HMRC will stop paying tax credit, child benefit and guardians allowance payments into Post Office card accounts (POcas) from 30 November.
Anyone who claims these benefits must update HMRC with their new bank account details before the deadline, otherwise their payments may be suspended. The tax authority says there are around 24,000 customers with a POcas that stand to be affected by the change.
Those who use a POcas to receive state pension payments from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have had their deadline extended to November 2022 – but payments from HMRC will still cease this month.
Here, Which? reveals what changes are planned, and what actions you need to take to get ready for them.
What do Post Office account holders need to do?
HMRC says it has been writing to customers since 2019 to notify them that their Post Office card accounts will be closing, and urging them to take action so that their payments aren’t affected.
If you claim child benefit or guardian’s allowance, you can change your bank details online via gov.uk, or contact the child benefit helpline on 0300 200 3100.
If you claim child tax credit, you should contact the tax credits helpline on 0345 300 3900.
This should be easy enough if you already have an alternative bank account, or you’re able to open one without any issues. Of course, part of the appeal of Post Office card accounts is that they offer options for those who can’t access a mainstream bank account, or who don’t wish to. These accounts only accept benefit and pension payments, and while you’re issued with a card to withdraw cash and check your balance, you can’t use the account for direct debits or use the card in shops or online.
If you have a poor credit history, or you want a no-frills bank account, you could consider a basic bank account. These accounts offer fee-free banking facilities for people who don’t qualify for other types of current accounts, and all of the providers in our comparison table told Which? they will accept applicants going through the process of a bankruptcy order.
What happens if you miss the deadline?
If you don’t update HMRC with alternative bank details before 30 November, your payments for child benefit, guardian’s allowance and child tax credit will be paused until you make the update.
Once HMRC has your new information, it will release the money into your chosen account. Depending on your circumstances, a delay to these payments could end up causing unnecessary stress, along with running the risk of defaulting on your bills if you don’t have enough money in your account to cover them.
How to choose the best bank account for you
Of all the different financial products, your bank account is the one you’re likely to use most often, so it’s important to find one that suits you.
Before opening a new account, consider whether it has a good reputation for customer service – our guide to the best and worst banks shows our latest provider research – as well as whether you can manage it in the way you’d like. For instance, if you like going into a branch make sure there’s one nearby. If you prefer online banking, does the provider’s app have all the features you need?
Banks will need to verify who you are and where you live before they can offer you an account, so you’ll need to provide documents such as a passport or driving licence, along with a recent utility bill, benefits letter or rental contract that features your full name and address.
If you apply for a bank account in-branch, you’ll be able to take these documents with you. If you apply online or over the phone, you may have to post the documents or copies of them, or take and send pictures from your mobile phone.
- Find out more: how to open a bank account online
What is child benefit?
Child benefit is a monthly government payment that can be claimed by anyone in the UK who is responsible for a child. The money is only paid to one parent or guardian, and it can be used to help pay for anything the child needs or just to boost the household’s budget.
Child benefit is not means-tested, however, there is an additional tax charge – also known as the high-income child benefit charge – if you or your partner earns more than £50,000 a year. This must be declared on a self-assessment tax return each year.
Anyone who earns £60,000 a year or more won’t benefit financially from claiming child benefit, but it may still be useful to claim the benefit without the payment if a parent takes time out of work for childcare.
That’s because any gaps in your National Insurance contributions (NICs) may affect your eligibility to the state pension in later life – but, claiming child benefit plugs those gaps as it also issues you with National Insurance credits.
- Find out more: child benefit
What is child tax credit?
Child tax credit is a means-tested benefit that can top up the income of those who are responsible for at least one child or young person. It can be claimed in addition to child benefit, and – if you’re in work – you may also be eligible to claim working tax credit.
What you’re paid depends on your circumstances and that of your children. This includes things like your income, the number of children you have, and whether any of your children have disabilities.
The benefit is calculated and paid by HMRC. Child tax credit is gradually being replaced by Universal Credit, but some families still claim it.
- Find out more: child tax credit