What are Specified Adult Childcare credits?

Updated on 17 April 2023

Tax basics

Many people look after their grandchildren to allow the children’s parents (or carers) to go out and work. This can mean that the grandparents are not building up entitlement to the state pension.

Grandparents are probably the biggest group of such ‘family carers’. But other adult relatives such as an aunt or uncle can also make claims to Specified Adult Childcare credits to increase their future state pension.

Tax Basics - What are Specified Adult Childcare Credits? Illustration of a man and a woman holding a baby.

What are Specified Adult Childcare credits?

These are National Insurance credits that can be used to increase or even enable entitlement to the state pension. They arise where the parent (or main carer) of a child under the age of 12 does not need the National Insurance credits arising from their claim to child benefit.

Normally this is because the parent (or carer) is working and is paying National Insurance contributions (NICs), even if they are paying at a zero rate. This is important because NICs build up entitlement to the state pension, among other benefits. But the parent (or carer) will also be receiving NIC credits towards their state pension if they claim child benefit. Even if the parent (or carer) has chosen not to receive the child benefit payments, perhaps because of the high income child benefit charge, they will still receive these NIC credits as long as they have claimed the child benefit.

If you have not claimed child benefit at all – whether because of the high income child benefit charge or for some other reason – then you can only backdate a claim for child benefit for three months. See GOV.UK for details of how to claim.

How can this help the relative?

Where the parents (or carers) receive NIC credits as a result of their child benefit claims, but they do not need them because they are paying NICs through their employment or self-employment they will have ‘spare’ credits (Specified Adult Childcare credits). These can be transferred to a relative who looks after the child to allow the parent (or carer) to work.

Those credits can count towards the relative’s eligibility for a state pension, provided that the individual wishing to claim the credits did not have a valid election in place to pay reduced NICs. These credits could be very valuable where the relative has not yet reached the maximum number of years required for a full state pension; or they could help a relative qualify for some state pension where they had not met the minimum number of qualifying years for a state pension.

For individuals reaching state pension age on or after 6 April 2016, the number of years required for a full state pension is 35. The minimum number of years required for a partial state pension is 10.

Who can claim these credits?

Certain relatives can claim them provided all of the following three conditions must be satisfied for the year for which it is intended to transfer the NIC credits:

  1. The relative:
  • has not already reached state retirement age;
  • looks after a child or children under the age of 12 while the child or children’s parent or main carer is working (see below regarding socially distanced care);
  • does not already have a qualifying year in their own right through their own contributions or NIC credits;
  • is ordinarily resident in the UK;
  1. The parent (or carer) does not need the NIC credits from their child benefit claim for their own NIC record.
  2. Both the relative and the parent (or carer) make a joint claim at the relevant time (see below).

You can find a list of relatives that are able to claim the credits in the GOV.UK Specified Adult Childcare credits factsheet

For the 2019/20 and 2020/21 tax years, care provided ‘at a distance’ (for example, because social distancing prevented normal caring arrangements from being possible) could qualify. Examples of such care might have involved the use of telephone, video calls or other forms of socially distanced contact.

How do I know that the parent (or carer) does not need the NIC credits?

The simplest way is to check the National Insurance record of the parent or carer. They can only do this after the end of the tax year and the record may not be fully up to date until October following the end of the tax year. This means that you would have to wait until October 2024 before you made the request for the tax year 2023/24. However, you could check for the 2021/22 tax year and earlier years, and from October 2023 for the 2022/23 tax year.

In the meantime, you can get an indication by considering their pay from working.

Employees are treated as having paid NIC for pay periods in which they earn in excess of the lower earnings limit (£123 per week / £533 per month in 2023/24) in a single employment. They pay NIC once they earn in excess of the primary threshold in that employment. The primary threshold for the 2023/24 tax year is £242 a week (£1,048 a month). 

Provided the children’s parents (or carers) earn enough over the year, they will make up a ‘qualifying year’ towards their state pension. Any pay periods when they earn less than the lower earnings limit are excluded, but in order to get a qualifying year they need to earn only £6,396 (in 2023/24) over the remaining weeks. That figure excludes any earnings over £967 in a single week.

If you have two or more employments at the same time – for example, you have two part-time jobs with employers that are not connected – then you must consider the earnings from each of them separately against the above thresholds. For example, if you earn £100 a week from each of two employments, then you will not pay NIC on either employment and the earnings will not count towards entitlement towards state benefits, even though you earn more than £123 a week in total across both employments.

For the self-employed, provided that they pay (or are treated as having made) Class 2 NIC for the whole year, that will give the parents (or carers) a qualifying year towards their state pension. See our self-employment guidance for information on Class 2 NIC.

How and when do we claim?

Both the person giving up the credits and the person claiming them need to complete and sign the claim form CA9176. As noted above, this cannot be actioned until at least October following the end of the relevant tax year – so October 2023 for the tax year 2022/23, and October 2024 for the tax year 2023/24, but you could make the claim for earlier years.

Claims can be processed for as far back as the tax year 2011/12, so it is well worth making sure all relevant credits are claimed.

What other information may be useful to us?

It is the person who has claimed the child benefit who may be able to give up the NIC credits. 

Other people who might claim the credits include the partner of the child benefit claimant. They would claim on form CF411A.

There is only one set of NIC credits to be transferred so if more than one person is eligible to claim, they need to agree who will claim.

You can read more about Specified Adult Childcare credits on GOV.UK.

You can read more generally about National Insurance on our dedicated page What is National Insurance?.

Tax guides

Share this page