How do I renew my tax credits claim?

Updated on 15 May 2018

Tax credits claims last for a maximum of one tax year* (6 April to following 5 April). This section describes how the renewal process works.

Once you have made your claim (see ‘How do I claim tax credits?’), you do not have to keep filling in new claim forms each year.

HMRC will automatically send you a set of 'renewal' papers, and so long as you do what you are asked within the time limits requested, the legislation treats you as having claimed again for the new tax year. Although called the ‘renewals process’ not everyone wants to or needs to renew their claim. However, you still need to complete any forms sent to you as the process is also used to finalise the claim for the tax year that has just finished.

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 (digital) 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 2022. You can find out more about this in our universal credit section.

 

An outline of the process

The process aims to do two things: to finalise your entitlement for the year just gone (the current year) with what you have been paid, and to renew your tax credit claim for the coming year.

Although the process is often referred to as the ‘renewals process’, not everyone will want or need to renew their claim. Some people, for example where a joint claim ended in the tax year just ended, will need to finalise the old claim but will not be making a new claim. In this case they are not renewing – merely finalising the old claim.

* If your tax credits claim ends because you have claimed universal credit in the same tax year, HMRC will ask you to finalise your tax credits claim ‘in-year’. This process is different to the normal renewals and finalisation process outlined below. See our moving to universal credit section at the end of this page for more information.

Back to the top

The renewals process

When you first claim tax credits, your claim is based on your circumstances for the year you claim and your income for the previous year. This is your initial award. Once the tax year ends, HMRC use the renewals process to finalise your claim for the year just ended (by asking for your actual income figures).

After giving your income for the year just ended to HMRC, it is also used, together with your latest set of personal circumstances, to set your new initial award for the new tax year.

So we have a three-year rolling programme. The initial claim for 2017/18 was based on circumstances current in 2017/18 and income for 2016/17. The renewal process carried out in Summer 2018 finalises the award for 2017/18 by comparing the actual income of 2017/18 with that for 2016/17 to fix the final entitlement for 2017/18, and uses the actual income figure for 2017/18 to set the initial award for 2018/19. The 2018/19 claim will then be finalised in the Summer of 2019.

The comparison works like this for finalising 2017/18 claims:

  • If 2017/18 income is less than 2016/17 income by £2,500 or less, the final award is based on 2016/17 income and there is likely to be no change in the finalised award.
  • If 2017/18 income is less than 2016/17 income by more than £2,500, the final award will be based on 2017/18 income plus £2,500. There is likely to be an underpayment.
  • If 2017/18 income is greater than 2016/17 income by £2,500 or less, the final award, like the initial award, is based on 2016/17 income and there is likely to be no change in the finalised award. So an increase in income of £2,500 or less is disregarded (hence the £2,500 is commonly known as 'the disregard').
  • If 2017/18 income is greater than 2016/17 income by more than £2,500 the final award is based on 2017/18 income less £2,500 and there is likely to be an overpayment.

The initial award for 2018/19 will initially be based on actual income for 2017/18 regardless of the income disregards. So an initial tax credit award is made in the year of payment, then revised after the end of the year to produce in many cases an underpayment or overpayment.

To understand more about how these income disregards work see our disregards section.

The rolling programme will be repeated in the renewal process after the end of 2018/19 and the finally ascertained income figure for 2018/19 will be used as the figure on which to base initial awards for 2019/20, which, in turn, will then be finalised after the end of that 2019/20 tax year.

It should be noted that in 2006/2007 and earlier years, the disregard for increases in income was only £2,500. It increased to £25,000 from 6 April 2007. The disregard for rises in income decreased to £10,000 from 6 April 2011 and then to £5,000 from 6 April 2013 and back to £2,500 from 6 April 2016.

Back to the top

The renewal packs

You will normally receive:

  1. A TC603R auto-renewal form – this form will have a black line on the front of it; or
  2. A TC603RR plus TC603D (reply required) or TC603D2 (if HMRC need information for more than one year). his form will have a red line on the front of it. 

plus guidance notes (TC603R or TC603RD). It is very important that you read these guidance notes, even if you plan to renew online. 

If you tax credits have ended because you have claimed universal credit, then the process is different to that outlined on this page. Please see our page 'universal credit and stopping tax credits' for more information.

You should carefully check which form you have received and follow the instructions as the process for renewing is different depending on which form you receive.

If your claim ended (for any reason other than moving to universal credit) during the 2017/18 tax year, then you will receive a review form only because you are not renewing your claim. This will help HMRC finalise your claim for 2017/18. This form will have a black line on the front of it.

If you had more than one claim in the 2017/18 year, you might receive forms for each claim. It is important that you fill them all in.

If you have not received your renewal forms by the end of June – you should contact the tax credits helpline on 0345 300 3900 (textphone 0345 300 3909)

Back to the top

Auto-renewals

Some people will receive just a TC603R auto-renewal form. This will show the circumstances from the tax year just ended and income figures that HMRC hold. It may show a range of income. If your circumstances haven’t changed and the income information is correct, then you do not need to take any action – your claim will automatically renew. The TC603R also acts as your award notice for the new tax year.

It is very important that you check the income figures that HMRC show on the form because you may be able to make certain deductions from your income for tax credit purposes. Read the notes that come with your renewal form. 

HMRC will decide whether you fit the criteria to be an auto-renewal case. If you do not, then you will be a ‘reply required’ case as you will need to fill in a declaration form.

Back to the top

Reply required

If you are not an auto-renewal case, you will receive both forms. You must reply to the TC603R and complete and return TC603D with details of your income for the ‘current year’ (the tax year that has just finished). You must normally do this by 31 July unless a different date is shown on your award notice. 

If you have made more than one claim during the current year, for example, because you started the year as a single claimant then became a joint claimant with a new partner, you must complete a set of forms for each claim, even if they each show the same information.

Prior to 6 April 2010, if a couple separated during the renewal period, and one member of the couple did not complete their forms, any payments made between 6 April and the date they separated would be overpaid. This was the case even if one partner completed their renewal forms.

From 6 April 2010 one member of a couple has been allowed to finalise the previous year’s claim and renew the claim for the period between 6 April and the date of separation. If only one member responds, the award will be based on the information provided, which may not be accurate. HMRC have advised that, where possible, it is still recommended that both members send back their forms, although failure to do so will no longer result in an overpayment provided one partner has done so.

It is important to complete and return renewal papers when required to do so. You may receive text message reminders from HMRC – these are only to remind you that you need to complete the renewals process by 31 July and will not ask you for any personal details. 

Back to the top

Income information provided by HMRC

HMRC now use information from the tax system (called ‘Real Time Information’) to help with the renewals process. Employers and pension providers have to send data to HMRC electronically each time you are paid and HMRC collect that data together.

Your renewal form might show the income figure that HMRC hold for the 2017/18 tax year from your employer(s) or occupational pension provider. There are a few things you need to be careful of with the income figures:

  • You must check that the figure is correct and that your employer has not sent the wrong information to HMRC.
  • You need to check that the figure is the right one for tax credits. Your employer may have sent the correct information to HMRC, but not all income that employer’s report is taken into account for tax credits. For example, you might be able to deduct £100 a week for any weeks of statutory maternity, paternity, shared parental leave or adoption pay. You might have self-employed losses to set against your income, have mileage allowance deductions, allowable work expenses or extra pension contributions. See our ‘what is income’ section for more information or read the notes that come with your renewal form.
  • The forms will only show one figure for employment – so if you have income from more than one employer it may be difficult to check.

If you think that the income information is incorrect or that you can make some deductions from the figures, you should contact the tax credits helpline to ask them to change the income. If they refuse to do so, you need to wait for your final award notice for 2017/18 and your new award notice for 2018/19 and ask for a mandatory reconsideration to start the appeal process. See our appeals section for more information.

Back to the top

How to renew

You can renew in four different ways:

  1. By going online through GOV.UK. You can use this service even if you have changes to report. 
  2. Using the HMRC app (free to download from app store relevant to your device).

  3. By phoning the tax credits helpline on 0345 300 3900 (0345 300 3909 textphone). The line gets very busy in the run up to the deadline of 31 July so you should try and do this as early as possible. HMRC's helpline opening times are shown on the GOV.UK website.

  4. By sending your form back in the post. It is advisable to keep a copy and send it recorded delivery or ask for a proof of postage.

If you make a mistake with your renewal, you can use the online system to enter the information again or phone the helpline as long as it is before 31 July.

HMRC’s online service

You can renew your tax credits online. For security, you should ensure that you access the service through your personal tax account or via the manage your tax credits service.

You will need a Government Gateway account to use the manage your tax credits service. If you do not already have one, you will get one when you sign in. Signing in will also activate your personal tax account which you can then use to check your HMRC tax and National Insurance records. You will need to have a mobile phone or landline number to complete security when logging in.

You can read more about accessing HMRC digital services in our digital services guide.

Some features of the online service include:

  • The service has a save and return function which means you can come back within 28 days and complete it.
  • Confirmation that you have submitted your renewal – at the end of the process you will receive a confirmation screen that gives you a reference number, tells you any outstanding actions you need to take (for example if you have given an estimate of your 2017/18 income you need to report the actual income by 31 January 2019) and how to track progress of your renewal. We recommend that you print this page for your records.
  • You can track the progress of your renewal through the 'manage your tax credits' service. You can also find out when your next payment is due and how much it is.
  • If you have made a mistake or have new information to provide, you can complete the process again as long as it is before 31 July 2018.
  • You can report most changes of circumstances through the service (although see below if you are reporting that you have separated from your partner and wish to make a new single claim).
  • Once you have completed the process, you can enter an email address to receive a copy of the confirmation receipt. We recommend you do this and keep it somewhere safe.

Although the online system can be quicker than post or waiting to get through on the phone you need to ensure you read the guidance notes that come with your renewal form as the questions on the online system can be misleading when read alone. We recommend that you read the notes especially for the following questions:

  • Your earnings for the tax year 2017/18 – The online system will ask you how much you earned ‘before anything was taken off’ and advises you use the total pay or total for the year amount from your P60 to find that information.

    There are lots of deductions you can make from the income figure on your P60 for tax credit purposes including certain pension contributions, gift aid contributions, brought forward trading losses, the first £100 a week of statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay, certain work expenses and subscriptions. There are working sheets in the TC603RD notes to help you.

    Despite what the questions says, make sure you enter your income after any deductions into the box on the online system.
     
  • Company benefits – The online system tells you to add up the benefits you receive that are shown on your P11D. However, not all benefits on the P11D should be included. See Working Sheet 2 in the notes to help you.
     
  • If you have ‘other’ income such as pension income, foreign income or property income, the system will automatically deduct the £300 disregard. This disregard should only be applied once even if both members of a couple have other income.
     
  • If you are using the change of circumstances service to report a change to childcare costs make sure you read leaflet WTC 5 for help to work out your average childcare costs and not just the amount you pay your childcare provider in a week as indicated by the online system.

Back to the top

Provisional payments

So long as renewal papers are returned by the deadlines shown below, claims are treated as made for the new tax year and are backdated to 6 April.

While the renewal process is going on, you will generally continue to be paid on the basis of your last known income and circumstances in the current year (that is, the tax year just gone). In some cases, HMRC will use more up to date income figures from the tax system to estimate your income so your payments can vary. These run-on payments are known technically as provisional payments.

When the renewal process is complete, provisional payments are replaced by payments under an initial award for the new tax year.

The deadline for return of renewal papers that finalise the 2017/18 tax year is the date specified on the renewal papers (in most cases this will be 31 July 2018).

If you cannot supply firm details of your 2017/18 income by the deadline stated on the renewal papers (in most cases 31 July 2018), for example if you are self-employed and are still waiting for your accounts to be finalised, an estimate is acceptable.

The important thing is to return an estimate by that date. If you give an estimate, you should confirm it, or supply actual figures, by 31 January 2019 (which is also the online filing deadline for self assessment).

Back to the top

Missing the deadline

If you do not renew (either by sending the papers to HMRC or renewing via the telephone) by 31 July 2018 (or the date on your renewal papers if different), then your award may be terminated.

Failure to renew means that no new claim is made for 2018/19. Consequently, any provisional payments received from April 2018 will be overpaid (because there is no claim) and HMRC will seek to recover them via direct recovery.

In addition, any other overpayments that were being recovered from your ongoing award will switch to direct recovery when your award is terminated for non-renewal.

If HMRC terminate your award for failing to renew (and consequently stop all payments), regulations allow the claim to be restored provided you do renew within 30 days from the date on the notice telling you your payments are to be stopped (technically called the Statement of Account).

In the summer of 2010, when claims for 2009/10 were being finalised, claimants found it exceedingly difficult to get through to the Tax Credit Helpline to renew their claims. As an acknowledgement of this, HMRC temporarily extended the 30-day restore period to 60 days but the standard rule is 30 days

Outside of this 30-day period, the claim can only be restored if you have ‘good cause’ for failing to renew, so long as you do return your renewal papers by the later deadline of 31 January 2019.

In both cases, restoration means that HMRC treat your claim as being made from 6 April 2018.

If your claim cannot be restored, all provisional payments paid to you from 6 April 2018 will be treated as overpaid, and you will have to make a fresh claim which can only be backdated by 31 days.

If you live in an area where the full (digital) service of universal credit is in place you may not be able to make a new claim for tax credits. In those areas, providing you renew within 30 days of the statement of account, you will be able to have your claim for tax credits accepted. However, if you miss that 30 day extension period and live in one of the universal credit full (digital) service areas and none of the other exceptions apply, then technically you will need to claim universal credit instead. The good cause extension does not apply in such cases under the legislation although our understanding is that HMRC may be willing to accept a tax credits claim.  

You can check whether Universal Credit full service is available in your postcode using our UC postcode checker.

To summarise:

  • Provisional payments are made at the start of 2018/19 while renewal papers are being sent out and dealt with. These are based on last known income and circumstances.
  • When papers are returned, claimants get an initial award and payments are brought up to date.
  • Papers must be returned by 31 July 2018 with either a statement of actual income for 2017/18 or an estimate.
  • If an estimate is given, this must be confirmed – or actual figures returned – by 31 January 2019.

Back to the top

Withdrawing from the system

Dissatisfaction with the system has led some claimants to refrain from completing their renewal papers. This has also happened where people have had a change in circumstances and thought they were no longer entitled to tax credits. The consequence of not returning the forms is set out above. Generally, this means that all payments between April and the date HMRC terminate the claim (for failure to complete the renewals process) become overpaid.

In April 2010, HMRC introduced rules to allow claimants to withdraw from the system by only finalising their previous year claim and not renewing their claim for the current tax year. Claimants can respond to declaration papers to this effect.

However, we would urge caution to claimants who have received any payments in the new tax year (since April 2018) as it is likely that by not renewing the claim for tax credits, these payments will become overpaid.

HMRC have confirmed, in leaflet WTC2, that if claimants inform them after 31 July that they wish to leave the system, their claim will continue to the end of that tax year but they will not receive provisional payments in the next tax year, nor will their claim be renewed.

Back to the top

Penalties

In addition to the clawback of all provisional payments made to date, there may be financial penalties for not responding to a renewal notice, or for giving the wrong information in response to it.

Back to the top

Moving to universal credit and in-year finalisation

If you have claimed universal credit in the same tax year as tax credits, your tax credits claim will stop (if it hasn’t already) and HMRC will finalise your tax credit claim in-year. This process, called In-Year Finalisation, is quite different to the existing tax credits renewals and finalisation process. You can read more about this process on our stopping tax credits page.

Normally, this In-Year Finalisation process is carried out within 30 days of your tax credits claim ending, although in previous years HMRC have delayed finalising tax credit claims for people moving to universal credit during the renewals period. We understand that In-Year Finalisation will now usually continue throughout the normal renewals period. If you claim universal credit after 6 April but while you are receiving provisional tax credit payments, you will receive normal renewal papers that you must complete as well as, although not necessarily at the same time, further paperwork to in-year finalise your tax credits claim from 6 April of the current year. You must follow the instructions on all paperwork received from HMRC.

You cannot complete an in-year finalisation online – you can only do so by phone or post. 

Back to the top

More information

You can find out more detailed information about the renewal process on our website for advisers.

Back to the top