Who can make a claim for universal credit?

Updated on 6 April 2022

Tax credits and benefits

Universal Credit (UC) is gradually replacing tax credits and some other benefits. You cannot claim tax credits and UC together. If you already get tax credits and make a claim for UC, your tax credit claim will end. This page explains who is eligible to submit a claim for UC.

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If I claim, will I receive a payment of universal credit?

This page explains who is eligible to claim UC. Even if you are eligible to claim, it does not mean you will be entitled to UC as you have to meet certain basic and financial conditions and then any amount you receive is based on your income, capital and circumstances.

To find out about the basic and financial conditions, visit our website for advisers.

Can I claim universal credit?

Universal credit is fully available in all parts of the UK, this means that most people are eligible to submit a claim for UC (although that does not mean they will be entitled to UC).

If you are single and have reached your state pension credit qualifying age or are part of a couple and you have both reached your state pension credit qualifying age, you will not be able to claim UC and will not have any entitlement to UC as there is an upper age limit, although you may be able to claim pension credit, depending on your circumstances.

Until 30 March 2022, if you were a ‘frontier worker’ you were prevented from claiming UC. Frontier workers are people who are ‘in Great Britain’ (under Section 4(1)(c) Welfare Reform Act 2012) or ‘in Northern Ireland’ (under Article 9(1)(c) of Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015) but do not reside in either GB or NI. Crown servants or members of HM Forces who are posted overseas (as defined under the UC Regulations 2013) are not frontier workers. From 31 March 2022, frontier workers can claim UC.

Until 27 January 2021, if you were entitled to the severe disability premium in income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or housing benefit or had recently been entitled (although the benefit had ended, you continued to meet the entitlement conditions for the severe disability premium) you were not eligible to claim UC. From 27 January 2021, you can make a claim for UC. A transitional severe disability premium element will be included in the calculation of your universal credit award.

Can I still make a claim for tax credits?

HMRC state that it is no longer possible to make a brand new claim for tax credits. If you already get working tax credit and want to claim child tax credit or vice versa, you can do so and you are not affected by UC yet as this is not treated as a brand new claim to tax credits. You can contact HMRC to have the other elements added to your claim.

Similarly, if you are renewing your tax credit claim, that doesn’t count as a brand new claim. Also, if you receive working tax credit which ends and you receive a four-week run-on payment, if you start work again or increase your working hours during that four-week period your entitlement to WTC should continue.

⚠️ 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.

What if I am already claiming tax credits: when will I move to UC?

For the time being, existing tax credit claimants are not affected by the introduction of UC unless they have a change of circumstances that means they need to make a new claim, they need to claim other support which is now provided through UC rather than the other legacy benefits, for example help with housing costs or they choose to claim UC.

DWP and HMRC started testing the managed migration process (called ’Move to UC’) in July 2019. This test period was intended last until July 2020 but DWP suspended the pilot in March 2020 due to the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. The pilot will re-start in 2022. The plans to complete the move have changed several times and the most recent planning suggests that the majority of other tax credit claimants will be moved to UC by the end of 2024.

It is expected that managed migration (‘Move to UC’) will involve DWP writing to existing tax credit claimants asking them to make a claim for UC by a certain deadline date. If they do not, the tax credit claim will end the day before the deadline date. Those who are moved to UC through this managed migration process may receive transitional protection if their UC award is less than the total of their legacy benefits at the point that they are moved over – which is the Government’s way of ensuring there are no cash losers at the point of change without a change of circumstances.

Not all tax credit claimants will move to UC – if you have reached your state pension credit age (or in a joint claim both of you have reached state pension credit age) you will not be able to claim UC. The intention is that you will claim pension credit for support.

The only way you will move to UC before the managed migration exercise if:

  • You choose to make a claim for UC – if you think you may be better off by claiming UC we recommend you get advice before doing this, some people are better off claiming UC, others are worse off compared to tax credits.
  • You have a change of circumstances that ends your tax credit award – for example you are claiming working tax credit only and lose your job and need to claim out of work support or you are single and move in with someone and you need to make a new joint claim for support.
  • You need to make a claim for another benefit that has been replaced by UC – for example you need to claim help with your rent then you will not be able to claim housing benefit and instead will have to claim UC. Making a claim for UC will end your tax credits award.

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