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Tax-free income and allowances

Discover how much money you can earn before being charged income tax, and the different types of allowances and reliefs you may be able to claim to reduce your tax bill.

In this article
Do I always have to pay tax on my income? Tax thresholds and allowances 2019-20 Personal tax-free allowance 2019-20 Marriage allowance Personal savings allowance
Dividend allowance Blind person's allowance Trading and property allowances Maintenance payments

Do I always have to pay tax on my income?

Tax-free allowances reduce the amount of tax you have to pay on income you receive. 

There are two types: 

Allowances - which mean you can earn a certain amount of money before paying tax 

Tax relief - something you can claim to reduce your overall tax bill

In this guide, we explain the main tax allowances and thresholds - from the £12,500 you can earn tax-free, to the tax-free dividend allowance if you hold shares or funds.

  • Get a head start on your 2018-19 tax return with the Which? tax calculator. Tot up your tax bill, get tips on where to save and submit your return direct to HMRC with Which?.

Tax thresholds and allowances 2019-20

  2019-20 2018-19
Tax-free personal allowance £12,500 (unless income is above £100,000, after which you lose £1 of personal allowance for every £2 earned) £11,850 (unless income is above £100,000, after which you lose £1 of personal allowance for every £2 earned)
Basic-rate taxpayer (20%) £1-£37,500 (after allowances) £1-£34,500 (after allowances)
Higher-rate taxpayer (40%) Taxable income over £37,500 Taxable income over £34,500
Additional-rate taxpayer (45%) Taxable income over £150,000 Taxable income over £150,000
Maximum married couple's allowance - born before 6 April 1935 only £8,915 £8,695
Blind person's allowance £2,450 £2,390
Capital gains tax threshold £12,000 £11,700
Inheritance tax threshold £325,000 + extra £150,000 if estate includes family home £325,000 + extra £125,000 if estate includes family home

Personal tax-free allowance 2019-20

Most people are allowed to receive a certain amount of income before having to pay income tax. This is known as the basic personal allowance.

In 2019-20, the basic personal allowance is £12,500, up from £11,850 2018-19. The personal allowance is the same for everyone, but it is reduced if you earn more than £100,000.

If you're in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, and you earn between £12,500 and £50,000, you'll pay the basic-rate of income tax at 20%.

The higher-rate threshold, when people start paying 40% income tax, is £50,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This is slightly different in Scotland.

Those who earn between £12,500 and £14,549 will pay a starter rate of 19% income tax.

Earnings between £14549-£24,944 will be charged at the basic rate of 20%.

If you earn between £24,944-£43,430 you'll pay the intermediate rate of 21%.

Then, those earning between £43,430-£150,000 will pay the higher rate of 41%, and earnings above £150,000 will have to pay the top rate of 46%.

Income above £100,000

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

This means that if you earn £125,000 or more in 2019-20, you receive no personal allowance and all your income is taxed.

 

Marriage allowance

If you're married or in a civil partnership, you may be entitled to tax benefits. How much you can get depends on when you and your partner were born, and how much you earn. 

You can find out more in our guide marriage allowance explained - including what it is, how it works and who can benefit.

Alternatively, take our quiz to find out if you're eligible and where to find more information.

 

Personal savings allowance

You’re allowed to generate a certain amount of income from the interest on your savings each year.

  • Basic-rate taxpayers can earn up to £1,000 in savings interest for 2019-20
  • Higher-rate taxpayers can earn up to £500 in savings interest for 2019-20
  • Additional-rate taxpayers will not have a personal savings allowance.

This is unchanged from 2018-19. 

Find out more about tax on your savings and how the personal savings allowance works.

Dividend allowance

The first £2,000 you receive in dividends from investments is also tax-free (known as your dividend allowance).

This is unchanged from 2018-19.

Find out more about dividend tax and allowances - how money you earn from shares is taxed.

Blind person's allowance

If you, or your spouse or registered civil partner, are blind or have severely impaired sight, your personal tax allowance is increased. If you are both eligible, you'll each get the allowance.

In 2019-20, the additional allowance is £2,450 - bringing your total personal tax allowance threshold to £14,950.

If you earn less than this threshold, you can transfer any unused blind person's allowance to your spouse or civil partner – this works in the same way as the marriage allowance.

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.

Trading and property allowances

If you earn money from trading activities - such as selling items on eBay or offering a small freelance service - you can make £1,000 tax-free. This is known as the 'trading allowance'. 

In addition, if you make money from your property, you can also earn £1,000 before paying tax on the income.

This may be helpful if, for example, you rent out your garden for an event or let out a room for a week.

But if you earn much more than £1,000 from letting your property, you're better off under the Rent a Room scheme or the rules for tax on rental income.

Both allowances can be claimed at once.

Maintenance payments

You can claim tax relief for spousal or child maintenance payments if the following applies:

  • you or your partner were born before 6 April 1935
  • you're paying maintenance under a court order after the relationship ended
  • the payments are for the maintenance of your ex-spouse or former civil partner (provided they aren't now remarried or in a new civil partnership) or for your children who are under 21.

Maintenance payments relief works in a similar way to the married couple's allowance. The amount of maintenance you get is worth 10% of the maintenance you pay to your ex-partner, up to a maximum of £326 (10% of £3,260).

To claim this relief, call HMRC on 0300 200 3300.

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