Universal credit and stopping tax credits

Updated on 22 April 2018

Universal credit is a new benefit that is gradually replacing working tax credit and child tax credit as well as some other means-tested benefits. It is being introduced gradually across the country. If you have been claiming tax credits and start to claim universal credit in the same tax year, your tax credit award will stop. This page explains how your tax credit award will be finalised by HMRC. 

If you want to know more about universal credit and how it affects tax credit claimants – see our universal credit section.

Introduction

You cannot claim tax credits and universal credit (UC) at the same time. If you are already claiming tax credits you will not be affected by UC unless you:

  • Choose to make a claim for UC
  • Need to claim another benefit that UC has replaced such as housing benefit
  • Have a change of circumstances that ends your tax credits claim and you cannot make a new claim for tax credits in your postcode area

Even though DWP should notify HMRC of your universal credit claim (once they are satisfied of your identity and that you meet the basic conditions for claiming universal credit), you still have an obligation to notify HMRC of any change in circumstances that affects your tax credits award. 

What is in-year finalisation?

Normally if you are claiming tax credits, after the tax year ends HMRC send you a pack as part of the renewals process. This process does two things – it acts as a claim for the new tax year and it finalises your claim for the tax year just ended.

Not everyone needs to renew their claim, in cases where tax credits stopped in the tax year just ended HMRC just need the person to finalise their claim for that year. 

Example

Tina and John claim tax credits for the 2017-18 tax year. They separate in October 2017. HMRC will end their tax credit award in October 2017 and payments will stop. However after April 2018, Tina and John will each receive a pack asking them to finalise their claim for the period April 2017 to October 2017. Once they have each sent this back, HMRC will send out a finalised award notice. This may happen anytime from May 2018 to August 2018 (or later if the case has been checked more closely by HMRC).

For people who are moving to universal credit, HMRC have introduced a new process called ‘in-year finalisation’. This new process will apply where a claim for universal credit is made in the same tax year as the tax credits award finished.

As soon as HMRC are notified by DWP that you have claimed universal credit, they will begin the in-year finalisation process by sending you out a review pack. They will then gather the information and finalise your tax credits claim straight away, rather than waiting until after the tax year ends.

Example

Martina is a single parent claiming tax credits. On 1 October 2018 she moves in with her new partner Patrick who is already claiming universal credit. Martina tells HMRC on the day she moves in with Patrick. Her tax credit single claim is stopped from 30 September 2018. On 28 October, HMRC send out a review pack to Martine asking her to complete her income information for the period 6 April to 30 September 2018. Martine returns the form and in November 2018, HMRC issue a final award notice showing Martine’s entitlement for the period 6 April 2018 to 30 September 2018. Under the normal end of year finalisation process, Martine would not receive that notice until Summer 2019 at the earliest. 

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What do I need to do if I receive a review pack?

HMRC will send out letters and information packs to claimants who need to finalise in-year. The pack will include a ‘review’ notice setting out the award details that HMRC have on their records which need to be checked. If your claim is being auto-finalised, the notice will explain that you don’t need to contact HMRC unless the information is incorrect or out of date. Otherwise you will need to complete the declaration to confirm your household circumstances and provide your in-year income figure. If you are self-employed, you may need to estimate your part-year profits.

It is important you return the form by the date given on the pack.

How do I calculate my income for in-year finalisation?

The in-year finalisation process is trying to establish your actual income received in the award period. This is different from how your award will have been finalised in earlier years under the normal end of year finalisation processes and it is likely to be different to the way your initial award was calculated for the current tax year. It means that you could end up with an overpayment or underpayment due to the way the in year process works even though you may have kept HMRC up to date with your income figures.

These two examples show how the current end of year finalisation process works:

Example – Part 1

Justine is a lone parent and claims tax credits. She works 30 hours a week. On 1 December 2017, Justine moves in with David. They do not live in a universal credit full service area and instead make a joint claim for tax credits from 1 December 2017. Justine’s single tax credit claim is ended from 30 November 2017. Justine’s income for 2016/17 was £20,000 which is made up of £15,000 earnings and £5,000 bonus paid in August 2016.

Although HMRC will end Justine’s single claim from 30 November 2017, they will not collect any information from Justine to finalise the claim. In May 2018, HMRC send Justine a pack which asks her to finalise her claim for the period 6 April 2017 to 30 November 2017. To do this, the pack asks Justine to confirm her actual income for the tax year 2017-2018. Justine provides a figure of £21,000. This is made up of her earnings of £16,000 and a £5,000 bonus paid in August 2017.

This 2017/18 figure is compared to her 2016/17 figure and as the difference is only £1,000, her claim is finalised based on an income of £20,000. (See our income page for more information about which figure is used and why).

However, as Justine’s single claim only ran for 239 days of the year, HMRC will pro-rate the £20,000 to reflect this and use £13095 in the calculation.

The next example shows how Justine’s claim will be finalised under in-year finalisation assuming that David is already claiming universal credit and so they need to make a joint universal credit claim instead of claiming tax credits.

Example – Part 2

As soon as her claim ends on 30 November 2018, HMRC will either ask Justine to provide them with her employment income figure from 6 April to 30 November or they will use income data obtained through the RTI (Real Time Information) tax system.

Justine’s actual income from employment received between 6 April and 30 November was made up of £10,476 plus £5,000 bonus making a total of £15,476. This is the figure Justine will put on her review form.

HMRC will then convert this figure to an annual figure – £23,634. This figure will be compared to her previous year income of £20,000. As this has increased by more than 2,500, her award will be finalised using an income of £21,134. This will be pro-rated for the 239 days of her award and income of £13838.42 will be used in the calculation.

However, Justine’s award was paid between April 2018 and November 2018 based on an income of £20,000, not £21,134 and so Justine will have an overpayment of £304.

The cause of Justine’s overpayment in Part 2 of this example is the way the in-year finalisation process works. It assumes that Justine’s income is even throughout the year, and that she will receive a bonus in the second part of the year when in fact she doesn’t. This means that despite Justine doing everything right with regards to keeping HMRC updated, she has an overpayment of £304 because of the change in rules between the rules used to set the initial award (and what would have been used under the old end of year finalisation process) and the new in-year finalisation.

In some cases, for example where someone is on maternity leave in the early part of the year before moving to universal credit, they may end up with an underpayment of tax credits due to the new process.

How do I calculate my income if I am self-employed?

The process of calculating income from self-employment under in-year finalisation is more complicated because most self-employed claimants won’t know their actual income until much later. HMRC will therefore rely on a reasonable estimate of taxable profits for the basis period.

HMRC have produced a calculator to help work out your part-year profits if you are self-employed.

You can read more about in-year finalisation on our website for advisers, Revenuebenefits.

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