Do students have to pay council tax?

by Dan Roberts

The council tax dilemma is a common headache for a lot of students when moving into university halls of residence or private housing, but do you have to pay council tax if you are a student? The answer is a lot simpler than you’d think.

In short, the answer is no- all students are exempt from council tax if all of the other housemates living in their property are full-time university students. If they aren’t, occupants who are students are eligible for a discount on council tax. 

Nevertheless, council tax forms, websites and helplines can be daunting and sometimes quite confusing. Luckily, you’re not alone. There are plenty of online tools and resources that can help you manage your finances, and figure out which bills students are eligible to pay. To make the process even easier, we have put together a list of the most common scenarios from students’ feedback, which hopefully help make council tax a little bit easier to understand. 


All university students are eligible to be exempt from paying council tax, if the property they are living in is occupied by full-time university students. However, if you don’t live with housemates who are all full-time students, then your eligibility is a little different as you’ll still get a council tax bill but your household may be able to get a discount.

Full-time students

To find out if you are considered a full-time student, you simply need to figure out if your course meets the following requirements: 

  • the course lasts at least 1 calendar or academic year, or at least 24 weeks out of the year
  • the course normally involves at least 21 hours of study, tuition or work experience per week during term time

Proving full-time student eligibility

Your local council will likely ask for proof that you are a full-time student. You can ask your university for a certificate, which they must provide (unless more than a year has passed since your course has finished). To find more information on if you are considered a full-time student, head to

Graduate vs Postgraduates

The process for graduates is the same, although the only thing that changes is that you will have to pay during the summer months at the end of your final year – even if you are going into a postgraduate study right after. Frustratingly, this is because there will be a gap before you are officially registered and start your new course and for those few months you won’t technically be considered a student anymore.  

British citizen and Residents in the UK

Council tax is a tax on households by local authorities in Britain based on the estimated value of a property and the number of people living in it.

The tax helps fund local services including education, fire, and police services. You will usually have to pay council tax if you’re 18 or over and own or rent a home. A full council tax bill is based on at least 2 adults living in a home.

International Students

The good news for our friends across the pond is that the same rules that apply to UK students, apply for international students, too. The only exception to this is if you are a student living with a non-student spouse or civil partner and are one of the following: 

  • an EEA or Swiss national, or the family member of an EEA or Swiss national, who is exercising a right of free movement in the UK 
  • a British citizen
  • settled in the UK (with indefinite leave to enter or remain)

House in multiple occupation (HMO)

If you’re living in what is known as an ‘HMO’, this means you are living in a residence with people who are not all full-time students. This could include part-time students or housemates who are not students at all and work full-time. 

In terms of whether you pay council tax in this instance, it is a little more tricky, as you will still receive a bill but you are likely to be eligible for a discount or you may be eligible to be entirely exempt, as the only full-time student. This is dependent on a few factors- mostly, how many non-full-time students live at the property; generally, the more housemates who are not full-time students, the more likely they will be to foot the entire council tax bill (and you, as a full-time student, would be exempt). However, to find out if you qualify for a discount, follow this link.

Accommodation types

Different rules apply to students living in privately rented accommodation, and whether you pay council tax can also depend on who you live with. To apply for an exemption, follow this link

University halls

This one is easy- students living in university halls are automatically exempt from paying council tax 

Private accommodation

Whether private student hall or a privately rented student house full-time students do not have to pay council tax, as long as all the occupants of the property are also full-time students.

What if I don’t know which local council my property belongs to?

Don’t stress if you have moved to a new city and you have no idea who your local council is as the Government has a great list of contact details which will help guide you in the right direction.

Applying for Council Tax Exemption

Now, this where things can get complicated, as this all depends on how your local council operates. The system varies depending on where you live, and some councils will ask you to call them and give your details and they can arrange an exemption for you whilst you are still on the phone. In other instances, you may have to fill out a ‘certificate of student status’, which you can pick up from your university admissions office and then post to your council. Some universities offer online systems which allow you to request a letter with the appropriate information to send to the council on your behalf. 

Student holidays and other situations which might affect council tax

Student holidays and non-term time

This one can be a bit puzzling but the easiest and best way to find out whether you will have to pay during holidays is to figure out the duration of your course and how long you are registered on it. 

In short, your council tax exemption kicks in on the day your course begins and will continue until the day you finish your course (this is the final day of your final term, rather than the day you graduate). this includes when you are on holiday- for example, the summer holidays and not at university studying. So, your summer holidays are covered but double-check when your final year officially ends to avoid being caught short.

What if I am taking time out from my course?

There are some instances where a student might have to take some time out from their full-time course- for example, because of health or family issues. This could mean suspending your studies for a little while. 

In this case, if you suspend your course but are still registered because you will be returning at a later date, you should still be regarded as a student for the purposes of council tax.

Useful resources to help with council tax queries

Everyone’s situation is a little different, so to get some more specific advice on your council tax bill (or lack of!), contact:

  • Your local council– browse GOV.UK
  • Your university, or Student Union’s advice service, which will have a host of experience and local resources to help you
  • Citizens Advice Bureau, which offers guidance and a helpline


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Written by Dan Roberts
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