Council tax exemption has traditionally only been possible for full-time students.

What is the definition of a full-time student for council tax purposes?
To count as a full-time student, your course must:

  • Last at least one calendar or academic year, where you’re required to undertake the course for at least 24 weeks out of the year.
  • Normally require at least 21 hours of study, tuition or work experience per week during term time.

How are distance learning courses defined?
Distance learning courses are officially considered part-time by King’s. As such, any letter we issue needs to be clear about the mode of study.

As a distance learner, you have a greater degree of flexibility over how and when you study, but you are only deemed to be ‘actively’ studying when you are enrolled on a module.

Each module usually takes between 6 – 8 weeks to complete and each module will have a credit value. The credit value will have an equivalent number of ‘notional’ study hours, and this is what we use to calculate how many hours of study per week you are expected to be doing. To find out what this is, you are best to contact your department.

Definitions in law
Council tax eligibility and exemption is set in law and not something which is decided by King’s or any university. This means we cannot determine if you definitely are or are not eligible. We can only explain the eligibility criteria and help to identify if you are likely or unlikely to fit that criteria and explain why. But the decision on your eligibility for exemption will always sit with your local authority.

Overall, courses which are defined as part-time are usually not regarded as eligible for council tax exemption since they don’t usually meet the criteria for 21 hours+ over 24 weeks+, as outlined above.

However, there have been occasions where this legal definition has been challenged and it has been found that there are courses which meet the criteria for study time and could be deemed eligible.
If you would like to find out more about this in detail, there are examples in case law:
Valuation Tribunal L V-S and Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames 21/03/2019

Can Student Services give me a letter to apply for Council tax exemption?
Yes, we can issue you with a letter, and you can use it to apply for Council tax exemption if you wish.

Your letter will contain the following:

  • A statement confirming you are studying as a distance learning student, and that this is considered part-time by the university
  • Your course name
  • Your overall course start and expected end dates
  • The module you are currently studying and the start date
  • Any other modules you have already studied
  • An explanation of how many weeks you have studied or are expected to study, and a calculation of the expected study hours per week

We will liaise with your department directly to confirm the dates of your study on current or past modules within the current academic year.

Important to know:

  • We can only issue letters confirming factual information confirmed by your record and department
  • We can only represent your status and information as it is at the date of issue, i.e. your record as it is ‘now’.
  • It is your responsibility to update your local authority with information which may affect your eligibility if your situation changes (if exemption is granted).
  • Issuing you with a letter does not mean you are eligible or that you will be granted exemption. It is up to your local authority to decide if you are eligible.
  • If you are currently in receipt of welfare benefits, making the case that you are a full-time student may remove your eligibility for means tested benefits.  You are strongly advised to seek specialist local advice, if this your situation.

How can I get support and advice on this?
As with determining eligibility for any benefit, determining eligibility for council tax exemption can be complex if you are not classified as a ‘full-time’ student. However, we can provide you with advice and guide you through the legal jargon, especially if you are at all unsure whether you should apply or how your particular course would be defined.

If you have questions and want to have a better understanding of council tax, you are welcome to contact the Money & Housing Advice team, whose specialist advisers can support and advise you.

What can I do if I don’t get exemption?
As an alternative, you can look into applying for a Council tax reduction.

Local authorities can choose how to operate this benefit, which means that having local knowledge tailored to your particular authority is much better, so we advise seeking out local support in your area using Find an adviser.

If you apply and are then unhappy with the council’s decision you can challenge this, and look into how to appeal this decision.

Important to know: If you considering doing this, you are best to seek advice before proceeding and contact the Money & Housing Advice.