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Universal Credit (UC) is gradually replacing tax credits, and some other social security benefits. Universal credit is now available across the UK and HMRC state that it is no longer possible for anyone to make a brand-new claim for tax credits. The only exception is for certain people who are granted refugee status. Instead, people are expected to claim UC or pension credit depending on their circumstances.  Currently, existing tax credit claimants can continue to renew their tax credits and/or add extra elements to their claim. See our existing tax credit claimants page for more information. Our understanding is that the majority of existing tax credit claimants will move to either universal credit or pension credit by the end of the 2024/25 tax year. You can find out more about this in our universal credit section. 

Updated on 6 April 2024

Backdating tax credits

This page explains when it is possible for tax credit awards to be backdated.

Content on this page:

Overview of backdating rules

Now that universal credit is replacing tax credits, HMRC state that it is no longer possible to make a brand new claim for tax credits, the only exception to this is in certain refugee cases. This means it is no longer possible to backdate new claims in most cases.

However, there are backdating rules that apply to changes of circumstances and some backdating rules that still apply if you are awarded refugee status and can make a new tax credit claim

Backdating following a change of circumstances

If you become entitled to extra elements of tax credits as a result of a change of circumstances, HMRC will usually pay you these elements from the date you report the change. However, you can be paid for an earlier period in certain circumstances. This is called backdating.

We explain what changes must be reported on our changes page.

If your circumstances change while you are getting tax credits, so that you qualify for extra elements to be included, you should contact HMRC straight away so they can be added to your award. If you met the rules for the new elements before you told HMRC about the change, HMRC can backdate the change to the award up to one month, but you need to ask for this backdating.

In some cases involving disability elements longer backdating may be possible.

Backdating and the disability elements

The disability-related elements of child tax credit and working tax credit are only included if you or someone included in your claim get certain disability benefits or payments.

If you now qualify for extra elements to be included because you (or someone in your family) start getting a qualifying disability benefit, HMRC should be notified straight away so the element(s) can be added to the award. You should be able to have the extra elements added in from start date of your disability benefit claim provided you tell HMRC within one month of the date of the decision on the qualifying disability benefit claim.

Example 1

Sandra claims CTC for her daughter Amy. She applies for Disability Living Allowance for Amy on 10 May 2024. The DLA is not awarded until 12 October 2024. As long as Sandra tells HMRC that Amy has been awarded DLA within 1 month (from 12 October 2024) she will receive backdating of the disabled child element of CTC to 10 May 2024.

Sometimes the date the disability benefit is awarded from falls into a previous tax year. Where this happens, the backdating rules still apply providing you tell HMRC within one month of the date of the decision on the qualifying disability benefit claim.

Example 2

Bruno works 30 hours a week and claims WTC. He applies for Personal Independence Payment on 4 November 2023. The PIP is awarded on 12 August 2024. As long as Bruno tells HMRC within one month of the date the PIP decision is made (from 12 August 2024), HMRC will be able to add the disability element to his ongoing award and also review his award from 2023/24 to include the disability element from 4 November 2023.

Claiming universal credit before getting a disability benefit decision

If you move from tax credits to universal credit after you have made a claim for a disability benefit but before the decision on that benefit is made, you may still be able to claim backdated tax credits. You should contact HMRC within 1 month of the date of the decision on the qualifying disability benefit claim.

Example 3

Rasheed is a single father with two children. He worked full time and claimed working tax credit and child tax credit. On 1 May 2023, he claimed Disability Living Allowance for his youngest child. In November 2023, Rasheed lost his job and claimed universal credit from 10 November 2023. His tax credits ended. In December 2023, his DLA claim for his youngest child was refused and Rasheed appealed the decision. In September 2024 Rasheed was awarded DLA for his child following a Tribunal. As long as Rasheed contacts HMRC within 1 month of the Tribunal decision, his tax credits award will be recalculated to include the child disability element(s) from 1 May 2023 (the start date of the DLA award) to 9 November 2023 (the day before he claimed universal credit).

Changes of circumstances which reduce a tax credit award

If your change means you are entitled to a lower amount of tax credits, HMRC will backdate the change to when it actually happened, regardless of when you tell them about the change. You must tell HMRC about some changes that happen within a month, otherwise HMRC might charge a penalty for not telling them in time. See our section on changes of circumstances to find out more about what needs to be notified and when.

Backdating and refugee status

When it was possible to make new tax credit claims, if you met the qualifying rules before your date of claim, HMRC would backdate your claim up to 31 days. In other words, they treated the date of your claim as made up to 31 days earlier than it was actually received. This happened automatically in some cases.

It was possible for new claims to be backdated longer than 31 days in two cases – the first where a qualifying disability benefit was needed to give entitlement to tax credits and the second where an asylum seeker was granted refugee status.

If you were granted refugee status, your claim for tax credits could be backdated to the date you claimed asylum, but only if you claimed tax credits within one month of the decision granting you refugee status. Any backdated tax credit payments you got were reduced by the amount of Government support you were given for living expenses during the time you were waiting for your asylum claim to be decided. If you had already had a backdated payment of a social security benefit reduced because of this, you should have been paid the full backdated amount of tax credits.

Since the introduction of Universal credit, HMRC have gradually reduced the number of people allowed to make a brand new claim for tax credits. The exceptions to this rule have been steadily removed to the point that HMRC now state that it is no longer possible to make a brand new claim for tax credits. HMRC originally stated that this covered everyone and that meant people granted refugee status could no longer access backdated tax credits and they would have to claim universal credit instead (universal credit does not have similar backdating provisions for those granted refugee status). This appeared to be the case even if the application for asylum was made before HMRC stopped allowing people to make new tax credit claims.

HMRC’s position was challenged in the Courts and a decision by the Court of Appeal considered this issue. The court decided that the individual in the case, who was granted refugee status after HMRC said no new claims for tax credits were possible, could claim backdated child tax credit covering a period before they claimed universal credit. This was because on the date they claimed asylum it was not possible for them to claim universal credit. HMRC have updated their guidance on this.

If you have been granted refugee status and your claim for asylum was made at a time when it was not possible for you to make a claim for universal credit, you may be able to make a claim for tax credits.

  You should seek specialist welfare rights help as soon as possible (in order to comply with the 1 month time limit for making a tax credit claim following notification of the grant of refugee status). 

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