How do I claim a marriage allowance refund?

Updated on 31 March 2022

Tax basics

The marriage allowance has been in effect since 6 April 2015. Some couples are only just becoming aware of the marriage allowance. The good news is that claims can be backdated for up to four years.

Illustration of a married couple

What is the marriage allowance?

The marriage allowance allows an individual to transfer 10% of their personal allowance (£12,570 in 2022/23 so the amount transferred is £1,260) to their spouse or civil partner. 20% of this allowance is then given as a reduction in the recipient’s tax bill. This can result in anything up to a £252 tax saving for the couple.

There are various criteria to be met. You can find more information about the marriage allowance on our website.

Why would I be due a refund?

The marriage allowance was introduced in April 2015. You can claim to transfer the personal allowance for 2018/19 and subsequent tax years, even if you didn’t do it at the time. It is no longer possible to make a claim for the 2015/16, 2016/17 or 2017/18 tax year.

You will only get the full benefit if the person giving up the allowance is not using it AND the person receiving the tax reduction can use it.

This can result in the couples being able to make the following tax savings:

  • 2021/22 tax year: the personal allowance was £12,570, meaning £1,260 can be transferred (maximum £252 tax saving).
  • 2020/21 tax year: the personal allowance was £12,500, meaning £1,250 can be transferred (maximum £250 tax saving).
  • 2019/20 tax year: the personal allowance was £12,500, meaning £1,250 can be transferred (maximum £250 tax saving).
  • 2018/19 tax year: the personal allowance was £11,850, meaning £1,190 (rounded up) can be transferred (maximum £238 tax saving).

You need to meet the criteria in respect of each year you apply for the allowance.

How can I claim the refund?

The person giving up part of their personal allowance needs to make the claim and as part of doing this, can make claims for earlier years also.

There is a relatively straightforward online facility to do this on GOV.UK. To use it, you need to have your National Insurance number and prove your identity, such as by giving details from your P60, payslips, passport or child benefit. You also need the National Insurance number of your spouse or civil partner.

If you cannot claim online, you can telephone HMRC on 0300 200 3300 or write to them to make the claim.

For prior years, you will receive a refund cheque from HMRC. For the current tax year and going forward, your own and your spouse or civil partner’s tax codes will be amended. For the self-employed and others in Self Assessment, the marriage allowance will be dealt with as part of the Self Assessment tax return.

There was a glitch in HMRC's systems that meant the marriage allowance was being omitted from Self Assessment calculations, but we understand this has now been fixed. It is always worth checking your Self Assessment calculation carefully however to make sure that the marriage allowance claim has been processed properly.

If your circumstances change, such as you divorce or you or your spouse become a higher rate taxpayer, you should let HMRC know as you will no longer be eligible for the marriage allowance.

Tax refund company warning

There are plenty of organisations which offer to make the Marriage Allowance claim for you, but they will usually take a fee from any repayment you get. Some of these organisations can act very unscrupulously and it is important to be on guard. Our page of guidance on tax refund companies tells you more.

It is particularly important to be aware that sometimes you may think you are dealing directly with HMRC but are dealing with one of these commercial organisations. 

What are the time limits?

In order to claim back to 2018/19, couples have until 5 April 2023. For 2022/23, you have until 5 April 2027 to submit a claim. You can read more about time limits for claiming tax refunds on our introduction page.

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