Written by the Great British Mag editorial team on 11 Nov 2020.
As a student in higher education you will be exempt from paying some taxes altogether or will pay a reduced amount, and Council Tax is one of them. Find out what Council Tax is and how you can opt out of paying it as an international student.
What is Council tax?
People living in the UK pay a local tax that covers the cost of amenities in their area, such as rubbish collection, the police, and the fire brigade. This tax is paid to the local authority and in England, Scotland, and Wales it is called ‘Council Tax’ and in Northern Ireland it is called ‘Rates’.
Do international students have to pay Council Tax?
There is not a simple yes or no answer because even as a student you must meet certain requirements. You will qualify for a full rebate if you fall into one of these categories:
- A full -time student enrolled on a course which lasts for a minimum of 24 weeks in each academic year where you study for 21 hours per week during term time.
- A trainee nurse or midwife
- A sabbatical officer with the students union at the end of your studies
- You qualify for the doctorate extension scheme
- You are a postgraduate doctor or dentist
You will be liable for all or part of the Council Tax bill if:
- You are a part-time student, studying for less than 21 hours a week and your course lasts for less than 24 weeks.
- You are sharing the property with a British citizen or someone settled in the UK, with indefinite leave to enter or remain as well as someone from the 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.
- You are on an NHS apprenticeship or other apprenticeship pathway
- You are studying in Northern Ireland
How to prove you are a student?
What you will need to do to be exempt from Council Tax will depend on which part of the UK you live in. To find out what you must do log onto the local authorities’ website in your area, and ask your university. If proof is needed that you are a full-time student your university can provide it free of charge
How is the Council Tax Bill calculated?
A Council Tax bill is calculated by the local authority based on the value of the property you live in and the number of permanent residents live in the property that are over 18 years old.
The value of the property is calculated by the local authority by placing it into one of eight ‘bands’, and you can check which band your property fall into by going to the Government website and entering your postcode.
Do you have to pay Council Tax if your spouse and adult children live with you?
If you have moved to the UK with your husband or wife, civil partner or an adult dependant and they have been given immigration permission to be in the UK and are not allowed to work or claim any form of aid from the government they will be exempt from paying Council Tax.
You can check their immigration status by looking at their visa or Biometric Residence Permit.
They will not be exempt if they 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’
Are you liable to pay Council Tax if you defer or take time off?
If you miss a few classes because of illness, this will not affect your Council Tax exemption or discount. However, if you suspend studies for a longer period or leave your studies you will need to get in touch with your local authority who will adjust your Council Tax liability.
If you intend to stay in the UK outside term time, such as the summer holidays, you will become liable for Council Tax and need to get in touch with your local authority.
What happens if you don’t pay your Council Tax bill?
If you are liable but fail to pay the bill, the local authority will usually start legal proceedings to recover the money. If you disagree with the bill, have difficulty paying it, or have allowed arrears to build up and owe a lot of money, you should seek advice from your university or Citizens Advice.
If the bill is wrong, the local authority may agree that you can delay payment until the bill is corrected. However, if you are in dispute about the bill, the local authority may expect you to make some payments while the dispute is in the process of being resolved.
How can I appeal against a Council Tax bill?
You should contact your local authority immediately if you have received a bill and you think it is for the wrong amount or that you are exempt from paying the bill.
The bill should provide you with instructions of how to notify your local authority. The authority then has two months to decide whether you are liable to pay the bill. If it fails to do so within that time or if you disagree with its decision you can appeal to an Independent Valuation Tribunal.