⚠️ We are currently updating our 2021/22 tax guidance across the website


What is child tax credit?

Updated on 26 May 2020

Tax credits and benefits

Child tax credit (CTC) is paid by HMRC to support families with children. It is paid independently of child benefit and you can claim whether you are working or not. Many parents can get CTC; make sure you don’t miss out.

Image of the words child tax credit written on a sticky note
(c) Shutterstock / Yuriy K

⚠️ Universal Credit (UC) is a new benefit which will eventually replace tax credits, and some other social security benefits. Universal credit is now available across the UK and most people are no longer able to make a brand new claim for tax credits and are expected to claim UC (or pension credit) instead. Existing tax credit claimants are expected to be moved across to universal credit between November 2020 and September 2024. This follows a pilot involving no more than 10,000 people who will be moved between July 2019 and July 2020, although this may change due to the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. You can find out more about this in our universal credit section.

Do I qualify for CTC?

You must:

  • be aged 16 or over;
  • be ‘in the UK’ – this means you have to be present, ordinarily resident and for CTC only have a right to reside in the UK. You normally cannot claim if you are subject to immigration control but there are some exceptions to this. See our who can claim page for more information; and
  • responsible for a child or qualifying young person (see below).
  • From 6 April 2017, the Government introduced a 2 child limit policy for child tax credit, universal credit and housing benefit. This means that if you have a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017 you may not get paid the child element of CTC for them unless an exception applies, although you should still report the change to tax credit office. You will still be entitled (if you meet the conditions) to the disability element of CTC and the childcare element of WTC for all children. See our 2 child limit policy page for more information about how the two child limit works.

Being responsible for a child

To claim CTC you must be responsible for a child or qualifying young person. You are responsible for a child in the following circumstances:

  • The child or young person ‘normally lives with you’; or
  • If the child or young person normally lives with both you and with another person, then you will be responsible for them if you have ‘main responsibility’ for them.

You will not be responsible for a child or young person who is:

  • in care; or
  • placed with others for fostering or adopting
  • serving certain custodial sentences or detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure
  • receiving tax credits for a child of their own
  • receiving contributory employment and support allowance for himself or herself or receiving working tax credit in their own right
  • receiving working tax credit in their own right (whether alone or on a joint claim)
  • living with a spouse, civil partner or partner and that person is not in full time education or approved training
  • living with a spouse, civil partner or partner and that person is the responsible person. This does not apply to people in receipt of CTC for a young person who is living with a partner before 1 September 2008.

If a child is living with you under the terms of a residence order, or special guardianship order, or you have adopted the child, or (in Scotland) you are a kinship carer, you are treated as responsible for the child, even if the local authority is making you a discretionary payment, because the child is no longer being 'looked after' by the local authority.

The normally living with test

A child or young person normally lives with you if he or she 'regularly, usually, typically lives with' you, barring occasional or temporary absences.

The main responsibility test

This is the test applied when there are competing claims, and you and another person each have grounds for saying that the child or young person 'normally lives with' you. In such cases you should decide between you, and indicate on the claim form TC600, which of you has the main responsibility; but if you cannot agree, HMRC will make the decision.

When deciding on main responsibility, the factors HMRC take into account include the following:

  • who the child normally lives with and where they keep the majority of their belongings such as clothes and toys
  • who is responsible for the day to day spending for the child such as buying clothes and food and providing pocket money
  • who is the main contact for the school, nursery or childcare provider
  • who is responsible for the health care and hygiene of the child such as making appointments with the doctor or dentist, or doing the child's laundry
  • what is the registered address for contact for the school, nursery or childcare provider, or for health care
  • who has legal custody of the child.


Max and Maxine are separated. Their son Midge lives with Maxine during the week and stays with Max at weekends. Which of the two can claim CTC?

They are both eligible to claim CTC for Midge because the boy 'normally lives with' each of them at different times of the week. They cannot both claim the credit, but Max and Maxine can elect which of them should receive it.

If Max and Maxine cannot agree between them, HMRC will apply the 'main responsibility test' – look at who takes main responsibility for Midge's welfare etc, applying the tests set out above – and decide accordingly.

What is a child or young person?

You can claim CTC for a child up until their 16th birthday. From their 16th birthday they will be classed as a young person.

See our Child tax credit for young people aged 16 or over page for more details of when you can claim tax credits for a young person.

When is a child or young person disabled or severely disabled?

A child or young person is disabled if:

  • disability living allowance (DLA) or personal independence payment (PIP) is payable for them, or is normally payable but has ceased because they are a patient in hospital; or
  • they are certified as severely sight impaired or blind by a consultation ophthalmologist or have ceased to be certified as blind or severely sight impaired in the last 28 weeks immediately preceding the date of claim.

They are severely disabled if the care component of DLA, an armed forces independence payment (AFIP) or the enhanced daily living component of the PIP is payable for them at the highest rate, or is abated while they are in hospital.

How much will I get?

The amount you get depends on how many children are included in your claim (which may depend on the 2 child limit policy), whether you are entitled to either rate of the child disability element, your yearly household income for tax credit purposes and whether an overpayment is being deducted.

The following two elements make up a CTC award:

Child element  

This element is included for each child on the claim born before 6 April 2017. For children born on or after 6 April 2017, a child element is only included if you are only claiming for less than two children – generally, if the child born on or after 6 April 2017 is the 3rd or subsequent child on the claim, no child element will be included for them unless one of the exceptions applies.

If this rule applies to you, it is very important to check whether any of the exceptions apply because you could miss out on extra money.

See our 2 child limit policy page for more information.

Disabled child element disabled child rate

This rate is given for each child who meets the disabled child criteria

  severely disabled child rate

This rate is given for each child who meets the severely disabled child criteria.

Family element  

One family element is given per family where the claim includes a child or children born before 6 April 2017.

If the only child/children on the claim are born on or after 6 April 2017, the family element is no longer included.

Things to note

  • If you are also claiming income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, or pension credit, you should qualify for the maximum amount of CTC for your circumstance – unless an overpayment is being recovered. If your other benefit stops you should tell HMRC as soon as possible. A few people may still receive support for their children through income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance and this means they will not receive CTC.
  • If you have a new baby, you should claim CTC for them within 1 month of the birth – otherwise you may lose money (see Who can claim tax credits?). If the child is your third or subsequent child and is born after 6 April 2017, you may not qualify for the child element of CTC for them due to the 2 child limit policy. You should still report the change to HMRC because you may still qualify for a child disability element, help with their childcare costs or an exception to the 2 child limit may apply. You do not need to wait until child benefit is being paid. Although the tax credits claim asks for a child benefit reference number, you do not have to be getting child benefit in order to claim CTC. If you are already claiming CTC for another child, you should inform HMRC of the birth of your new child within 1 month of the birth date.
  • You should also tell HMRC as soon as possible about any changes to a child’s DLA or PIP award. Payment of the disability elements can be backdated to the start date of a new DLA or PIP award, but only if you tell HMRC within one month of the date of the DLA or PIP decision. If you miss this deadline, you will only get the extra amounts backdated for a maximum of one month.

More information

This section of the site gives a brief overview of the basic conditions child tax credit. For more detailed information about the rules, visit the following pages on our website for advisers:

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