⚠️ We are currently updating our 2020/21 tax guidance across the website

What is working tax credit?

Updated on 26 May 2020

Tax credits and benefits

Working tax credit (WTC) is paid by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to support people who work and are on a low income – it does not matter whether you are an employee or self-employed. On this page we answer questions on entitlement and claiming WTC.

Image of the words working tax credit 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 working tax credit (WTC)?

To qualify for WTC you must meet the basic conditions which are:

  • be aged 16 or over;
  • be in the UK; and
  • not be subject to immigration control

You must also work a certain number of hours each week. The number of hours you need to work varies depending on your age and household circumstances.

How many hours do I need to work to get WTC?

In the case of a single claim:

  • the claimant is aged 16 or over and works at least 16 hours a week and: is responsible for a child or qualifying young person; or
  • qualifies for the disability element of WTC; or
  • the claimant is aged 60 or over and works at least 16 hours a week; or
  • the claimant is aged 25 or over and works at least 30 hours a week.

In the case of a joint claim where there is no responsibility for a child or qualifying young person:

  • the claimant is aged 16 or over and works at least 16 hours a week and qualifies for the disability element of WTC; or
  • the claimant is aged 60 or over and works at least 16 hours a week; or
  • the claimant is aged 25 or over and works at least 30 hours a week.

In the case of a joint claim where there is responsibility for a child or qualifying young person:

  • the claimant is aged 16 or over and works at least 16 hours a week and qualifies for the disability element of WTC; or
  • the claimant is aged at least 16 and is a member of a couple where one partner works at least 16 hours a week and the total number of hours for which the couple work is not less than 24 hours a week; or
  • the claimant is aged at least 16 and is a member of a couple where one partner works at least 16 hours a week and the other partner is incapacitated, in prison, in hospital or entitled to carer’s allowance; or
  • the claimant is aged 60 or over and works at least 16 hours a week.
  • The work done must be employed or self-employed.
  • If your hours have reduced or your work has changed due to the coronavirus situation – see our special guidance on how this affects tax credits.

I am on an apprenticeship – can I claim WTC?

HMRC say that the hours you work as an apprentice will count as remunerative work for WTC purposes 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.

But, if you only receive a non-taxable training allowance, monies in connection with participating in the Intensive Activity Period (part of jobseekers’ 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 WTC.

How much will I get?

The amount you get depends on which elements you are entitled to, your taxable income (either for the current year or previous year) and whether an overpayment is being deducted.

The following elements make up a WTC award:

Basic element

always included

Lone parent element if you are a lone parent
Couple element (Second adult element) if you are a couple making a joint claim (although some couples may not qualify for the second adult element where one partner is subject to immigration control)
Disability element if you work at least 16 hours a week, have a disability which puts you at a disadvantage in getting a job and are receiving or have recently received a qualifying benefit. For a couple, if you both qualify, you get two disability elements
Severe disability element

if you get the highest rate of disability living allowance (DLA), armed forces independence payment (AFIP), the enhanced rate daily living component of personal independence payment (PIP), or higher rate attendance allowance (AA). You do not need to be working to get the severe disability element of tax credits. For a couple, if you both qualify, you get two of these elements added.

30 hour element

if you work at least 30 hours a week. Couples with children can combine their hours to meet the threshold to qualify for the 30-hour element, as long as one partner is working at least 16 hours a week. Only one element is paid even if both work 30 hours.

Childcare element

to help with childcare costs. Not everyone qualifies and not all costs are covered. You must also be using a registered or approved provider. Check the GOV.UK website to see if you qualify.


The GOV.UK website has a tax credits calculator which may you give you a very rough estimate of what you might get. There are also other calculators available from third parties that can help you work out if you are entitled to tax credits and other benefits You should be aware that the HMRC calculator will show potential entitlement from the day you use the calculator until the end of the tax year whereas other calculators may show potential entitlement for the whole current tax year (from 6 April to 5 April).

Things to note about WTC

  • Please see our Coronavirus section for information about the impact of work changes as a result of coronavirus on WTC.
  • You may still be able to claim WTC if you are off work because you are sick or on maternity, shared parental or adoption leave or parental bereavement leave. Other temporary absences from work may also be covered.
  • It is the hours you normally work that counts for WTC. This may not be the same as your contracted hours, for example if you have regular overtime.

    If you are a term-time worker, your WTC claim should be based on the hours you work during term-time. Payment continues over the school holidays. However, if you are a seasonal worker (and only work a few months each year), you may not be entitled to WTC for the periods you do not work.

  • If you are a foster carer or shared lives carer, HMRC treat you as self-employed for tax credits. You can, therefore, qualify for WTC for this work.
  • If you are self-employed: when working out your weekly hours, HMRC says you can include not only the hours costed to your client/customer but also time spent on other ‘business’ tasks e.g. trips to wholesalers, book-keeping, advertising, travel. All hours worked must be for payment or in expectation of payment. To claim working tax credit as a self-employed person you have to show that you are:
    • Engaged in carrying on a trade, profession or vocation on a commercial basis
    • This must be with a view to realisation of profit
    • The work must be organised and regular
  • If your normal working hours change, your WTC payments may also change. You must tell the Tax Credit Office within one month of the change. If you stop work, or your hours drop below the threshold for your WTC claim, you may get what is called a ‘WTC run on’ for four weeks. This means you should continue to get WTC, even if you would no longer qualify, including all the elements you were previously getting. If your hours have changed due to coronavirus: see our section on work changes due to the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

More information

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