High income child benefit charge: moving in with your partner
If you move in with your partner, this can trigger the high income child benefit charge (HICBC). We explain how this works and provide information on completing the HICBC charge section of your Self Assessment tax return in these cases. This is a complex area. We aim to provide a general overview, but would recommend that you take specific advice if you move in with a child benefit claimant during the year and become liable to the HICBC.
Why is moving in with my partner relevant for the HICBC?
If you are in a relationship with another person during a tax year and:
- one (or both) of you has adjusted net income of over £50,000 for that tax year, and
- one (or both) of you claims child benefit in that year,
then you will need to determine on a weekly basis whether that other person is your ‘partner’ for HICBC purposes.
As we explain in more detail on HICBC: issues on separation, you are someone else’s partner for this purpose if, for a given week, either:
you are married (or in a civil partnership) and not separated under a court order or separated in circumstances likely to be permanent; or
you are not married (or in a civil partnership) but you are living together as if you are married.
It is therefore often (though not always) the point when you move in with a partner which will mean you start to be treated as partners for HICBC.
How is HICBC affected if I move in with a partner?
Calculating the HICBC when you have moved in with a partner during the tax year can be quite complicated. In any situation where you are unsure, we recommend you seek advice. See our Getting Help page.
There are several different scenarios that might arise when you move in with a partner, depending on your circumstances. We explain some possible scenarios below.
Note that the person who is the ‘child benefit claimant’ is the person who made the claim. This may not be the same as the person who receives the payments – for example, if they are paid into a different bank account (or joint bank account).
Each of the below scenarios assume that you become partners for HICBC purposes from the point you move in with each other, and that you remain so for the remainder of the tax year.
Scenario A: Your adjusted net income for the year is less than £50,000, but your partner’s is more than £50,000. You are the child benefit claimant for the full year. In this case, the child benefit entitlement for the weeks of the year after moving in together is used to calculate the HICBC payable by your partner, based on their adjusted net income for the full year.
Scenario B: The same as Scenario A, except that your partner is the child benefit claimant for the full year. In this case, the child benefit entitlement for the full year is used to calculate the HICBC payable by your partner, based on their adjusted net income for the full year. The moving in date is irrelevant.
Scenario C: Your adjusted net income for the year is more than £50,000, but your partner’s is less than £50,000. You are the child benefit claimant for the full year. In this case, the child benefit entitlement for the full year is used to calculate the HICBC payable by you, based on your adjusted net income for the full year. The moving in date is irrelevant.
Scenario D: The same as Scenario C, except that your partner is the child benefit claimant for the full year. In this case, the child benefit entitlement for the weeks of the year after moving in together is used to calculate the HICBC payable by you, based on your adjusted net income for the full year.
More complex scenarios may include the following:
both you and your partner’s adjusted net income exceeds £50,000 for the year;
each person in a relationship claims child benefit for their own child(ren);
the child benefit payments stop or start in the year, or they are backdated;
there is an ex-partner prior to the move-in date with adjusted net income for the year of more than £50,000;
contributions are made towards the upkeep of a child from an ex-partner; or
you separate before the end of the tax year.
As already mentioned, we recommend you get tax advice if you have moved in with a partner during the year and are subject to the HICBC. See our Getting Help page.
Example – Annabelle and Kerry
Annabelle and Kerry move in together as partners on 1 June 2022. Kerry has a daughter from a previous relationship and receives child benefit payments. Annabelle’s adjusted net income for 2022/23 was £55,000 and Kerry’s was £18,000.
Since Annabelle’s adjusted net income for the tax year is more than £50,000 she will be liable to the HICBC. She is only liable to pay HICBC in respect of Kerry’s child benefit entitlement from the date they moved in together – not for the whole tax year.
This is the first time that Annabelle has needed to prepare a tax return. She therefore must notify HMRC of her chargeability to tax by 5 October following the end of the tax year (5 October 2023 in this case) and submit a tax return by the appropriate deadline – usually 31 October for a paper tax return or 31 January if filing online. You can read more about registering for and submitting tax returns in our page Self Assessment: understanding the basics.
What if my level of income changes after I have moved in with my partner?
As highlighted above, your income level for HICBC is always assessed based on the entire tax year – not simply your income for the period during which child benefit is taken in account when calculating the charge, if that is different.
The below example shows how this can lead to counter-intuitive results:
Gale and Cameron had been in a relationship with each other for two years before moving in together on 6 October 2022. They are treated as partners from HICBC with effect from this date. Cameron has a child from a former relationship and claims child benefit for that child.
At the start of the 2022/23 tax year, Gale was employed full-time on an annual salary of £58,000 and he has no deductible pension contributions. Cameron’s annual salary is £41,000. They have never previously had to consider the HICBC.
When they move in, Gale decides to work four days a week and his new annual salary from 6 October 2022 is £46,400.
Gale’s total income for the 2022/23 tax year is as follows:
Salary from old job: £58,000 x 6/12 months = £29,000
Salary from new job: £46,400 x 6/12 months = £23,200
Total Income £52,200
Based on Gale’s total income for the year, he is liable to the HICBC. The charge applies despite the fact his annualised salary during the period after he moved in with Cameron was below £50,000. Only the child benefit for the second part of the year is brought into account when calculating the charge.
How do I complete my tax return to show I have moved in in the tax year?
The current Self Assessment tax return forms (both the online version and the paper version) and accompanying guidance notes do not clarify how you should complete the tax return if you are liable to the HICBC and you have moved in with your partner during the tax year.
In some cases, we are aware that answering the questions in the relevant sections literally may lead to an incorrect HICBC being calculated by HMRC or by third-party software. For example, the child benefit entitlement for the full year may be taken into account in the calculation, when only in fact only part-year entitlement should be used. You should therefore independently check that the HICBC which has been calculated for you is correct by following the guidance on this page.
We have asked HMRC for clarification on what taxpayers should do if they find themselves in this situation and they feel the HICBC which has been calculated is incorrect. We await their response. Meanwhile, we suggest you contact HMRC and ask for their advice.
You may decide to complete the boxes on the return in such a way that HMRC’s online systems (or third-party software) calculates the HICBC which you believe to be correct, even if that involves interpreting the boxes in a non-literal way. However, if you choose to do this, we recommend you seek advice first and provide a full disclosure of how you have interpreted the relevant boxes in the ‘Any other information’ section of the return.
Strictly speaking, you cannot appeal a calculation of your tax liability which you submit with your own Self Assessment tax return, even if it is calculated by HMRC’s online systems. You should therefore ensure that the calculation of tax owed is correct prior to submission. However, it is possible to amend a Self Assessment (including the calculation) within the usual time limits, if you later realise it is incorrect.
If you submitted your tax return online then the guidance on GOV.UK says you should update your tax return online if you wish to make an amendment. However, if you feel your return is correct but you wish to challenge the calculation of the HICBC, you may need instead to write to HMRC or contact them by telephone.
I think I might have paid an incorrect amount of HICBC, what can I do?
If you are liable to the HICBC and are worried that you may have paid too much in light of the information given above, we suggest you contact HMRC for advice.
You can read more about amending a tax return on our page How do I claim back tax if I complete a tax return? and on GOV.UK.