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Council Tax: What it is, and how to not pay it

Wondering why you received a little letter in your mailbox asking you to cough up thousands of pounds in council tax? Let’s start with what Council tax is. This tax is how local authorities – Westminster council in the case of you Baker Street residents – generate revenue to pay for services such as rubbish collection, street cleaning, education, and firefighting within your borough. The price paid is set per household, varying by the value of the property itself and the borough that it falls under.

However, did you know that as a student, you’re entitled to a discount on your council tax, or an exemption altogether? Here’s how it works:

  • Any household which is occupied exclusively by full-time students qualifies for a full exemption on council tax.
  • If your home is made up of both full-time students and non-students, you will get a council tax bill through the door each month, but only non-student tenants will have to pay it.
  • If everyone in your home is a full-time student except for one non-student, unfortunately the latter will have to pay the bill themselves, but will receive a single person discount of 25%

Finally, if you are indeed liable for council tax, you can still opt to pay your council tax in twelve monthly instalments rather than ten – finance experts will already know that there’s such a thing as ‘time value of money’, and you can rest assured that you’ve managed to get a leg up on the council!

How to claim your student discount or extended instalment schedule? Simply write or email the council at the address provided in the council tax demand letter, quoting your account number. List the names of the students living in the property, being sure to include proof of full-time education for each student. The Programme Office should be able to provide with a document that can serve as your confirmation of student status.

Councils can be slow to respond, but if you don’t hear back for a few weeks, it may be worth picking up the phone and calling them to chase up!

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