What is child benefit?
Child benefit is a payment made to you by the government if you are responsible for a child - and you don't necessarily need to be the child's parent.
If you qualify for it, it could be worth more than £1,000 a year for your first child.
Who is eligible for child benefit?
Your child needs to be either under 16, or under 20 and in an approved form of education or training (higher-education degrees, for example, are not approved).
It's only possible for one person to claim child benefit for a child.
The payments are tax-free if both you and your partner’s income earn less than £50,000 a year.
In order to claim child benefit, you will need to fill in a claim form. These are available to download from the HM Revenue & Customs website. You need to send the claim form to the Child Benefit Office, along with your child's birth or adoption certificate.
Find out more: child tax credits - find out whether you're entitled to these as well
Child benefit rates
There are two rates of child benefit. You will receive £20.70 a week for your eldest, or only, child, and £13.70 a week for each additional child.
|Child benefit rates 2017-18|
|Children||Child benefit (per week)||Child benefit (per year)|
If your family separates, and your children are split between different households, you'll receive payment based on the children in your care.
Can I claim child benefit if I earn more than £50,000 a year?
If you or your partner has an income over the £50,000 threshold and you receive child benefit payments, you will be required to pay a tax charge, known as the 'high-income child benefit charge'.
The threshold is based on the individual income of the highest earner. The tax charge is paid by the higher earner via a self-assessment tax return.
The tax charge amounts to 1% of the child benefit paid for every £100 of income between £50,000 and £60,000 earned.
If either you or your partner earn more than £60,000, this tax will amount to your entire child benefit entitlement.
How high-income child benefit charge is calculated
If, for example, your income is £56,000 and you have one child, you will be entitled to £20.70 a week, or £1,076.40 a year.
- Your income over £50,000 is £6,000.
- You will be required to pay tax of 1% for every £100 over £50,000.
- £6,000/100 is 60, so you will need to pay 60% of your child benefit back as a tax charge.
- £1,076.40 x 60% = £645.84
- Your tax charge will therefore be £645.84, leaving you with child benefit of £430.56.
Find out more: tax returns - how and when to fill one out
Child benefit and National Insurance credits
If you receive child benefit, and aren't working, you will automatically qualify for National Insurance credits. These can build up your entitlement to the state pension.
For this reason, it can be worth claiming child benefit if you're staying home to care for children, even if your partner earns more than £60,000.
When you submit the claim, you have the option of choosing not to receive payments. This will ensure you receive National Insurance credits, but won't need to pay the 'high-income child benefit charge'.
How to increase child benefit payments
There is a way for high earners to keep more of their child benefit.
When calculating how much child benefit must be repaid via the tax charge, your 'net-adjusted income' is taken into account. The net-adjusted income is what you have left after other deductions from your salary, such as pension contributions.
By making deductions, such as pension contributions, you can reduce your net-adjusted income and increase the amount of child benefit you'll receive.
Example of net-adjusted salary
Say you have one child and earn £55,000 a year, but you make pension contributions of 3%. Your net-adjusted salary is £53,350 (£55,000 - £1,650).
On a salary of £55,000, you'd pay a tax charge of £533, leaving you with £533 in child benefit.
But with your adjusted salary of £53,350, you'd pay a tax charge of £357.11, leaving you with £708.89.
If you earn more than £50,000, you could therefore consider increasing your pension contributions in order to lower your adjusted net income and increase the amount of child benefit you’re entitled to.
It is also possible to reduce your adjusted net income by making charitable donations through Gift Aid, or by offsetting losses you've made in the stock market.