16th April 2021



Council Tax: Students must act now to avoid unwelcome charges

4 min read

The vast majority of councils are considering tax increases, according to research

Students are being encouraged to claim their exemption from council tax

The vast majority of councils are considering tax increases, according to research

Manchester City Council and its partners are working to raise awareness in students of their need to register with the council if they wish to claim an exemption from paying council tax.

Council tax is a local tax on domestic property that is collected by the council.

Revenue collected through council tax is vital as it helps to pay for council services. In addition it also contributes to other public services including the police and fire service.

Some people, including full-time students can claim an exemption so they do not have to pay council tax.

Those eligible for a student exemption from council tax include full time students, postgraduate students, students under 20 and undertaking a qualifying course, foreign language assistants, visiting academics, or a spouse or dependent of a student.

Many students mistakenly believe that they do not have to claim an exemption from council tax. But ignoring letters from the council tax service could lead to them having to pay unwelcome charges.

The council is obliged to collect council tax unless proof of an exemption is provided to them.  

If a notice to pay council tax is ignored, the council will ask the Magistrates’ court for a Liability Order which is a demand to pay the outstanding balance plus £82 costs.


If this demand is also ignored an enforcement agency will be employed to recover the outstanding balance and further costs will be incurred.


Students who neglect to claim the exemption from the council promptly will be able to claim their student exemption at a later date but will have to pay any court costs and enforcement charges incurred.


Councillor John Flanagan, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources, said: “I’d urge students not to delay in claiming their exemption from council tax, it’s quick, easy and can all be done online.”


“We’re pleased to welcome thousands of students to Manchester each year and know there are many exciting distractions in our city but if you ignore letters from the council tax service you may face some unwelcome charges.”


Further Information about council tax, including how update your details and claim exemptions, can be found online at: www.manchester.gov.uk/counciltax



Case studies

Lisa & Jennifer


Best friends, Lisa and Jennifer gained admission to Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in Sept 2016 and decided to rent an apartment instead of living in a ‘Student Hall of Residence’. The apartment’s letting agents informed the council tax service that they had moved in, and Council Tax bills were issued.


As no payments were received, letters were posted to Lisa and Jennifer each warning that they could be summoned to the Magistrates court with a court fee incurred if payments were not made.


On the court hearing date, the friends attended the Magistrates’ court to explain that they were students and that they understood they were exempt from paying council tax. The girls thought they didn’t need to do anything to claim the exemption.


Council Tax officers at the court explained that while full-time students are exempt from paying council tax they must provide proof to the council that they are enrolled on a qualifying course to be granted the exemption.

After providing evidence that they were students, a student exemption was awarded but the friends still had to pay the costs incurred for the matter being taken to the Magistrates’ Court.



John who is a Salford University student lives alone in Manchester. Just like Lisa and Jennifer, he decided to ignore all the Council Tax bills/letters sent by the Council Tax Service. However, he didn’t show up at the Magistrates court on the hearing date after being summoned. As a result, more letters were sent to him warning of an enforcement agent visit to which no response was received.


John’s Council Tax account was eventually passed to an enforcement agency to recover the unpaid Council Tax, at this point enforcement agent fees were incurred.

When enforcement agents visited his address John tried to explain that he was a student and shouldn’t have to pay. However, as he had not provided proof to the council that he was a student he was told by them that he should pay the full Council Tax balance for the year or they would consider seizing some of his belongings.


John paid over £1,000 by credit card that day, then later sent his student details to the council. He was subsequently awarded a student exemption from council tax but he didn’t get all of his money back. The money refunded did not include court costs or the enforcement agent’s fees that he had incurred.

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