When you make a relocation to London, you’ll discover there might be different taxes you have to pay in the UK than you’ve had to deal with before. It goes without saying that the UK has its own income tax structure that includes contributions to the national healthcare system (NHS), etc., but the ones that usually catch expats moving to London most by surprise are council tax and TV licensing. Today, I’ll explain the latter.

As the TV Licensing website (www.tvlicensing.co.uk) states:

“You need to be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record TV as it’s being broadcast. This includes the use of devices such as a computer, laptop, mobile phone or DVD/video recorder.

It costs £145.50 for colour and £49.00 for a black and white TV Licence.”

If you intend to be the sole occupant of your London apartment and will indeed watch television in it, you are responsible for obtaining your own TV license. If you’ll be lodging in a London flat-share in which you occupy one room of the London property and have a separate tenancy agreement from your flatmate(s), then you are likewise responsible for having your own TV license. If, on the other hand, you are sharing a London apartment rental under a joint tenancy agreement, then one TV license is enough for the entire property (there are exceptions to this rule, however—oddly enough, it could make a difference if you have “exclusive access to a toilet or washing facilities”; what that has to do with television, I don’t know, but they must be sticklers, so you can contact them with questions if you’re unsure).

With regard to that last arrangement, the London Relocation agency often assists groups of students seeking joint tenancy agreements on a shared London apartment to rent. If you’re a student moving to London and will be staying in a dormitory instead, be advised that even if there’s a communal television on your floor for all residents of that floor to view, you are still responsible for obtaining your own TV license if you watch programming inside your individual room.

You might be wondering, then, what is the license for? Well, a TV license basically pays for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) programming you watch or listen to, be it on your television, computer, or radio. On the television, BBC offers thirteen different stations plus additional content with the use of a red button on your remote. Such additional content can also be found online through your computer or  portable devices (including mobile), and programming is available via BBC iPlayer. Finally, there are eighteen BBC radio stations offering a diverse range of international music, news, sports, and talk. The fee likewise covers cost of installation of TV receivers.

Dinner with friends the other night brought this topic to mind because we were raving about the high quality of a lot of BBC programming. The content is comprehensive, and the filming technology is cutting edge, as evidenced by shows like Planet Earth and Frozen Planet. Seriously, just to give an example, this time-lapse footage on the underwater “brinicle” is insane (and has nearly five million hits on YouTube to date)!

So, hopefully this helps tick off one more question that your international relocation has raised. Moral of the story: if  you plan to watch television programming in the comforts of your apartment, you’re going to have to register for a TV license.