What is the married couple's allowance?
Married couple's allowance won't increase the amount of income you can receive before you pay tax. Instead, as a 'restricted' allowance, it reduces your tax bill by 10% of the allowance you're entitled to.
If you receive the minimum allowance of £3,530 in the 2021-22 tax year, up from £3,510 in 2020-21, meaning your tax bill will be reduced by £353.
How the married couple's allowance works
MCA only applies if one or both of the couple were born before 6 April 1935.
- For the 2021-22 tax year, the maximum MCA is £9,125
- For the 2020-21 tax year, the maximum MCA was £9,075
However, if your income is above a certain limit, married couple's allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 of additional income.
Lower and upper income limits for married couple's allowance
Whether you receive the full MCA, or a lower amount, or none at all, depends on your earnings.
If you earn less than the 'lower limit' (£30,400 in 2021-22 and £30,200 in 2020-21), you'll be eligible for the full amount.
The MCA you are eligible for falls by £1 for each £2 you earn above this threshold. But there's a limit on how much it can fall - even very high earners will qualify for the minimum £3,530.
The recipient of MCA is normally the husband. However, if you married or became civil partners on or after 5 December 2005, the allowance is given to the partner with the higher income (and is also reduced by reference to their income).
If your tax bill is too low to use up all of your married couple's allowance, you can transfer the unused amount to your partner.
To transfer MCA, tick the relevant box on your tax return after the end of the tax year, or contact your tax office if you don't normally complete a return.
Although they don't qualify for MCA, married couples born after 1935 are able to transfer £1,260 of unused personal allowance (Marriage transferable tax allowance) in 2021-22 - up from £1,250 in 2020-21.
If you're set to earn less your personal tax allowance of £12,570 in 2021-22 (or £12,500 in 2020-21), you can transfer unused allowance to your partner so they have less income tax to pay, provided they're a basic-rate taxpayer.
You can find out more in our guide to marriage allowance.
Maintenance relief and married couple's allowance
Married couples and civil partners can claim maintenance allowance, which acts to reduce your tax bill if you're making maintenance payments to your ex-partner.
To be eligible for this, you or your ex-partner must have been born before 6 April 1935 and the maintenance payments you make must be under a legally binding agreement.
Your tax bill will be reduced by the lower of:
- 10% of £3,530 for 2021-22 (10% of £3,510 for 2020-21)
- 10% of the amount you've actually paid.