Council Tax

Updated June 2022

This information is for both Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students unless stated otherwise

What is council tax?

Council Tax is a local tax on a residential property based on the property's value. The money goes towards local community services such as, Police and Fire Authorities, waste collection, parks and libraries.  A Council Tax Bill is automatically sent out to each property every year.  

Do students have to pay?

Firstly, it is important to be aware that Council Tax is a serious matter and local authorities regularly take people to the Magistrates Court for non-payment.  It is important to check the rules that apply to you and contact the local authority if you think they have made a mistake.  Do not ignore a letter from the local authority concerning Council Tax, even if you do not think you are liable to pay.

To be exempt from paying Council Tax, a student needs to be enrolled for the purpose of undertaking a “full-time course of education” for at least 24 weeks in an academic year.  It is not necessary to count how many hours you – as an individual - study.  If in doubt, ask your School if your course is a “full-time course of education”. 

Students are considered “full-time” from the day they enrol on a “full-time” programme until the day they complete it, abandon it or are dismissed from it.  This includes Easter and Christmas holidays during your course and Summer holidays between academic years, but does not include:

  • Any period before you enrol on the first year of your course.  If you are an international student and arrive in the UK before you enrol, you will be liable to pay Council Tax until the date of your enrolment;
  •  the Summer period after you complete your course.

The following information outlines various situations of students at Reading, and Council Tax liability within these circumstances.  If your situation is different to one of those listed, speak to a RUSU Adviser, who will clarify your Council Tax liability for you. 

If you live in University Halls of Residence….

…. You will be exempt from Council Tax, no matter what your status.

If you live in Private Halls of Residence….

…. Different rules may apply, and you will need to provide evidence of your full-time student status to receive the exemption.  Seek advice from the Advice Service if you are unclear.

If you are living in Private Rented Accommodation…

… the situation concerning Council Tax can differ depending on make-up of the property.  As a student, you would not be liable for Council Tax, but any non-students in the property may be.  The table below outlines the common scenarios.

Students in Private Rented Accommodation

Refer to the table below to see how council tax should be paid dependant on the number of students and none-students in private rented accommodation.

All full-time students
  • All Full Time Students are exempt
  • No Council Tax is paid
  • This is known as a ‘Class N’ property
Majority of full-time students, one person not considered a full-time student
  • All Full Time Students are exempt
  • The single non-student (or part time student) is liable
  • The sigle non-student or part-time student can apply for a Single Person Discount (25% reduction on the Council Tax Bill)
Majority are not considered full-time students, one full-time student
  • The full-time students would be exempt from Council Tax liability
  • 100% of the Coucil Tax should be payable by other residence of the property
Even split between students and non-students
  • All full-time students are exempt from Council Tax liability
  • 100% of Council Tax should be payable by anyone without full-time student status
  • No Single Person Discount can be applied, as there is more than one non-student in the property

Student Status or Mode of Study

You might be unsure of your liability for Council Tax if your circumstances are slightly different from simply being a full-time student.  We have outlined some scenaris below which can impact your liability for Council Tax, and what your liability would be in these different situations.  If you are unsure, then please speak to the Advice Service, who can help you clarify the situation.Do not ignore letters from the local authority about Council Tax, even if you think they have made a mistake.

Part-time students You will be liable to pay Council Tax as you are not enrolled on a “full-time course (unless you live in a Student Halls of Residence – see above)
Students who are registered on a Full-time course but who are studying on a Part-time basis

It is our understanding that students who are studying on a Part-Time basis but who are registered on a Full-Time course are not considered to be exempt from Council Tax by local authorities in this area.

If you are studying in this way and would like to discuss your Council Tax liability, please speak to an Adviser.

Full-time pre-sessional students

Pre-sessional students also need to prove enrolment on a full-time course in order to be exempt from paying Council Tax: you will not be able to do this if your course is for less than 24 weeks, even if you are going on to study on a full-time course immediately after your pre-sessional course. 

If you have any questions seek advice from a RUSU Adviser.

Full-time students on period(s) of required placement If you are on a sandwich course or a placement required by your course, you should be exempt from paying Council Tax during these periods, as you remain enrolled on a full-time course
Full-time students who suspend their studies

The local council may consider that being suspended means a student does not meet the definition of a full-time student, and therefore you are liable to pay Council Tax. Some authorities consider the reasons for suspension when deciding liability to pay. 

If you are in this situation please speak to a RUSU Adviser.

Any student between the end of one course and the start of another If you complete one programme and are due to start a separate programme, you will be liable to pay Council Tax between these courses. The exception to this is if you are living in University Halls of Residence – note that separate rules apply to Private Halls of Residence
Full-time Postgraduate Students who extend their studies beyond their original end date (for example, when writing up) In these circumstances, some Councils do not deem that writing-up students meet the definition of a full-time student.  If you are charged Council Tax under these circumstances, seek advice from the RUSU Advice Service, but be aware that you may be liaiable to pay.  You may need to give further information on your status/circumstances to your local authority, e.g. a letter from the Graduate School.
International and EU Students

International students and EU students are treated in the same manner as Home students, and have to meet the criteria as outlined. 

You should be aware that you may be liable to pay Council Tax if:

  • You arrive in the UK before you are enrolled onto a course;
  •  You remain in rented accommodation after the end of your course and before returning to your home country.
Dependents or spouse of International Students

If the spouse/dependant is not a British citizen, and, as a condition of their visa is one of the following

a)    not permitted to work OR

b)    b) not granted ‘recourse to public funds’

 they should not be liable to pay. The dependant should provide evidence (a photocopy of their visa) to the local authority.  Please be aware that only one adult dependent is exempt per each visa.

 

How do I let the Council know that I am a student?

When you move into a property, you should contact the local authority to claim exemption from Council Tax.  You can obtain a “Council Tax Exemption Certificate” or “Certificate of Enrolment” from the Student Helpdesk in the Carrington Building or by logging onto your RISIS Account, selecting ‘Self Service Letters’ and printing your enrolment letter. You should then send this to your local authority. 

Don’t assume that the local authority will know that you are eligible for an exemption: if in doubt, speak to your local authority.

Failure to pay Council Tax – the consequences

If you are sent a Council Tax bill and you have not paid it, the local authority will send you a ‘Reminder to Pay’ letter.  This may be a demand for the full annual amount to be paid.  Even if you consider yourself to be exempt, if you ignore Council Tax bills and reminder letters, the local authority may take further action against you.  This could be a Magistrates’ Court summons, which may also lead to additional Court fees. 

 

If the court grants the local authority the power to recover the debt from you, this may result in:

  • A visit from an Enforcement Agency, to take away your possessions up to the value of your debt;
  • An attachment to earnings or benefits order – this allows your employer to take money straight from your wages to pay back to the Council;
  • Up to three months imprisonment.

 

It is important not to ignore any letters from your Local Authority concerning Council Tax, even if you think that you are exempt from paying

If you receive a letter but are not sure what it means, or what you should do about it, speak to a member of the RUSU Advice Service to try and resolve the matter before any of the above actions are taken.

 

If you are liable to pay Council Tax, you may be entitled to Council Tax Reduction (otherwise known as ‘Council Tax Support’).   This may reduce the Council Tax Bill you are liable to pay by up to 85%.  It is only available to those living on a low income and applications should be made to your local authority.

All students at the University of Reading can apply for additional financial support from the University’s Student Support Fund, if you face unexpected financial hardship and have exhausted all other options to maximise your income and minimise your expenditure. 

Further information on the Student Support Fund can be found on the University website at  https://student.reading.ac.uk/essentials/_money_matters.aspxs.  Applications for the Student Financial Support Find can be made via the RISIS Portal.

Local Authorities’ Council Tax office details:

Reading Borough Council: 0118 937 3727 http://www.reading.gov.uk/counciltax

Wokingham Borough Council: 0118 974 6000 http://www.wokingham.gov.uk/council-tax/

Bracknell Forrest Borough Council: 01344 352011 http://www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/counciltax

RUSU Advice Service

 If you would like further advice or to speak with somebody in person then a Students’ Union Adviser may be able to help. The specialist advisers offer a confidential service, independent from the University so they can discuss your case with you in private

Contact the Advice Service

The Advice Service remains operating on a virtual basis. The core hours for the Advice Service are between 10am and 4pm. Advice may not be available outside of these hours.

If you would like to speak to an Adviser, then you can complete our online form or email us at advice@rusu.co.uk. A member of the Advice Team will get back to you as quickly as possible, and can offer you advice via email, telephone or Teams in the first instance.

In addition, we are currently offering virtual drop-in advice session on a Tuesday between 5-7pm and Friday between 10am-12:30pm. More information can be found on our Virtual Drop-in page.