⚠️ 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). Until they start to claim UC, 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. Existing tax credit claimants (under state pension age or in a mixed age couple) are expected to be moved across to universal credit by the end of 2024. You can find out more about this in our universal credit section. 

Who can claim tax credits?

Updated on 12 April 2022

Tax credits and benefits

On this page we detail everything you need to know about claiming tax credits, including the main conditions of entitlement, joint claims, and claiming while abroad.

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New claims for tax credits

Universal credit (UC) is replacing tax credits. UC is now available in all areas of the UK and HMRC say it is no longer possible to make brand new tax credit claims. Instead most people will need to claim UC. People who have reached their state pension credit qualifying age will be expected to claim pension credit for support, which now also includes elements for children, instead. People who part of a mixed-age couple are expected to claim UC.

⚠️ If you already get working tax credit and want to claim child tax credit or vice versa, this does not count as a brand new claim and you will not need to claim universal credit. You can simply phone the tax credit helpline on 0345 300 3900 or report the change via your Personal Tax Account. If you already claim tax credits, you can continue to renew your claim in the usual way.

⚠️ Note: The legislation which gives effect to these rules about new tax credit claims is complicated. One interpretation of the current legislation is that some other people may be able to make new claims for tax credits. We have written some guidance for advisers on our specialist website which provides further information about this – however, it is extremely complex and should not be followed without speaking to a welfare rights specialist.

It is generally not possible to claim tax credits and UC at the same time and if you are an existing tax credit claimant and you make a claim for UC then your tax credit award will be terminated and it is unlikely that you will be able to claim tax credits again.

What are the main conditions for claiming tax credits?

There are some basic conditions that you need to meet to qualify for both working tax credit (WTC) and child tax credit (CTC). These are age, residency and immigration conditions.

  • You have to be aged at least 16 years old (although some people will need to be older to claim WTC).
  • You must be ‘in the UK’. For WTC this means you must be present and ordinarily resident in the UK. For child tax credit you must be present, ordinarily resident and have a right to reside. You can find out more about the residence conditions on the UK website.
  • You must not be subject to immigration control, but there are some exceptions to that rule.

The UK left the European Union (EU) on the 31 January 2020 and entered a transitional period until 31 December 2020, during which EU law continued to apply in the UK. The UK’s relationship with the EU from 1 January 2021 has been formally agreed and as a result, some of  the UK immigration rules may affect you if you are a national of an EU country or if you are a national of a country that the UK has made an agreement with covering social security or family allowances. If you are unsure, you should check with HMRC.

Do I make a joint claim or single claim?

If you are married or in a civil partnership, then both you and your partner must claim together in a joint claim, even if you are temporarily living apart. You must also make a joint claim if you are living with someone as if you were married or civil partners. You are jointly responsible for the claim.

If you do not have a partner or spouse and are not living with someone as if you are married or in a civil partnership, then you can make a single claim.

If you are married or in a civil partnership, you can only make a single claim if you are legally separated or separated in circumstances that are likely to be made permanent.

HMRC may investigate your claim. If you have made a single claim and HMRC have any evidence from their systems or from a credit reference agency that suggests another person is using your address or there are financial links with another person then they may write to you asking for information from you because they think you are living with another person. You can find out more about these investigations on our Revenuebenefits website for advisers.

It is important that you make the correct claim, or if you have a claim already it is important you tell HMRC if your relationship circumstances change otherwise you may be left with a large overpayment. See our repaying an overpayment debt section for more information about repaying overpayments due to relationship changes.

Can I claim if I live abroad?

If you live outside the UK, you usually cannot claim tax credits. However, there are some exceptions, for example if you live outside of the UK and you are a Crown servant posted overseas or the partner of a Crown servant posted overseas you may be able to claim tax credits. See the GOV.UK website for more information.

If you are married or in a civil partnership with someone who lives outside the UK you would usually make a single claim. If they live outside of the UK but in an EU country, you should contact HMRC before claiming to check with them whether to make a joint or single claim.

You can find further information on the GOV.UK website about claiming if you or your partner live outside of the UK.

What happens if I leave the UK for a short amount of time?

Normally, you need to be present in the UK to claim tax credits. But if you (or your partner) go abroad for up to eight weeks at a time, HMRC will treat you as if you are still in the UK, providing you intend your visit abroad to be temporary. Temporary means at the outset, you expect it to last less than 52 weeks.

The eight-week period can be extended to a maximum of 12 weeks if you are ill or your trip is in connection with ill-health or the death of a relative.

After the temporary absence period, you will not be treated as being in the UK. This means that if you are part of a couple, you will need to end your joint award and the partner who remains in the UK will need to make a new single claim for support. If the absence was temporary at the outset and so the 8-week/12-week rule applies, your joint claim can continue until that 8 or 12 week period ends.

However, when the overseas partner returns to the UK, the single award must end and a new joint claim for support made.

More information

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

Tax guides

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