members of the household and as long as all the necessary information is included it will be sufficient for a student council tax exemption.

If you are struggling to get the right contact details for your local council to apply for student council tax exemption then Directgov also has a handy list of contact details that might be worth looking at.

What about during summer?

holidayIt’s a common concern from students that they might end up with a hefty bill if they keep their accommodation going over the summer, but rest assured this is not the case.

Your exemption kicks in the day your course starts and it will continue until the day your course ends, including holiday periods when you’re not studying.

Regulations state that you only need to be studying those hours for a minimum of 24 weeks of the year, which is just your standard university year.

What if you’re between courses?

middleA common council tax question is what happens if you’re between courses – say you’ve finished your undergraduate degree and are going on to do a postgraduate something or other.

The sad news is, unfortunately, that for those in-between times you’ll have to pay for council tax, as you’re not technically registered as a student anywhere. Booo.

However, there’s no need to panic too much, as you won’t have to pay for the whole year up front, just the quarter that you’re not a student for, so it shouldn’t cost too much.

If all else fails, move home in-between the two courses and you’ll avoid any unwanted surprises!

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