⚠️ Universal Credit (UC) is gradually replacing tax credits, and some other social security benefits. Universal credit is now available across the UK and HMRC state that it is no longer possible for anyone to make a brand-new claim for tax credits. Instead, people are expected to claim UC or pension credit if appropriate. Existing tax credit claimants can continue to renew their tax credits and/or add extra elements to their claim. See our tax credit page for more information. Our understanding is that the majority of existing tax credit claimants will move to either universal credit or pension credit. It is expected that the majority of people who have not reached state pension age, and who continue to claim tax credits, will be invited to move to UC by the end of 2024. You can find out more about this in our universal credit section. 

Tax credits and students

Updated on 12 April 2023

Tax credits and benefits

There are no special rules for students in the tax credits system – you have to meet the same qualification criteria as everyone else. This means you need to meet the age and hours requirements for working tax credit and you must be responsible for a child or young person to claim child tax credit.

This page focuses on particular parts of the system that may be of interest to students.

Illustration of a student surrounded by books and coins

Can I still get my tax credits while I am a student?

You can get tax credits while you are a student, provided you meet the qualifying rules. Now that universal credit is available across the UK, HMRC state that it is no longer possible to make a brand new claim for tax credits. The only exception to this is for certain people who are granted refugee status. You will only be able to claim working tax credit if you already get child tax credit or vice versa.

If you want to get working tax credit, you will need to do paid work in addition to your studies. Any time spent working which is part of your studies will not count as remunerative work.

If you do not have any children and do not have a disability, you will need to be aged at least 25 and work at least 30 hours a week to get working tax credit. If you have a disability that means you qualify for the disability element of working tax credit, you can get working tax credit from age 16 if you work at least 16 hours a week.

If you are single and have at least one child, you can get child tax credit. from age 16 and working tax credit if you work at least 16 hours a week. If you have a partner, then to get any working tax credit you will need to work 24 hours a week between you, with one of you working at least 16 hours a week. There are some exceptions to this 24-hour rule if your partner is incapacitated, in prison, in hospital or entitled to carer’s allowance. In that situation you will qualify for working tax credit by working at least 16 hours a week.

You can find out more about what counts as qualifying remunerative work on GOV.UK.

Can I claim tax credits if I am studying part-time?

For tax credits, it does not matter whether you are studying full-time or part-time; you can get tax credits if you meet the qualifying conditions.

Can I get tax credits if I am an apprentice?

You can get tax credits as an apprentice provided you meet the qualifying conditions.

Whether the hours of work you do as an apprentice count as remunerative work for working tax credit purposes will depend on the way your apprenticeship is set up. HMRC say that the hours you work as an apprentice will count as remunerative work for tax credits if:

  • you have a contract of employment for your apprenticeship
  • you are attending a scheme (apprenticeship) where your payment is classed as earnings (as opposed to reimbursement of expenses) and subject to income tax and National Insurance contributions.

However, if you only receive a non-taxable training allowance, monies in connection with participating in the Intensive Activity Period (part of jobseeker’s allowance schemes), a sports award or no money other than tax-exempt discretionary payments, your apprenticeship working hours will not be classed as being in remunerative work.

This means that if you have a contract of employment and your pay is classed as taxable earnings, not just reimbursement of expenses or a non-taxable training allowance, it should be classed as remunerative work for working tax credit.

What if I need to go abroad as part of my course?

You need to remain present in the UK while you get tax credits, although the rules allow for temporary absence so that, if the absence is not expected to last more than 52 weeks at the outset, for the first eight weeks of a temporary absence abroad you will be treated as still in the UK (this period can be extended up to 12 weeks if in connection with ill health or bereavement). After this period, you will not be treated as being in the UK and your tax credit entitlement will end. You should keep HMRC advised if you are going abroad, whether as part or your studies or not, so that your award can be adjusted if necessary and to reduce the chance of overpayments at the end of the tax year.

There are some exceptions for people who go abroad who are claiming certain UK state benefits. You can find our more on GOV.UK. You should seek specialist advice if you think this may apply to you.

What income is taken into account?

Any taxable earnings, most taxable State Benefits, taxable profits from self-employment, some student income and any miscellaneous income is taken into account in full. Also, any pension income, income from savings, foreign income and property income is added together and anything over £300 is also taken into account.

The rules around income can be found in our main tax credit section.

If you get an Adult Dependants' Grant, or any dependants' grant if you are a student in Scotland, you need to declare that amount in full.

If you receive a scholarship or bursary, you do not need to declare those sums as income.

Tax guides

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