Tax rates, allowances and amounts Tax-free income and allowances

elderly couple

Elderly people are eligible for a number of tax allowances

Tax-free income, including interest from cash Isas and certain National Savings & Investments (NS&I) products, doesn't need to be declared to Revenue & Customs. 

Allowances reduce the amount of tax you have to pay. There are two types: 

  • allowances that give full relief and allow you to earn a certain amount of money before paying tax, and 
  • allowances that give restricted relief, which reduce your tax bill by a tenth of their nominal value.

The table below provides a basic overview of these allowances. For a more thorough explanation, make sure to read our guides on capital gains tax, married couple's allowance and tax allowances for older people.

Tax basics explained
 2014-152015-16
Basic rate income tax (20%)£0-£31,865 (after allowances)£0-£31,785 (after allowances)
Higher rate income tax (40%)Over £31,865Over £31,785
Additional rate income tax (45%)Over £150,000Over £150,000
Personal allowance (tax-free)£10,000 (unless income above £100,000)£10,600 (unless income above £100,000)
Income limit above which you start to lose personal allowance (at rate of £1 for each £2 you earn above limit)£100,000£100,000
Age-related personal allowance (born before 6 April 1948 )£10,500N/A
Age-related personal allowance (born before 6 April 1938)£10,660£10,660
Lower earnings limit (above which you start to lose age-related allowance)£27,000£27,700
Upper earnings limit (above which you receive no age-related allowance, just basic personal allowance)£28,000£27,820
77+ Upper earnings limit (above which you receive no age-related allowance, just basic personal allowance)£28,320£27,820
Married couple’s allowance (MCA) -born after 6 April 1935N/AN/A
Married couple’s allowance (MCA) -born before 6 April 1935 only£8,165£8,355
Blind person's allowance£2,230£2,290
Capital gains tax (CGT) threshold£11,000£11,100
Inheritance tax threshold (IHT)£325,000£325,000

Personal allowance 

Most people are allowed to receive a certain amount of income before tax is payable. This is known as the basic personal allowance. In 2015-16 basic personal allowance is £10,600. In 2014-15 it was £10,000. If you earn above £100,000 it is progressively withdrawn, at the rate of £1 for every £2 above £100,000 you earn. This means that if you earn £121,200 or more (2015-16) you receive no personal allowance and all your income is taxed. For 2013-14 this figure was £120,000.   

Personal allowances for older people

People born before 6 April 1938 may qualify for a higher amount of tax relief, age-related personal allowance. Depending on their income, this could mean a personal allowance of £10,660 in 2015-16 (the same figure as 2014-15).   

You are only entitled to the full amount of higher age-related allowance if your income during the 2015-16 tax year is under 27,700, however (£27,000 for 2014-15). 

If your income is above £27,700 you'll lose the higher allowance at the rate of £1 for every £2 that your income exceeds £27,700. 

Above £27,280 (2015-16), you lose any higher allowance and get just basic personal allowance. 

Income above £100,000

If your income is above £100,000, basic personal allowance is further reduced by £1 for each £2 earned over the £100,000 limit, irrespective of age.

Blind person's allowance

You may also be entitled to an additional allowance if you or your spouse or registered civil partner are blind or have severely impaired sight.

This is another full relief allowance as it is treated in the same way as the personal allowance, so increases the amount of income you can receive before you start to pay tax. In 2015-16 this allowance is £2,290. 

In England and Wales

If you live in England or Wales, you will need to be certified as blind and appear on a local authority register of blind people to claim this allowance. 

In Scotland and Northern Ireland

If you have not been certified as blind and live in Scotland or Northern Ireland you will qualify for the allowance if your eyesight is so bad that you are unable to perform any work where your eyesight is essential. 

Unused balance

If your income is not enough to make use of the allowance, any unused balance can be transferred to your spouse or registered civil partner.

A black leather wallet

Married couples get certain tax breaks

Married couple's allowance

You only qualify for this allowance if you or your husband, wife or registered civil partner were born before 6 April 1935.

Unlike the personal allowance, the married couple's allowance is not an amount you can earn before you start paying tax. Instead, it's a restricted relief allowance, which means the tax you pay is reduced by deducting 10% of the allowance from your final tax bill.

The married couple’s allowance  for 2015-16 is £8,355. So if you receive the full married couple's allowance of £8,355, £835 will be taken off your tax bill (£8,355 x 10%).  

Income above £27,700

The amount of married couple's allowance you receive may be reduced if your income is more than £27,700. 

If your income is above this limit, age-related personal allowance is reduced first, by £1 for every £2 'excess income', until it falls to the basic personal allowance of £10,600. If your income is above £100,000 your basic personal allowance is then reduced at the same rate.  

After this you lose married couple's allowance at a rate of £1 for each remaining £2 of 'excess income', until you reach minimum married couple's allowance of £3,220 in 2015-16. 

Marriage transferable tax allowance

Additionally, from April 2015, married couples born after 1935 will be able to transfer up to £1,060 of unused personal allowance (Marriage transferable tax allowance).

Claiming maintenance relief

You can claim this relief for certain maintenance payments you make if you or your ex-spouse or registered civil partner were born before 6 April 1935 and you pay the maintenance under a legally binding agreement.

It works in a similar way to the married couple's allowance. Your tax bill will be reduced by 10% of the maintenance relief allowance or the amount you pay in maintenance, if that amount is lower. 

In 2015-16 the maintenance relief allowance is £3,220, so if you are eligible to claim you'll be able to deduct £322 or 10% of the amount you pay in maintenance, if that's lower.  

More on this...

Which Ltd is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited. Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.