⚠️ 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. Instead, people are expected to claim UC or pension credit if appropriate. Existing tax credit claimants can continue to renew their tax credits and/or add extra elements to their claim. See our tax credit page for more information. Our understanding is that the majority of existing tax credit claimants will move to either universal credit or pension credit. It is expected that the majority of people who have not reached state pension age, and who continue to claim tax credits, will be invited to move to UC by the end of 2024. You can find out more about this in our universal credit section. 

Can I claim for my child aged 16 or over?

Updated on 11 April 2023

Tax credits and benefits

We explained the basic rules about child tax credit (CTC) on our CTC page. This page tells you about claiming CTC once your child reaches the age of 16.

Illustration of a group of teenagers

Can I claim for my child aged 16 or over?

In simple terms, a child is 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 will be counted as a ‘qualifying young person’ without the need to be in full time education or training. To continue to be treated as a young person after this date, they must be under 20 and in full time non-advanced education or approved training. You can also continue to get CTC for a young person if they are registered with certain agencies whilst looking for work or training. We explain each of these in more detail below.

To claim until the age of 20, the young person must have started or enrolled on their course by their 19th birthday.

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

Note: For universal credit (UC), once a child reaches age 16 they become a qualifying young person and can be included in a UC claim up to (but not including) the 1st September following their 16th birthday. After that the rule is slightly different 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.

What is full time non-advanced education?

You can still get CTC for your child 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 needs to 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 his or her 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 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 includes:

  • 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’ and you cannot claim CTC. 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 CTC purposes.

What is approved training?

You can still get CTC for your child up to their 20th birthday if they are doing approved training. Your child needs to have started, enrolled or been accepted onto an approved course before their 19th birthday.

Approved training includes:

  • Wales arrangements made by the Secretary of State under section 2 of the Employment & Training Act 1973:
    • ‘Foundation Apprenticeships’ or ‘Traineeships’ or 'Jobs Growth Wales'
  • Scotland 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:
    • No One Left Behind programmes
  • Northern Ireland, made by the Department for the Economy under section 1 of the Employment and Training Act (Northern Ireland) 1950:
    • ‘Training for Success’
    • ‘PEACE IV Children and Young People 2.1’
    • Skills for life and Work

If training is provided to the young person as part of their employment contract, it cannot count as approved training.

What happens once their college course ends?

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

What if they leave college after age 16?

Until their 18th birthday, if the young person leaves a course or training programme, CTC will normally stop when they leave. You must notify HMRC within one month that they have left full time education or approved training otherwise you may face a penalty.

But CTC can also be paid for a further 20 weeks if the 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. You must also tell HMRC if your 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.

For more information on claiming CTC for young people aged 16 or over, check the GOV.UK website.

Situations where you cannot claim CTC

You cannot claim CTC for a 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. You can find out more about this on our CTC page.

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