Married couple's allowance
The married couple’s allowance gives you an amount (known as a tax credit or tax reducer) that can reduce the amount of income tax you pay.
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Married couple's allowance
The married couple’s allowance (MCA) does not reduce the amount of income on which you pay tax. It is used to calculate an amount to reduce your tax bill instead.
MCA is different from the marriage allowance (which is also known as the ‘transferable tax allowance for married couples and civil partners’).
MCA works by deducting 10% of the allowance from the tax due on your taxable income.
For 2023/24 the full allowance is £10,375. This means you get a maximum deduction of £1,037.50 from your income tax. However, no part of this amount can be refunded to you, even if you have no tax liability.
You can only claim one MCA per married couple or civil partnership.
You are only entitled to MCA if:
- you are married or in a civil partnership (see below), and
- at least one of you was born before 6 April 1935.
The amount of MCA you get can be affected by the level of your income. If your income is more than £34,600 in 2023/24, you might not be entitled to the full MCA (see below under the heading: Higher income).
Changes in marriage or civil partnership status
MCA is due for each tax year that you are living together as husband and wife or civil partners.
Year of marriage
In the year of marriage or registration of a civil partnership, the amount you are entitled to is one twelfth of the allowance for each complete tax month – starting on the 6th of the month – that you were married.
You should let HMRC know as soon as possible if you marry or register a civil partnership in a tax year and qualify because one of you was born before 6 April 1935 – you will get your tax relief quicker.
Separation and divorce
Separation affects your MCA. You may become entitled to maintenance payments relief. Both of these allowances apply only if either you or your spouse or civil partner was born before 6 April 1935.
You can get MCA in full in the year that you separate from your spouse or civil partner.
If you and your spouse or civil partner are later reconciled the allowance is available for the tax year of reconciliation. If this is also the year in which you separated, the allowance is given without any break.
For MCA purposes you are treated as living with your spouse or civil partner unless you are separated:
- under an order of a Court, or
- by a formal deed of separation executed under seal, except in Scotland, where the deed should be witnessed, or
- in such circumstances that the separation is likely to be permanent.
There is further information on the tax effects of separation on our page Capital gains tax on separation and divorce.
Circumstances beyond your control
HMRC will treat you as living together if you are separated due to circumstances beyond your control – for example, if one of you is taken into a nursing home or hospitalised long term.
The MCA is available in full in the year of death. If the spouse or civil partner who has claimed MCA dies and does not use all of the MCA they are entitled to, the balance should be transferred to their surviving spouse or civil partner.
So, in the year your spouse or civil partner dies you should get the balance of MCA not used against their income without needing to make a claim, but do check you get it.
You can claim married couple’s allowance by completing the relevant section of your tax return if you are within self assessment. If you do not complete a tax return, you can claim married couple’s allowance by contacting HMRC and giving them details about your marriage or civil partnership ceremony and your spouse or civil partner.
If you are part of a married couple, who qualified for the allowance before 5 December 2005, the MCA is automatically given to the husband. However, a married woman can:
- choose to have up to £2,005 of it herself – £200.50 off her tax bill; or
- have £4,010 if both husband and wife agree – worth £401 off her tax bill.
The balance is used to reduce the husband’s tax bill. But if there is any further surplus MCA remaining unused by the husband by the end of the tax year, the couple can claim to transfer it to the wife (see below under the heading: Transferring married couple’s allowance).
If you are part of a married couple or civil partnership who first qualify for MCA from 5 December 2005 onwards, MCA is given to the partner with the higher income. The other partner can:
- choose to have up to £2,005 of the MCA – £200.50 off their tax bill; or
- have £4,010 if both partners agree – worth £401 off their tax bill.
The rest has to be taken off the tax bill of the partner entitled to the allowance. If there is any surplus MCA remaining unused by the higher earning civil partner or spouse by the end of the tax year, the couple can claim to transfer it to the other civil partner or spouse (see below under the heading: Transferring married couple’s allowance).
It is also possible for a couple who married before 5 December 2005 to elect for the new rules to apply to them. HMRC will be able to help you make the change if you contact them.
The MCA can be reduced for a couple when:
- for those married before 5 December 2005, the husband’s income is above an amount set for each year – £34,600 for 2023/24. The income of the wife is never taken into account; or
- for those married or registered after 5 December 2005, the higher-income spouse or civil partner’s income is above an amount set for each year – £34,600 for 2023/24. The income of the lower-income spouse or civil partner is never taken into account.
The minimum MCA that you can receive is £4,010 for 2023/24 – £401 off your tax bill – and you are entitled to this amount no matter how much income you have.
The income limit is £34,600 for 2023/24.
To work out what MCA you are entitled to, you must carry out the following calculation:
- Work out your income before allowances (see note below)
- Work out the amount by which your income exceeds the limit for reducing your MCA
- Divide the difference by two
- Take that figure off the total MCA to leave the MCA available (but only as far as the minimum amount)
Note: if the husband or the higher earning spouse or civil partner has income of £47,330 or more in the 2023/24 tax year, you will only receive the minimum MCA of £4,010 (that is, a tax deduction of £401) for 2023/24.
To work out whether your income before allowances is more than £34,600, you need to add up your gross taxable income. The gross figure is the total taxable income you get including any tax taken off before you get it.
You can then take off the gross amount of any gift aid payments you make. The amount you donate under gift aid is treated as being net of basic rate income tax at 20%. The gross amount you deduct from your income is the net amount you actually paid to the charity plus the 20% tax taken off which the charity reclaims. To work out what this 20% tax figure is easily, divide the net payment you made by four.
Transferring married couple's allowance
You can transfer the MCA to your spouse or civil partner if your income is too low to make use of it.
If you decide to share the MCA or transfer the minimum MCA before the start of the next tax year, you can complete and submit this online form. Using this form, you can transfer the minimum MCA – £4,010 for 2023/24 – to your spouse or civil partner with effect from the start of the next tax year. The claim continues to apply until you withdraw it.
If you find after the end of the tax year that your income was not high enough to use your full MCA, you can ask for the balance, or surplus, to be transferred to your spouse or civil partner. You use form 575(T) to request a transfer of the surplus MCA.