How do I claim tax credits?

Updated on 7 February 2019

Tax credits and benefits

To claim tax credits, you will need a claim form (a TC600). On this page we detail the process.

The Government is gradually introducing universal credit, a new benefit which will eventually replace tax credits, and some other social security benefits. Universal credit is being introduced geographically and in areas where the full service is available, it may no longer be possible to make a new claim for tax credits. Existing tax credit claimants are expected to be moved across to universal credit between 2019 and 2023. You can find out more about this in our universal credit section.

Can I claim tax credits in my area?

Not everyone can make a new claim for tax credits due to the introduction of universal credit (UC). UC is gradually replacing tax credits. In some postcode areas, you can no longer make a claim for tax credits unless:

  • You or your partner have reached state pension credit age
  • You or your partner are responsible for three or more children (and you do not meet one of the exceptions requiring you to claim UC)

Use our postcode tool to find out whether you can make a claim for tax credits in your postcode area.

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. It's often worth having a look at these before asking for a claim pack, however even if they suggest you may not be entitled you are still able to ask for a claim pack and submit a claim.


Phone HMRC’s tax credits helpline on 0345 300 3900 (textphone: 0345 300 3909) to ask for a claim pack to be sent out to you in the post.  It’s a good idea to have your National Insurance number to hand (if you have one) when you ring.  

Online request for a claim pack

Order a claim pack to be posted out to you using HMRC’s on-line services, via the GOV.UK website.

Face-to-face (benefit claimants)

If you are also claiming income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, or income-related employment and support allowance, Jobcentre Plus may be able to help you make a fast claim e.g. if you are coming off benefit because you are starting work.

In areas where UC full service is due to be introduced within 3 weeks of the date of request for a tax credit claim form the process is different. The HMRC adviser should ask if you want to make a new claim for tax credits over the phone. This process is in place because if a claim pack is sent in the post and received back by HMRC after your area joins the UC full service, the tax credits claim cannot be processed.

If you do not wish to claim by telephone, HMRC will still send out the paper claim pack but they will explain to you that if the completed claim is received back on or after the date your postcode joined the full service then the tax credit claim is likely to be rejected (unless you fall under an exception).

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What happens after I send my claim form back?

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 fill in 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 on-line 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 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 fill in a TC600 claim form and send it to HMRC as explained above. 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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