Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Are you getting all the financial support that you are entitled to?


Most people will know that earlier this year Child Benefit changed from being available to every family in the UK, to being means tested. Now, if you or you partner earn over £50,000pa you will receive a lower rate. The rate you receive decreases gradually until you get to £60,000pa, when it stops completely. There have been lots of debates on the radio and in the press about how this is fair/unfair, depending on your family circumstances and I don't plan to get into that here. I have to admit though, that when a friend was moaning about it the other day, I found it hard to feel sorry for her  (that tells me her income is at least £50,000 more than mine!). However, despite my initial lack of sympathy, I do understand that it hurts, particularly if you have a large family, and/or some large outgoings, and your family budget has been created using on a figure that includes the benefit payment. Things could be tough, especially as other costs rise.

The changes seem to make things more complicated too. For example
  • If you are one of the affected families, you will still receive the benefit, and then you have to pay it back. This is done through your tax return, so if you are employed and haven't filled in a tax return before you will need to do thatYou will need to register for self assessment before 6 October 2013 or you will have to pay a penalty.
  • If you or your partner are earning over £60,000pa you can elect to not have it paid at all - however this is not recommended if one you is a stay at home parent as it could affect your pension in the future (NI credits are linked to child benefit). 
  • If you have a new baby and know you don't qualify, it is still recommended that you fill in a claim form.

The NCT website has further information to help you understand what's happening. The gov.uk website has information on the Child Benefit Tax Charge and Self Assessment


But there is good news for many people

Tax Credits

One positive outcome of having all this in the news is that many people are starting to realise that they are actually entitled to payments and benefits they are not claiming. Even if you are earning over £60,000 you could be entitled to some Tax Credits, depending on your family circumstances. To find out about your own family entitlements go to the Tax Credits Calculator. Apparently nearly all families (with children) earning under £40,000 will be entitled to something. There is a Childcare Element of Working Tax credits which pays up to £122.50 per week for a single child.

Childcare Vouchers

If you are not entitled to Tax Credits, or if you are entitled to a small amount and earn over £35,000, it may be worth investigating Child Care Vouchers. These vary from employer to employer, and you could be entitled to £110 per week (£55 each parent) tax free. If you haven't done so already, ask your employer.

Creative ways to beat the changes

Not surprisingly, many people are trying to work out how to beat the changes. The MSN Money site has some good information about the changes, including ways around the cuts, such as paying extra into your pension, employing your spouse, or giving to charity!

As with everything, it's complicated. One week you may be better off with tax credits, and the next week, if your income or circumstances change, childcare vouchers may benefit you the most. Technically, I am guessing it would be possible to get yourself below the threshold by taking childcare vouchers through your employer. It's always worth an investigation to see if a different approach could be better for your family. Why not do it today?

This is an article I recently wrote for another blog I write for, but I thought some of my UK readers may be interested, so I decided to share it here too. 

3 comments:

  1. Even tho I'm Canadian, I still find it interesting to read about the kind of benefits available elsewhere & compare. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. How does it compare? I think we are quite lucky really - but it is a complicated system, so sometimes the people that need it most miss out I think.

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  3. I'm looking forward to claiming my child tax credit on my US taxes for the first time this year! My accountant said it won't be much, but hey, something is more than nothing.

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