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 £3,360 in the 2018-19 tax year, your tax bill would be reduced by £336.
For the 2017-18 tax year, a lower £3,260 minimum allowance applies, which would reduce your tax bill by £326.
And come 2019-20, the minimum £3,450 allowance would reduce your bill by £345.
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 2019-20 tax year, the maximum MCA is £8,915
- For the 2018-19 tax year, the maximum MCA is £8,695
- For the 2017-18 tax year, the maximum MCA was £8,455
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' (£38,900 in 2018-19 and £29,600 in 2019-20), 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 £3,260 (in 2018-19 and 2019-20).
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 £1,190 of unused personal allowance (Marriage transferable tax allowance) in 2018-19. For 2017-18 the figure was £1,150 and in 2019-20 it will be £1,250.
If you're set to earn less your personal tax allowance of £11,850 in 2018-19 (or £12,500 in 2019-20), 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 £3,360 for the 2018-19 tax year (or 10% of £3,3450 for 2019-20)
- 10% of the amount you've actually paid.