Category: Child Benefit

Importance of registering for child benefit even if the High-Income Child Benefit charge applies

Parents affected by the High-Income Child Benefit charge (HICBC) can be forgiven for thinking that there is no point is registering for child benefit if they are only going to have to give back everything they receive in the form of the tax.

The HICBC applies where the parent claiming child benefit or their partner has income of more than £50,000 a year. The charge is set at 1% of the child benefit received for each £100 by which income exceeds £50,000. So, for example, if income is £57,000, the charge is equal to 70% of the child benefit received (((£57,000 – £50,000)/£100) x 1%). Once income reaches £60,000, the charge is equal to 100% of the child benefit received. The amount of child benefit received depends on the number of children – it is payable at a rate of £20.70 per week for the first child and £13.70 per week for each subsequent child. Where both partners have income in excess of £50,000, the charge is levied on the partner with the higher income; this is often not the person who received the benefit.

Child benefit also confers state pension rights. Parents registered for child benefit in respect of a child under 12 automatically receive Class 3 National Insurance credits. Class 3 credits have the effect of making a year a qualifying year for state pension (but not contributory benefit) purposes. Thus, each year that a parent is registered for child benefit for a child under 12 provides one qualifying year for state benefit purposes. A person needs 35 qualifying years for the full single-tier state pension and at least ten to receive a reduced state pension.

Failing to register for child benefit can mean missing out on an automatic entitlement to at least 12 qualifying years; this is particularly important if the claimant is a stay-at-home parent or works part time but does not pay sufficient Class 1 or 2 contributions to make the year a qualifying year.

If receiving the money and having to pay it back is a worry, it needn’t be. It is possible to register for child benefit and to elect not to receive it. This can be done online or by contacting HMRC’s child benefit office. Parents can restart the payment of child benefit if circumstances change and the full HICBC no longer applies (for example if income dips below £60,000). Where income is between £50,000 and £60,000 it is worth claiming the benefit as the HICBC will be less than the benefit received. Ring-fencing the amount needed to pay the charge in a separate account will remove some of the worry over having the funds available to pay the tax.

As claims for child benefit can only be backdated three months, parents affected by the HICBC who have opted not to claim child benefit should do so without delay. Registering for child benefit will also ensure that the child receives a National Insurance number on reaching age 16.

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Which childcare scheme is best for your family?

Employees who joined their employer’s childcare voucher or employer-supported childcare scheme before 4 October 2018 can remain in that scheme and benefit from the associated tax relief for as long as the employer continues to offer it. However, this may not always be the best option for the employee – depending on their circumstances they may be better signing up to the Government’s top-up scheme instead.

Tax relief for employer-provided vouchers

Employees who joined an employer childcare voucher scheme or directly contracted childcare scheme prior to 4 October 2018 can continue to receive the associated tax relief. Vouchers or directly-contracted childcare are tax and National Insurance free up to the exempt amount. This depends on when the employee joined the scheme and, where the employee joined the scheme on or after 6 April 2011, the rate at which they pay tax.

The exempt amount is set at £55 per week where the employee joined prior to 6 April 2011; for employees joining after that date, the exempt amounts are £55 for basic rate taxpayers, £28 per week for higher rate taxpayers and £25 per week for additional rate taxpayers (ensuring the relief is worth £11 per week to all taxpayers).

Each employee is only entitled to one exempt amount to cover childcare vouchers and directly-contracted care, and regardless of how many children they have. However, each parent can benefit from their own exempt amount.

Childcare vouchers and directly-contracted care can be provided via a salary sacrifice or other optional remuneration arrangement without triggering the alternative valuation rules. This means that the tax exemption is preserved where provision is made in this way.

Government scheme

Under the Government scheme, parents can open an online account and receive a tax-free top up of 20p for every 80p that they deposit into the account. The maximum top up is £2,000 per child per tax-year. The Government scheme cannot be used in conjunction with universal credit or tax credits.

Which scheme is best?

Parents cannot benefit from both the employer scheme and the Government scheme, so must choose which is best for them.

Where the employee joined the employer scheme on or after 6 April 2011, the tax relief from employer scheme is worth £11 per week (£583 per year (based on 53 weeks) if one parent receives the vouchers and £1166 if two parents do.

Under the Government scheme, the parents would need to contribute £2332 to receive a top-up of £583 and £4664 to receive a top up of £1166. To benefit from the maximum £2,000 top-up, the parents would need to contribute £8,000.

There is no substitute for crunching the numbers – parents should consider both options and decide what is best for them.