Council tax is charged by local authorities on homes in their area to pay for local public services.
We refer to the property or home as ‘the dwelling’. Council tax is charged on the basis that there are a minimum of two adults living in the dwelling. When counting the number of adult residents, full-time students studying on higher education courses of at least 24 weeks in an academic year are not counted (‘disregarded’) and can claim council tax exemption.
Other groups of people who are disregarded are listed on the gov.uk website
The council tax rules say that you will count as a full-time student if:
Student Halls of Residence are exempt dwellings so you are automatically not required to pay council tax.
If you live in privately rented accommodation and all of the occupants are full-time students you will not need to pay council tax but will need to apply for your exemption.
We have examples of how other individual circumstances will affect council tax liability in the sections below.
If you live in certain London boroughs, Queen Mary reports to the relevant council the names of all students who are eligible for council tax exemption. However, you must also complete a student disregard form on the relevant council’s website. Please refer to the Queen Mary ARCS website for details of which boroughs are included and for links to the student disregard forms.
If you live in a borough that Queen Mary does not report to, you will need to provide the Council with proof you are a full-time student. To evidence your student status you can download your Student Status Letter from your Gradintelligence account. You will need to provide a new letter at the start of each academic year. You may also need to complete forms for your Local Authority – please check the relevant authority’s website.
If you change address within an academic year, update your address in MySIS straight away. Complete the relevant exemption forms for the borough you move to.
You can only claim Council tax exemption as a full-time student from the official start date of your course, once you have enrolled. If your course is longer than one year you will be exempt from paying Council tax during the summer vacation(s) between academic years.
If you live with non-students, or part-time students, there will usually be a council tax bill for your dwelling. However, as a full-time student who is disregarded for council tax you will not be jointly liable for paying the bill with other residents of the same status or legal interest in the dwelling as you, for example joint tenants or joint residents. The non-student residents will be legally responsible for paying the council tax.
However, if you have a higher status or legal interest in the dwelling to the non-student resident(s), for example, if you own the dwelling and a non-student is lodging with you, you will be liable for the council tax. This is sometimes known as the hierarchy of liability. For more information about who is liable for council tax see the Citizens Advice Bureau council tax guidance.
If you live with just one other adult who is not a full-time student, they will count as the only resident in the dwelling. This means they will usually be able to apply for a 25% single occupant discount on their council tax bill. If you live with two or more adults who are not full-time students, there will usually be a full council tax bill for the dwelling.
If you are interrupting or resitting out of attendance, provided you are registered on a full-time programme of study, the council tax legislation states you continue to remain exempt from paying council tax, unless you are in the final year of your programme.
Despite this, some local authorities may still state you are liable to pay. If this happens see the later section Appealing a council tax charge.
If you have completed attendance on the taught part of your programme and you are only resitting out of attendance to complete the final assessments such as final exams or coursework, some local authorities will consider that you are no longer eligible for the student exemption and you will have to pay council tax.
You may be able to claim Council Tax Reduction.
If you are writing up, to claim your Council tax exemption, you need to provide a letter from your supervisor that confirms that you are still a full-time student.
There is no requirement that you are paying full-time tuition fees. If you meet all of the requirements in the sample letter below, you should qualify for Council tax exemption. Your supervisor or Head of School will need to decide whether these requirements are being met, and if so, they will need to provide a letter for you to send to your local authority council tax office. You could show your supervisor the example letter below for guidance. In addition to the suggested wording below, it would also be useful if the supervisor’s letter includes information about any attendance which is required at the university, for example for discussion, supervision, assessments, etc.
I am the supervisor of _________________, who is currently studying for a PhD in the School of ____________________ at Queen Mary, University of London. She/he began this programme on ________________ and is expected to complete it by __________.
Although __________________ is no longer paying full-time fees, I can confirm that she/he continues to be a full time student as her/his current programme of study lasts at least one academic year of more than 24 weeks and involves more than 21 hours of study per week. Writing up can be undertaken within the School, or in a library, or at the student’s home, but they are in contact with me for supervision purposes.
If your local authority refuses your council tax exemption please read the section of this page ‘Appealing a council tax charge’ [please hyperlink to section called Appealing a council tax charge]
Note that if you are claiming welfare benefits on the basis of being a part-time student while writing up, you cannot then claim council tax exemption but you may be able to claim Council Tax Reduction
If your course is designated a part-time course, you are not eligible for the student council tax exemption. You can check if you are eligible for Council Tax Reduction.
If you or someone you live with has a disability you may be able to apply for a council tax discount. The gov.uk website has information about this.
If you have to sit final year exams in August, Queen Mary cannot change your official course end date. This will remain on MySIS as the last date of term in June. The Student Enquiry Centre can normally give you a letter which will include your original course end date but with a sentence explaining that you also have exams to sit in August. You could take this letter to the Council and ask whether they will extend your Council tax exemption to the end of your August exams, but this may not necessarily be successful.
If the only non-student adult you share your dwelling with is your spouse or civil partner, who is not a British citizen and who currently has limited permission to stay in the UK, e.g. as your dependant, and the wording of their immigration permission states that they have no recourse to public funds or that employment is prohibited, then your dwelling should be exempt.
To apply for council tax exemption you need to send your local authority council tax office a copy of your partner’s immigration permission as well as proving your own student status [link to how to claim council tax exemption section]
UKCISA has further information about this.
Claiming council tax exemption does not count as claiming a public fund. If a condition of your immigration permission is that you have ‘no recourse to public funds’ you can still claim council tax exemption without breaching the conditions of your immigration permission in the UK.
If you are a student who is liable for council tax, you may be able to claim Council Tax Reduction which is for people on low incomes to help them pay their council tax. There is information about this on the Citizens Advice Bureau website. If you live with your parents and they claim Council Tax Reduction, this should not be reduced due to you living there because no deduction should be made in respect of a resident who is a full-time student.
If you have been charged for council tax and you believe you are exempt, contact your local council tax office immediately. Find out why they think you are liable to pay. They may be missing the information they need to evidence your full-time student status, so find out what the issue is and how it can be resolved.
If you live in one of the boroughs that Queen Mary reports council tax exemption to, check with the Student Enquiry Centre that this has been reported. Also check that the form you need to submit to the council has been received. If you live in a borough that Queen Mary does not report for, have you provided the information required to prove your full-time student status? [please link to How to claim council tax exemption section above]
Ensure you quickly update any change to your address in MySIS.
If you have followed these steps and the council have all the required information but are still charging you council tax, contact a Welfare Adviser at Queen Mary straightaway for advice.
Citizens Advice also has information about appealing a council tax decision.
Sanctions for non-payment of council tax can be extremely serious including imprisonment. Therefore it is essential that you respond immediately to any demands for payment. Contact a Welfare Adviser at Queen Mary straightaway for advice.
The gov.uk website explains what happens if council tax is not paid.