What changes do I need to report?

Updated on 15 November 2017

Your tax credit award is based on your circumstances at the time you claim, or renew your claim. If your circumstances change, it may affect the amount you are entitled to.

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 [JB1] between 2019 and 2022. You can find out more about this in our universal credit section.

 

What changes do I have to report?

Some changes must be reported to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). If you do not do this within one month of the change (or when you became aware of the change), you may be charged a £300 penalty. If you fail to report a change during the tax year and then confirm the incorrect information as part of your renewal, the penalty could be up to £3,000. Overpayments will start to build up from the date of the change if there is a decrease in your award as a result.

In brief the changes you must report are:

  • you stop being part of a couple, or you become part of a couple (see our section on claiming to find out what counts as a couple for tax credits)
  • your childcare stops or the average weekly cost goes down by £10 or more (for four weeks in a row if you pay the same amount every week)
  • you stop working the number of hours you need to claim working tax credit (WTC)
  • you stop working 30 hours a week (or if you are part of a couple your combined hours fall below 30) so that you are no longer entitled to the 30-hour element
  • you stop being responsible for a child or young person
  • a child or young person you are claiming child tax credit (CTC) for dies
  • a young person you are claiming for stops being in non-advanced education or approved training after their 16th birthday
  • you leave the UK for more than eight weeks (12 weeks if the absence is health-related or someone in your family has died) – if you are leaving the UK for good, you need to tell the Tax Credits Office straight away
  • you lose your right to reside.

You can find HMRC's full list of changes on the GOV.UK website.

Back to the top

What other changes should I report?

You should report changes that increase your entitlement as soon as possible and no later than one month from the change, otherwise you may miss out on money.

From 6 April 2017, a child element of child tax credit will not be included with the award for 3rd and subsequent children born after 5 April 2017, although there are exceptions to this rule. Its important that you still tell HMRC when you have another child or when a child leaves your household, even if you don’t get a child element for them so that HMRC can keep their information up to date and make sure your payments are correct if there are any other changes that may happen.

The child disability element and the childcare element are not affected by this rule and are included for any number of children in the claim where the qualifying conditions for those elements are met.

  • you have a new baby, or a new child joins your household
  • you, or someone you are claiming for, starts or stops getting a disability benefit (for example, disability living allowance (DLA) or personal independence payment (PIP))
  • you, or someone you are claiming for, starts or stops getting the highest rate of DLA Care or the enhanced rate daily living component of PIP
  • you start paying childcare costs and you want to claim the childcare element
  • your childcare costs go up by more than £10 a week for four weeks in a row
  • your normal working hours go over 30 a week.

You are likely to have an overpayment if the change means you are entitled to less tax credits than you have been getting. Any change that reduces the amount of tax credits you get will usually take effect from the date the change happened.

You are likely to be underpaid if the change means that you are entitled to more tax credits than you have been getting; the extra money can only be paid from up to one month before the date the change is reported.

Back to the top

What about changes in my income?

You do not actually have to tell the Tax Credit Office about changes to your income until the end of the tax year when your claim is being renewed and any changes in income will be taken into account at that stage. However, if you tell the Tax Credit Office about any income changes as they happen, it means any changes to your award can be kept up to date and you reduce the risk of being overpaid or underpaid during the tax year. The income disregard has been reduced to £2,500 from 6 April 2016 which means that any rises in income of more than £2,500 from one year to the next will likely lead to an overpayment if you wait until the end of the year to tell HMRC. 

Back to the top

What about other changes?

You should tell the Tax Credit Office about any changes to your address or bank account information as soon as you can to make sure their records are up to date and you avoid any delays in payments or letters getting to you.

Back to the top

How do I notify a change of circumstances?

You have to tell the Tax Credit Office. Even though other parts of HMRC may already have the information you cannot rely on HMRC updating information from say your income tax records through to your tax credit records. Sometimes, HMRC will use information they already have about you to amend your award because it is helpful to you, but the way the rules are written means that you are still responsible for giving the information to HMRC for your tax credits.

You can either write to the Tax Credit Office, ring the HMRC’s Tax Credit Helpline or tell HMRC using either their on-line service or the HMRC app.  

If you ring the Helpline, make sure you make a note of the date and time of your call and the name of the person you spoke to. It is also a good idea to confirm the change in writing, keeping a copy of the letter as proof that you have advised HMRC of the change. Letters can be sent recorded delivery, but at the very least get proof of posting.

You can also notify most changes on-line using HMRC’s tax credits Manage your tax credits service, via the GOV.UK website. You can also reach the ‘Manage your tax credits service if you go through your personal tax account and follow the tax credit links. For security purposes, you will need to set-up a Government Gateway account (or you can use your existing Government Gateway account if you already have one) and you will be sent a unique digital code, via your mobile phone or landline, each time you log in to the tax credits digital service. If you notify a change on-line, it’s a good idea to make a note of the change and retain your confirmation of when you sent it.

If you have a smart phone (I-phone or android) you can also use the HMRC app to notify many kinds of changes, check your payments and complete your renewal during the renewal period. The HMRC app is free to download.

If the change affects the amount of your tax credit award, the Tax Credit Office should send you a new decision letter (called an award notice), giving details of any changes to your payments and how these have been worked out. This normally takes up to 3 weeks but if you haven’t had a letter from them after that time, you can telephone the Helpline to chase it up. You should always check the award notice carefully, to make sure that the change you reported has been correctly recorded. If it has not you must tell the Tax Credits Office within 30 days that their award notice is wrong, otherwise you may become responsible for any overpayments that may arise as a result of the mistake.

Back to the top

More information

This page gives a brief overview about changes of circumstances for tax credit awards. There is more detailed information on the following pages:

What counts as income for tax credits?

What can I do if I have an underpayment?

What can I do if I have an overpayment?

Tax credits: changes of circumstances on our website for advisers.

Further information on changes that affect your tax credits, and how and when to report changes can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Back to the top