Council Tax

Image of the Clifton Suspension Bridge

Council tax is a charge imposed by local authorities to help pay for public services such as schools, the police, libraries, street cleaning and the fire brigade. Council tax is paid per household. The amount payable depends on these two factors:

  • the value of the property you live in (even if you’re only renting)
  • the number of people who are ‘counted’ for the purposes of council tax.

Full-time students are generally exempt from paying council tax. If you go home for the summer (or move house), notify the council so that you're not presented with a bill while you're not in the property!

The Exemption

Full-time students are students who are on a course that:

  • lasts for at least one full calendar year or academic year;
  • requires your “attendance” for at least 24 weeks; and
  • consists of at least 21 hours of study, tuition or work experience per week.

These criteria apply equally to both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

“Attendance” doesn’t just mean your physical attendance at lectures, but also includes visiting the library or meeting with a supervisor. So PhD students who are writing up can be classed as full time students for the purposes of council tax. However, this will depend on the circumstances of each student.  

The exemption does not apply to:

  • part-time students
  • full-time students who are the home-owner and live with one or more non-student
  • full-time students who have interrupted their studies for more than a year.

Such students have to pay council tax, though there may be discounts and/or benefits you can claim.

Bristol City Council decide whether or not a particular student is exempt, not the University. However the University may be asked by the Council to confirm whether you meet certain criteria.

Claiming Your Exemption

Unless you live in University accommodation, you need to apply for your council tax exemption using Bristol City Council’s student exemption form. University accommodation is automatically exempt from council tax, so no form is necessary if you’re living there.

You may need to provide evidence that you are a student to the council, in the form of a Certificate of Full-Time Study. Generally this isn’t necessary as the University provides the Council with a list of full-time students twice a year. However, if you are asked to provide evidence of your student status, Certificates of Full-Time Study are available from each faculty office or from the International Office. Please note that Certificates of Full-Time Study are the only evidence that the Council will accept – letters from your supervisor or a tutor won’t cut it.

If you have any problems claiming your council tax exemption, please speak to a Just Ask adviser or contact the Student Funding Office.

What if I'm on a supplementary year?

If the units you're studying in your supplementary year add up to less than around 60-70 credit points, you may become liable for Council Tax. It is somtimes possible to challenge this - speak to the Student Funding Office for help.

 

Discounts/Benefits

If you do have to pay council tax, you may be eligible for a discount and/or council tax reduction. The rules on these can be quite complicated, if you have any questions please see a Just Ask adviser.

Discount for Disabled People

If you are disabled or have a disabled person living with you, and meet certain other criteria, you may be entitled to a reduction in the rate of council tax you pay. The Gov website has more details about council reduction for disabled people and guidance on how to apply.

Discount for Sole Council Tax Payers

If you do have to pay council tax, and you are the only person in your house who has to (ie, because you’re the only adult there or because everyone else you live with is a full-time student), you will be liable to pay the council tax for the whole property. However, you will be entitled to a 25% reduction in the council tax bill, to reflect the fact that only one person is paying it. This is called the Single Occupancy Discount. Bristol City Council produce a factsheet about the Single Occupancy Discount, and now have a facility for you to claim the discount online.

Benefits

Council tax reduction is financial assistance, available to people with low incomes, to help them to pay their council tax. You can still claim council tax reduction if you have received a Single Occupancy Discount. Bristol City Council can advise you further on council tax reduction (and any other benefit for that matter): contact them on 0117 922 2300 or visit their website. You may also find it helpful to use the Council’s online calculator to see how much you could be entitled to.

People You Live With

If you’re a full-time student and you live with one or more adults who aren’t full-time students, in most cases the non-full time students of your household will have to pay the council tax for your home. Of course, this is just the legal position – there’s nothing to stop you making informal arrangements with your spouse/partner/housemates so that you pay a contribution (if you want to!). The important thing is that the council receive the full amount due from your household.

If you live with one person who isn't a full time student

If there’s just one person in your household who is liable for council tax (such as a non-student spouse, or a friend who studies part-time living with full-time student friends), that person is liable for the council tax for the whole property. The only exception to this is where you are an international student living with your non-student spouse.

Any solely liable person can claim the Single Occupancy Discount (even if, in practice, you help them out with payments from time to time). They may also be entitled to council tax reduction.

If you live with more than one adult who isn't a full time student

If there’s more than one non-full time student in your household, they will usually be jointly liable for paying council tax. The Single Occupancy Discount will not be available, but council tax reduction might be.

If you are an international student living with your non-student spouse

If your spouse is also from overseas and their visa prevents them from taking paid employment or claiming benefits, they will be exempt from paying council tax. This exemption does not apply to:

  • British citizens
  • citizens from the European Economic Area
  • spouses who have been granted “indefinite leave to enter or remain”.