Council Tax

Last modified: 10 August 2017

Council Tax is set by local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to pay for local services that they provide, such as rubbish collection, the police and the fire brigade. It is based on the value of the house, flat or other accommodation (in this information these are all called ‘dwellings’) in which you live.

There is no Council Tax in Northern Ireland but there is a different local tax which students may have to pay called Rates. For more information speak to your Students’ Union or institution’s advice service. The Northern Ireland government also publishes useful information.

Living with non-students

Last modified: 09 August 2017

If you live with adults who are not students, there will be a bill for the dwelling. You cannot be held jointly liable to pay the bill, for example, if you are a joint tenant with the non-student(s). However you may still be liable for a bill if you are the only liable person, or if all the jointly liable people are students.

If you are living with someone who has immigration permission as a Tier 4 (General) student because they are a sabbatical officer, are on the doctorate extension scheme, or are a postgraduate doctor or dentist, then they may not be considered to be a 'student' for Council Tax purposes, even though they are sponsored under Tier 4 (see Who is a "student"). You will need to seek advice from your institution's advice service or Students' Union to find out what their status is in relation to Council Tax, and whether they will be considered to be 'disregarded' for the purpose of the Council Tax bill.

If the only non-student adult in your dwelling is your spouse (husband or wife), civil partner or an adult dependant, the dwelling may still be exempt. The dwelling should still be exempt if your spouse, civil partner or dependant is not a British citizen, and has been given immigration permission to be in the UK with a ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition or a prohibition on employment endorsed in their passport or on their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). This covers almost all spouses, civil partners and dependants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland who come to join an international student in the UK. 

Some local authorities have refused to recognise that a dependant who has permission to work in the UK but has a ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition is exempt from Council Tax. This generally happens because while the law says that the concession is for a dependant who is prevented from taking paid employment or from claiming public funds, the local authority may interpret the word "or" to mean "and". In May 2012, Mr Justice Sales in the High Court dismissed such an interpretation by the London Borough of Harrow on this basis, in a case specifically about the council tax liability of the dependant of a student. The judgment confirmed that local authorities should be applying the latter "disjunctive" meaning of "or", and that it is sufficient for a spouse to meet one of the requirements, not both. If you wish to appeal against your local authority's interpretation of "or", it is advisable that you seek advice from an adviser at your institution, your Students’ Union, your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or a local solicitor. and refer them to this judgement (Harrow London Borough Council v Ayiku [2012] EWHC 1200). An earlier judgment by Lord Denning in the case of Crosfield Electronics v Baginsky and Others [1975] 1 W.L.R. 1135 was not specifically related to council tax or to students, but did have the same interpretation of the word "or".

The dwelling will not be exempt if your non-student spouse, civil partner or adult dependant living with you in the dwelling are:

  • 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 'indefinite leave to remain')

The bill

Last modified: 10 August 2017

A Council Tax bill is calculated according to two main elements:

  • the value of the dwelling, and
  • the number of adult residents age 18 or over who are solely or mainly resident in the dwelling.

​The local authority assigns the value of each dwelling to one of eight ‘bands’, A-H, with A being the lowest value band, H the highest. You can check your dwelling's band online. Each local authority sets the amount of tax payable for each band for its own area, so Council Tax rates vary across the country.

In order to establish how much of the full council tax charge needs to be paid, the local authority will count the number of adults who are living in the dwelling. However, they will ‘disregard’ certain resident adults, including:

  • those exempt as they meet the Council Tax definition for 'student'
  • student nurses on registered courses who are not deemed to be ‘full time students’ under the Council Tax legislation
  • recent school leavers under 20 years old, who left school after 30 April (eligible to be disregarded only until 1 November of the same year)
  • non-EEA/Swiss spouses or civil partners or dependants of students who hold immigration permission for a limited period of time (known as 'limited leave to remain') and who are prevented from taking employment or claiming public funds as a condition of their leave.

For other categories of disregarded adults, contact your local authority. If there are two or more resident adults who are not ‘disregarded’ a bill will be issued for the full amount according to the dwelling’s ‘band’. However, a discount is applied to dwellings with less than two resident adults. For more information on these discounts, and for guidance on reductions for those with a disability, see Council Tax information available on Gov.uk.

Local authorities in England and Wales have discretionary powers to reduce council tax in an individual case, for example on grounds of hardship or as a result of misfortune such as flooding of a property. For further information contact your local authority.

 


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