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Renew your tax credits

How to renew your tax credits, when to complete your tax credit renewal pack and what to do if you miss your renewal deadline.

In this article
Coronavirus (COVID-19) benefits update Why you need to renew tax credits How to renew tax credits
Failure to renew tax credits If your circumstances have changed If you claim Universal Credit

Coronavirus (COVID-19) benefits update

If you already claim benefits, you're self-employed and unable to work due to the coronavirus outbreak, or the pandemic has meant you've lost your job, the government has introduced a range of measures to increase several benefits rates, and open up means-tested help for more people.

The standard allowance for working tax credit and Universal Credit has been increased by £1,000 for the next 12 months, and local housing benefit and the housing element of Universal Credit have also been increased.

You can find the latest updates and advice in our dedicated Which? coronavirus information hub.

Why you need to renew tax credits

Unlike other benefits, tax credits usually have to be renewed each year by 31 July in order to continue receiving payments from HMRC. If you already claim tax credits, you’ll receive a renewal pack through the post between April and July. 

The year’s dates are based on the tax year, which runs from 6 April to the 5 April the following year. So, how much you’re paid in 2020-21 will depend on what you earned in 2019-20.

Not everyone has to renew their tax credits every year - but HMRC will tell you if you do.

The renewal process is necessary, as the amount of money you'll receive depends on how much money you earned in the previous year.

If the pack just says ‘check now’: all you need to do is see whether your details are correct. If they are you don’t need to do anything, as your tax credits will be automatically renewed. If any information is wrong, let HMRC know.

If there is a red line across the first page and it says ‘reply now’: you’ll have to submit your information. Make sure you renew by 31 July or you might miss out on your payments.

 

How to renew tax credits

The first thing you’ll need is your renewal form. If you haven’t received it by July, contact the tax credits helpline on 0345 300 3900.

You can either fill out the forms and send them in the post, renew over the phone by calling HMRC, or use the online renewal service and fill out your information there - but you’ll need a Government Gateway account to do this.

You’ll need the following information to renew your tax credits, so it’s a good idea to have it to hand before you get started:

  • Your National Insurance number
  • Details about any changes to your circumstances - eg if your salary has changed
  • The 15-digit reference number on your renewal pack
  • Your total income for the last tax year. If you’re applying for tax credits as a couple, you’ll also need to provide how much your partner earned, too.

Once you’ve renewed, the tax credit office will be in touch to let you know how much you’ll be paid in tax credits next year - this should be within eight weeks of them receiving your renewal.

If you have problems renewing your tax credits, contact HMRC online or call 0345 300 3900.

Find out more: what are tax credits?

Failure to renew tax credits

If you miss the 31 July deadline to renew, your tax credit payments will stop. There might not be much you can do about it unless you have a good reason for being late.

What’s more, HMRC may also recover any tax credit payments made to you between April and September, as you will have lost your right to the payments for the entire current tax year.

If you feel you had a good reason for being late, contact HMRC to explain. If it accepts your reason, you may be given until 31 January to renew - but it’s at HMRC's discretion.

Not having accurate figures for how much you earn is not a valid excuse for missing the deadline. If you’re not sure, you can use estimated figures when you renew your tax credits. However, you’ll need to provide the accurate amounts by 31 January the following year.

Find out more: tax credit overpayments

If your circumstances have changed

You shouldn’t wait until you renew your tax credits to let HMRC know if your circumstances have changed - you must tell HMRC within a month of certain changes happening or risk a fine of up to £300.

These changes include:

  • Relationship changes - if you’re now living with someone, have got married or are in a civil partnership, or were claiming as a couple and have split up - HMRC needs to know.
  • Job changes - you must tell HMRC if you stop working, the number of hours you’re working changes, you’ve been on strike for more than 10 days or you lose your right to work or live in the UK.
  • Childcare cost changes - if your childcare costs stop or go down by more than £10 a week for at least four consecutive weeks, you must inform HMRC. The same goes if a child or young person you’re responsible for moves out, starts to claim their own benefits, or starts or leaves full-time education or approved training, or starts paid work for more than 24 hours a week.

If you give HMRC the wrong information, you could be charged up to £3,000.

If you experience any changes to your circumstances that aren’t listed, but could have an effect on how much tax credits you get paid, contact HMRC as soon as possible, just in case.

Find out more: tax credit and change in circumstances

If you claim Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a new government benefits model that will eventually replace working tax credit and child tax credit - plus several other means-tested benefits - over the coming months.

If you’re already on Universal Credit, you cannot apply for working tax credits or child tax credits, as the payment for both of these should be included in your Universal Credit payment.

Find out more: what is Universal Credit?

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