If you currently claim tax credits, you have just two weeks to renew them, or risk missing out on thousands of pounds.
Working tax credits and child tax credits are both means-tested benefits that provide extra money for those who are responsible for children, disabled workers and those on low incomes.
HMRC’s latest figures show that 4.05m families were receiving tax credits in 2016/17, and 1.65m of claimants were in work. How much you receive is based on your household income and your circumstances.
Which? explains who is eligible to receive tax credits, and what you need to do to renew them.
How do I renew my tax credits?
If you already claim tax credits, you should have received a renewal pack, which is sent out between April and July every year.
If your renewal pack says ‘check now’, all you need to do is check to see whether your details are correct – if they are then you don’t need to do anything, as your tax credits will be automatically renewed.
But if there is a red line across the first page and it says ‘reply now’, it means your tax credits must be renewed by 31 July 2018 – less than two weeks from today.
To renew your tax credits, you’ll need:
- Your renewal pack – if you haven’t received this yet, call the tax credits helpline
- Your National Insurance number
- Details about any changes to your circumstances
- The 15-digit reference number on your renewal pack
- Your total income for the last tax year – as well as your partner’s, if you’re applying as a couple
If you don’t have accurate figures for how much you earn, you can use estimated ones – but these must still be submitted by 31 July. You’ll also have to provide the actual figures for your income by 31 January 2019.
To renew, you can either send your renewal forms in the post, renew over the phone by calling HMRC, or use the online service (you’ll need a Government Gateway account to do this).
If you have questions, you can now ask Amazon’s Alexa to ‘open HMRC’, and ask for help and information. Keep in mind that Alexa does not store any personal information, and you can’t renew your tax credits using Alexa.
The tax credit office will let you know how much you’re eligible to receive within eight weeks of receiving your renewal.
- Find out more: Renew your tax credits – everything you need to know
What if I miss the deadline?
If you miss the 31 July deadline, your tax credits payments will stop. What’s more, HMRC may also recover any payments made to you between April and September of this year.
If you can claim there is a ‘good cause’ for having missed the deadline, then you may be given until 31 January to complete your renewal. But it’s at HMRC’s discretion as to whether they will accept your reasons.
What if my circumstances have changed?
If your circumstances have changed, you shouldn’t wait until it’s time to renew your tax credits to notify HMRC.
In fact, in many cases keeping HMRC up to date with any changes to your income or family circumstances is a legal requirement.
You must let HMRC know within a month if:
- your relationship changes – i.e. you get married, move in with someone, or get a divorce
- your job changes – if you start or stop working, or if your hours change
- your childcare costs change – for example, if your child moves out.
Failing to do this could result in a fine of £300 for late changes, and up to £3,000 if you submit incorrect information.
What’s more, if you’ve received tax credit overpayment, you’ll have to pay it back.
- Find out more: Tax credits and change in circumstances – we list all the changes in circumstances that you should tell HMRC about.
Who can claim tax credits?
Working tax credits are for those aged 25 years or over and earn below a certain income level.
Alternatively, those aged between 16-24 can claim if they either have a child or a qualifying disability, as can those aged 60 or over who claim certain other benefits.
To be eligible, you must work a certain number of hours a week – over 16 for those under 25, and over 30 hours for those over 25.
You must also get paid for the work, or expect to be paid, and have an income below a certain level – for example, £13,253 for a single person or £18,023 for a couple – although this can vary if you have children or are disabled.
While you cannot usually claim working tax credits if you don’t work there are some exceptions, such as for those claiming statutory sick pay or statutory maternity pay. You can find out more in our guide to working tax credits.
For child tax credits, you must be responsible for at least one child who is either aged 16 or under, or is under 20 and in eligible training or education. You do not need to be working to claim child tax credits.
- Find out more: Child tax credits
What if I claim Universal Credit?
Universal Credit – the new government benefits model – will be replacing both working tax credits and child tax credits over coming years.
It’s estimated that all existing tax credit claimants will be moved to Universal Credit by July 2019, but the program is being rolled out gradually, meaning it may be introduced earlier in your area.
If you are on the Universal Credit scheme, you cannot apply for working tax credits or child tax credits, as your Universal Credit payments should replace these.
If you’re experiencing problems renewing your tax credits, or have further questions relating to your circumstances, contact HMRC online or call 0345 300 3900.
Find out more: Tax credits: do you qualify?