How will universal credit affect tax credits?

Updated on 7 February 2019

Tax credits and benefits

Universal credit (UC) started to be rolled out in April 2013 and is gradually replacing working tax credit and child tax credit as well as a number of other means-tested benefits. This page explains the how tax credits are affected by the introduction of UC. 

When does universal credit start?

Universal credit was introduced in April 2013 in a small number of pilot areas. To start with, only people with straightforward circumstances living in selected postcodes were able to claim.

Since November 2014, DWP has been operating two computer systems to roll-out universal credit. The first of these, the more basic, was referred to as ‘live’ service and could only handle more straightforward cases. The other system is known as the ‘full’ service and all universal credit claims will operate on this service once it is fully rolled out.

DWP stopped accepting brand new claims for the live service from 1 January 2018 and the live service will close down completely in Spring 2019. By that time, all live service claimants should have been moved across to the full service system. 

The universal credit full service completed its roll-out in December 2018. It is now available in all parts of the UK. As a result, it is no longer possible to claim tax credits unless an exception applies. Existing tax credit claimants will not be affected unless they have a change of circumstances that ends their tax credits claim, they choose to claim universal credit instead of tax credits or they need to claim universal credit to access help with housing costs or out of work support. It is expected that most existing tax credits claimants will be moved to universal credit between July 2019 and December 2023.

You can find out more about who can claim universal credit in our Who can make a claim for universal credit? section.

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Can I claim tax credits and universal credit together?

No. The general rule is that you cannot claim tax credits (working tax credit and/or child tax credit) at the same time as UC. 

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I claim tax credits now – does universal credit affect me?

At present, existing tax credit claimants are not affected by the introduction of universal credit. From July 2019, DWP and HMRC will start testing the process (called managed migration) that they will use to move people from tax credits to universal credit. This test period will last until July 2020. Between November 2020 and December 2023, the majority of other tax credit claimants will be moved to universal credit.

It is expected that managed migration will involve DWP writing to existing tax credit claimants asking them to make a claim for universal credit by a certain deadline date. If they do not, the tax credit claim will end the day before the deadline date. Those who are moved to universal credit through this managed migration process may receive transitional protection – which is the Government’s way of ensuring there are no cash losers at the point of change without a change of circumstances.

Not all tax credit claimants will move to universal credit – if you have reached state pension credit age (or in a joint claim both of you have reached state pension credit age) you will not be able to claim universal credit. The intention is that you will claim pension credit. The full detail of this is not yet known.

The only way you will move to universal credit before 2019 is if:

  • You choose to make a claim for universal credit – if you think you may be better off by claiming universal credit then you might be able to claim it depending on where you live. We recommend you get advice before doing this as you may be worse off under universal credit compared to tax credits.
  • You have a change of circumstances that ends your tax credit award – for example you are claiming working tax credit only and lose your job and need to claim out of work support or you are single and move in with someone already claiming universal credit.
  • You need to make a claim for another benefit that has been replaced by universal credit – for example if you live in a full service universal credit area and you need to claim help with your rent then you will not be able to claim housing benefit and instead will have to claim universal credit. This will automatically end your tax credits award.

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What if I want to make a new claim for tax credits?

Most people can no longer make a brand new claim for tax credits. If you already get working tax credit and want to claim child tax credit or vice versa, you are not affected by universal credit yet as this is not treated as a brand new claim to tax credits. You can contact HMRC to have the other elements added to your claim.

Broadly speaking, the only people who make brand new claims for tax credits are:

  • Those with 3 or more children (unless they meet certain exceptions which means they are able to claim universal credit). This is expected to be the case until 31 January 2019.
  • People who 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.
  • Those who have reached state pension credit qualifying age. If you are part of a mixed age couple (with one person above that age and one below). This is due to change from 15 May 2019.

If you are already claiming working tax credit and want to claim child tax credit or vice versa, you can do so as that does not count as a brand new claim. Similarly, if you are renewing your tax credit claim, that doesn’t count as a brand new claim.

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More information

This page gives a very brief overview of the situation regarding universal credit and tax credits. For more information, please visit the following pages:

Universal credit

Revenuebenefits – Universal Credit

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