How do I claim tax credits?

Updated on 2 November 2020

Tax credits and benefits

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

Illustration of people and a digital tax document

⚠️ Universal Credit (UC) is 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 November 2020 and September 2024. This follows a pilot involving no more than 10,000 people who will be moved between July 2019 and July 2020, although this may change due to the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. 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. HMRC state that most people can no longer make a brand new claim for tax credits. There are still a couple of exceptions to this broad rule and from 1 February 2019, HMRC state that 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, to the severe disability premium in income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or housing benefit or have recently been entitled and although the benefit has ended, continue to meet the entitlement conditions for the severe disability premium.
  • 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.

Since 1 February 2019, HMRC state that people who have reached their state pension credit qualifying age are no longer permitted to make a new claim for tax credits (even if they meet the exceptions above). This rule also applies if you are part of a mixed age couple (with one person above that age and one below) unless you fall into one of the exceptions mentioned above. People who have reached their state pension credit qualifying age will be expected to claim pension credit for support, which now also includes elements for children, instead. People who part of a mixed-age couple are expected to claim UC. Prior to 15 May 2019, mixed-age couples had a choice between UC and pension credit.

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. If you already claim tax credits, you can continue to renew your claim in the usual way.


⚠️ Note: The legislation which gives effect to these rules about new tax credit claims is not clear. One interpretationof the current legislation is that some other people may be able to make new claims for tax credits. We have written some guidance for advisers on our specialist website which provides further information about this – however, it is extremely complex and should not be followed without speaking to a welfare rights specialist.


It is generally not possible to claim tax credits and UC at the same time and if you are an existing tax credit claimant and you make a claim for UC then your tax credit award will be terminated and, unless you fall in one of the exceptions above, it is unlikely that you will be able to claim tax credits again.

Where do I get a claim form from?

There is a tax credits calculator which can give you a rough idea about how much you may be able to get. HMRC stopped issuing paper claim forms from January 2019 and since then, anyone who needs to make a new claim will do so by telephone.

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.(Please note that the notes are not kept up to date and explain the rules as they were in 2018/19).

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. If the adviser you speak to does not think you meet one of the exceptions, they may refuse to accept a claim. In such a case, if you believe you may be entitled to tax credits, you should insist on making a claim so that you receive a formal decision which carries appeal rights.

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 Extra Support Team are able to arrange to deal with customers through face-to-face contact.

What happens after I make my claim?

HMRC will process your claim 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.

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.

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. 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.

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 won't get an award 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 that starts at the beginning of the tax year, 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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