Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Council Tax Exemption for Students and Spouses

The UK is divided up into councils and each council levies a tax to cover things like police, water and garbage pick-up within the community. Where we live, we are governed by the Edinburgh City Council, but less populous geographical areas may be governed by a borough or district council rather than a city council.

The Council Tax is levied through housing with each dwelling belonging to a different band, depending on location. (This is very similar to property taxes in the US, where nicer areas, or those with special amenities will have a much higher property tax than those without.)

All students in the UK, whether domestic or international, are exempt from paying the council tax. What many people do not realize though, is that if you are the spouse or dependent of an international student with no recourse to public funds, you are not required to pay either. I cannot tell you how many times we have been told since arriving, that I (the spouse) will have to pay the tax, while my husband (the student) will not. We've been told this by friends, by property letting agencies, and we even had friends who were told this by the Edinburgh City Council! Again, the confusion arises because the non-student spouses or UK nationals, are required to pay the tax, so they assume it's the same for everybody.

So, spouses, if your visa says (as it almost surely does), "NO RECOURSE TO PUBLIC FUNDS", you are most definitely exempt from paying the council tax. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise, including your local council! Don't be surprised, though, if you have to prove it to them. The following link will take you to the Department of Communities and Local Government publication for the UK (see page 9): Council Tax: A guide to your bill. You may need to direct your local council to this page in order to back up your exemption claim.

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