How do I claim tax credits?

Updated on 5 June 2019

Tax credits and benefits

To get tax credits, you will need to make a claim. On this page we detail the process.

The Government is gradually introducing universal credit (UC), a new benefit which will eventually replace tax credits, and some other social security benefits. Universal credit is now available across the UK and most people are no longer able to make a brand new claim for tax credits and are expected to claim UC (or pension credit) instead. Existing tax credit claimants are expected to be moved across to universal credit between 2020 and 2023. This will follow a pilot involving up to 10,000 people who will be moved between July 2019 and July 2020. You can find out more about this in our universal credit section.

Can I claim tax credits in my area?

Universal Credit (UC) is available across the UK which means that most people can no longer make a brand new claim for tax credits. From 1 February 2019, you may still be able to make a brand new clam for tax credits if you (or your partner, if you are making a joint claim):

  • are entitled, or have recently been entitled, to the severe disability premium in income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or housing benefit.
  • are a ‘frontier worker’. Frontier workers are people who are ‘in Great Britain’ (under Section 4(1)(c) Welfare Reform Act 2012) or ‘in Northern Ireland’ (under Article 9(1)(c) of Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015) but do not reside in either GB or NI. Crown servants or members of HM Forces who are posted overseas (as defined under the UC Regulations 2013) are not frontier workers.

If you already get working tax credit and want to claim child tax credit or vice versa, this does not count as a brand new claim and you will not need to claim universal credit. You can simply phone the tax credit helpline on 0345 300 3900 or report the change via your Personal Tax Account.

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Where do I get a claim form from?

There is a questionnaire on the GOV.UK website which can give you an idea of whether or not you qualify for tax credits and also a tax credits calculator which can give you a rough idea about how much you may be able to get. From January 2019, HMRC have stopped issuing paper claim forms and anyone who needs to make a new claim will be invited to do so by telephone. HMRC will arrange to call you back to take your telephone claim.  

HMRC have also withdrawn the detailed notes that accompanied the form (TC600) but you can see an archived version from 2018 in the GOV.UK archive.

If you meet one of the exception criteria and wish to make a new claim for tax credits you should telephone HMRC's tax credits helpline and the claim will be handled by telephone.

HMRC have confirmed that for people who are unable to contact them directly by telephone due to hearing or speech impairment, HMRC will continue to provide the Next Generation Text service and HMRC's NES (Needs Enhanced Support) team are able to arrange to deal with customers through face-to-face contact.

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What happens after I make my claim?

HMRC will add your claim to their computer records and check for any missing information. If they have all the information from you that they need to deal with your claim, they will make a decision whether to award tax credits or not. Sometimes, HMRC may need further information or want to carry out some checks on the claim. They may write to you for evidence to support your claim. You will need to ensure you send information back within the time limits set out in the letter HMRC send you. If this happens, it may mean HMRC’s initial decision about your claim is delayed or HMRC may refuse your claim.

HMRC will make an initial decision on your claim. Normally, you will receive an award notice which will show the information they have used to decide your claim and your income information. If they decide you can get tax credits, they will tell you how much they have decided to pay and what your payments are. You should check this notice carefully to make sure they have got your details right as any mistakes might mean you get the wrong award and if it is too much, you might have to pay it back at a later date.

If anything is wrong, missing or incomplete, you should contact HMRC within 30 days of the date on your award notice.

If HMRC do not think you are entitled to tax credits, you will usually receive a letter telling you this and the reason why. If you do not think the decision is correct, you can ask for the decision to be reviewed and, if necessary, appeal against the decision by following the guidance in our appeals section.

Your payments will usually be paid straight into your bank account every four weeks, unless you have asked for weekly payments.

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What happens next?

When HMRC first get your claim, they make what is called an initial decision. This is based on the information you have given on your claim form.

During the year, your award may change if you tell HMRC about a change of circumstances or a change in income. This is called an amended award.

After the tax year ends, HMRC will send you a ‘renewals’ pack. This does two things. It finalises the year that has just ended and acts as your claim for the new tax year. HMRC may ask you to confirm your income and circumstances for the year that has just finished and will send you a final decision on your claim. See our page on How do I renew my tax credits claim? for more details.

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How do I claim if I already get tax credits?

If you already claim working tax credit and want to claim child tax credit or vice versa, you do not need to go through a new claim form. You can phone the Tax Credit Helpline on 0345 300 3900 (textphone 0345 300 3909) or tell HMRC using the tax credit online service on GOV.UK and they will amend your claim.

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What if my income is too high to claim tax credits?

It is worth making a claim for tax credits (if you meet the exceptions mentioned above) even if you think you do not qualify because your income for this year or last year is too high. This is called a protective claim. It is a good idea to do this if there is a chance your income might fall later in the year.

Normally, when you claim tax credits, payments can only be backdated for up to 31 days (see our backdating section for more information). If you make a protective claim, and your income falls, you will receive your entitlement for the whole tax year rather than just 31 days.

To make a protective claim, you should complete a claim with HMRC. HMRC will process your claim and if your income is too high, they will send you an award notice that will show ‘NIL’ entitlement. If your income falls later in the year, you simply contact HMRC and they will amend your award. If your protective claim was made at the start of the tax year (6 April) then your payments will be backdated to that date based on your new lower income.

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