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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

Children aged 16 and over

Child tax credit can be claimed for a child or qualifying young person. There are specific rules and age limits which cover claiming child tax credit for children once they turn 16. There is more information about the general rules for child tax credit on our child tax credit page.

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Claiming child tax credit for children aged 16 and over

For child tax credit, a child is someone under the age of 16. Between their 16th birthday and the following 31 August (or from 31 August if their 16th birthday falls on that date), they are counted as a qualifying young person whether or not they are in full-time non-advanced education or approved training.

After that date, they are classed as a qualifying young person up to age 20, provided they are in full-time non-advanced education or certain training. This is sometimes called approved education or training. To be included until the age of 20, which is the maximum age, the young person must have started or enrolled on their course by their 19th birthday.

Child tax credit can also continue to be paid for a young person if they are registered with certain agencies whilst looking for work or training.

  For universal credit, once a child reaches age 16 they become a qualifying young person and can be included in a universal credit claim up to (but not including) the 1st September following their 16th birthday. After that the rule is slightly different to tax credits because, provided they remain in full-time non-advanced education or approved training and they were enrolled on, or started, the course before they were 19, they can only be included up to (but not including) the 1st September following 19th birthday.

Full-time non-advanced education

You can still get child tax credit for your child/qualifying young person up to their 20th birthday if they are in full time non-advanced education (the GOV.UK website refers to this as ‘approved education’). Your child must have started, enrolled or been accepted onto a full time non-advanced course before their 19th birthday.

They must be studying at a school or college, or elsewhere providing they were studying there prior to their 16th birthday and it is approved by HMRC. The course of study must also not be one that the young person is pursuing because of their employment.

From May 2020, a young person will also be treated as in full time education if the education is provided elsewhere (not a school or a college), is approved by HMRC and the young person has received a statement of special educational needs. In addition, the programme of education must have been assessed by a local authority as being suitable for the young person’s special needs.

Full time study

This means on average not less than 12 hours a week spent during term-time in tuition, supervised study, exams and practical work. The 12 hours includes gaps between courses, but not meal breaks or periods of unsupervised study.

Non-advanced education

This includes the following:

  • an ordinary national diploma;
  • a national diploma or national certificate of Edexcel;
  • GCSEs;
  • A-levels (AS and A2 levels) or similar qualifications, e.g. Pre-U, International Baccalaureate;
  • T-levels
  • Scottish highers or group awards
  • NVQ and other vocational qualifications up to Level 3
  • Traineeships as part of the 16-19 Study programmes in England.

Any qualifications above this are classed as ‘advanced’ do not count as non-advanced for child tax credit. Advanced education includes studying at university for a degree or studying for a BTECH higher National Certificate. If education is provided as part of your child’s employment it will not count for child tax credit purposes.

Approved training

You can still get child tax credit for your child/qualifying young person up to their 20th birthday if they are doing approved training. Your child must have started, enrolled or been accepted onto an approved course before their 19th birthday. If training is provided to your child as part of their employment contract, it cannot count as approved training for child tax credit.

Approved training includes:

  • In Wales - arrangements made by the Secretary of State under section 2 of the Employment & Training Act 1973 (includes: Foundation Apprenticeships’ or ‘Traineeships’ or ‘Jobs Growth Wales’)
  • In Scotland – arrangements made by the Scottish Ministers under section 2 of the Employment and Training Act 1973, or by Scottish Enterprise or Highlands and Islands Enterprise under section 2 of the Enterprise and New Towns (Scotland) Act 1990 (includes: No-one Left Behind programmes)
  • In Northern Ireland – arrangements made by the Department for the Economy under section 1 of the Employment and Training Act (Northern Ireland) 1950 (includes: Training for success; PEACE IV Children and Young People 2.1; Skills for life and Work).

When the college course ends

Child tax credit will usually end on the last day of the course, which is often the day of their last exam. But if they decide to go on to further education, for instance at university, then child tax credit can continue until the 31 August immediately after the end of their course or they reach age 20, whichever is the sooner.

Leaving college before the course ends

Once they are over 16, if the young person leaves a course or training programme, child tax credit for them will normally stop when they leave. You must notify HMRC within one month that your child has left full time education or approved training otherwise you may be overpaid and may face a penalty.

But child tax credit can also be paid for a further 20 weeks if your child/young person registers for work or training with any of the following:

  • in England: the local careers service, Connexions or local authority support service
  • in Scotland or Wales: the local careers service
  • in Northern Ireland: the careers service of the Department for Employment and Learning or an Education or Library Board
  • the Ministry of Defence: if your child has applied for and is waiting to join the Armed Forces
  • a similar organisation to others in this list in any European Economic Area country, or Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

You must inform HMRC within three months of your child leaving education or training (if your child registers for work or training with one of the above providers) in order to get this 20-week extension. The 20-week extension period applies from the day the young person leaves the course or training programme. Claimants must also tell HMRC if their child leaves the programme before the end of the 20 weeks.

If they leave when they are 18 or 19, entitlement will stop when they leave education or training.

When child tax credit cannot be claimed

You cannot claim child tax credit for your child/young person in the following circumstances:

  • if they leave education or approved training
  • they start claiming certain benefits in their own right.

There are also situations where you may no longer be treated as responsible for a child or young person. There is more information on our child tax credit page.

How to claim the child element when a child turns age 16

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) automatically stop child tax credit for a child from 1 September following their 16th birthday. You will need to contact HMRC if your child/young person is staying on in education or approved training from 1 September, and subsequently as they turn 17, 18 and 19 years old, to ensure child tax credit payments continue.

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