Council Tax disregards for full-time university students can sometimes be open to dispute, especially when there has been a period of intercalation.
We shall look at how a period of intercalation appears to affect entitlement to a Council Tax disregard for a full-time university student.
Undertaking a university course – Am I a full-time student ?
The council Tax (Discount Disregards) Order 1992 (as amended) sets out the requirements needed to be regarded as a full-time student for Council Tax purposes. It provides that:
4.—(1) A full-time course of education is, subject to subparagraphs (2) and (3), one—
(a)which subsists for at least one academic year of the educational establishment concerned or, in the case of an educational establishment which does not have academic years, for at least one calendar year;
(b)which persons undertaking it are normally required by the educational establishment concerned to undertake periods of study, tuition or work experience (whether at premises of the establishment or otherwise)—
(i)of at least 24 weeks in each academic or calendar year (as the case may be) during which it subsists, and
(ii)which taken together amount in each such academic or calendar year to an average of at least 21 hours a week.
Regulation 9 additionally clarifies that,
9. In this Schedule, the relevant period for a course or programme means the period beginning with the day on which a person begins that course or programme and ending with the day (“the last day”) on which he completes it, abandons it or is dismissed from it (which period includes any periods of vacation between terms and before the last day).
In basic terms – you are normally required to undertake a course of 21 hours per week or more (on average), for 24 weeks or more to be a full-time student for Council Tax purposes.
What about intercalation ?
Intercalation is where a student takes a leave of absence from a degree often, but not always, for medical reasons. Over time various government departments responsible for Council tax have issued guidance notes. Letter No 5 of 1996 included guidance on the of intercalation of students. This note advises that
In our view a period of intercalation will remain within the period of a course (the amendment in Statutory Instrument 1996/636 described above helps to clarify this) and therefore, provided that the person remains enrolled at the educational establishment, they will continue to fall within the definition of a full-time student.
Statutory Instrument 1996/636 has been subsequently amended and the regulation now states that;
and a person is to be regarded as ceasing to undertake a course of education for the purpose of this paragraph if he has completed it, abandoned it or is no longer permitted by the educational establishment to undertake it.
Valuation Tribunal decisions regarding Intercalation
There is very little in the way of Valuation Tribunal decisions to clarify the statement made in guidance letter No 5 of 1996.
Tribunal Decision 1765M88934/176C , although not specifically about it, does appear to indicate that intercalation, in the view of the Valuation Tribunal, did not affect entitlement provided that the main requirements for classification as a full-time student were met. This would be in agreement with the practice note.
Am I still a student ?
It would appear under Council Tax legislation that providing the University still continues to regard you as a full-time student ( i.e you would normally be required to undertake 21 hours per week (on average) for 24 weeks or more) then you should still be entitled to a disregard as a full-time student for Council Tax purposes.
Student Certificates are not required to get a discount
Whilst a student is undertaking a course of full-time education a university must issue a student certificate on request. Paragraph 5 of Schedule 1 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 states:
(1)An institution shall, on request, supply a certificate under this paragraph to any person who is following or, subject to sub-paragraph (3) below, has followed a course of education at that institution as a student or student nurse.
(2)A certificate under this paragraph shall contain such information about the person to whom it refers as may be prescribed by order made by the Secretary of State.
(3)An institution may refuse to comply with a request made more than one year after the person making it has ceased to follow a course of education at that institution.
There is no sanction specified in legislation if they do not issue the certificate but neither is there anything in Council Tax legislation which states a certificate must be supplied before a full-time student can be disregarded.
Regulation 15 of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 ensures that a local authority shall grant a Council Tax discount where they believe one applies – this means you can satisfy entitlement other than by providing a student certificate (the acceptance of alternative proof however is at the local authority’s discretion – any dispute would need to be settled via a Valuation Tribunal).
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This article is solely the view of LGFA92, the Council Tax experts, based on our interpretation of legislation. Your local authority is free to dispute this view. A binding decision may require the intervention of a valuation tribunal.