How does it interact with other schemes?

Updated on 14 November 2018

Help with childcare costs is a complicated area because the Government offers different schemes. Each scheme has different qualifying rules and often the amount you receive can be different. Sometimes if you claim help from one scheme, that can stop you claiming help from other schemes and so you will need to try and work out which one is better for you based on your circumstances.

This section explains how the childcare element of working tax credit interacts with other childcare schemes.

Tax credits and childcare vouchers

For information on how tax credits credit and vouchers interact, please see our other section on voucher interaction.

Most people who qualify for tax credits are likely to be better off claiming help through the childcare element of tax credits and not taking childcare vouchers offered through a salary sacrifice. This is because initially you will lose significantly more tax credits than you will gain in tax and National Insurance savings from taking the vouchers and over the longer term you will gain only a small amount from the vouchers. This example shows how the interaction between the two schemes works.

However there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if your childcare costs are a lot higher than £175 a week for one child or £300 a week for two or more children then you can claim vouchers as well as the maximum amounts of tax credits. Similarly, if your employer offers you vouchers in addition to your salary you will be better off taking them.

This means it is important that you check your own position carefully and work out which is better. You should contact a welfare rights adviser at a local advice agency for further support. 

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Tax credits and universal credit

Both working tax credit and child tax credit are gradually being replaced by universal credit. You cannot claim both together. Universal credit is being rolled out across the UK. Eventually, everyone who is claiming tax credits will be moved across to universal credit. You can find out more about the introduction of universal credit in our main tax credits and benefits section. You can find out more about childcare support in UC on our universal credit and childcare pages

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Tax credits and free childcare

You cannot claim the childcare element of working tax credit to cover any free childcare. When your child starts getting free childcare, you must tell HMRC about the change in the childcare costs you pay.

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Tax credits and other childcare support

You may qualify for other forms of childcare support such as the childcare grant if you study. Often the rules of these schemes say you cannot claim help if you are already claiming help through the childcare element of working tax credit. It is important that you check the rules carefully if you are considering claiming other childcare support at the same time as the childcare element of tax credits.

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Tax credits and tax-free childcare

Tax-free childcare (TFC) was introduced in April 2017 and the gradual roll-out was completed in February 2018 meaning that anyone who meets the qualifying conditions can now use the scheme. Under TFC, you must open a childcare account and for each 80p you pay in the Government will pay 20p up to a maximum of £2,000 per child, per year (£4,000 per disabled child, per year). However, you cannot claim tax credits and tax-free childcare at the same time. If you claim TFC, your whole tax credits claim (working tax credit and child tax credit) will end automatically.

Some people will be better off claiming tax-free childcare than tax credits, while others will be better off claiming tax credits and not claiming tax-free childcare. Due to the roll-out of universal credit, it is important that you understand your options before ending your tax credits claim as if you make the wrong choice you may not be able to re-claim tax credits and instead may be forced to claim universal credit which is gradually replacing tax credits. You can find out more about TFC and how it interacts with tax credits on our TFC page.

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