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Chapter 18: How income affects tax credits
This chapter explains how HM Revenue and Customs treats your income when working out your entitlement to tax credits. For how income affects universal credit, see Chapter 16, and for how income affects income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and housing benefit, see Chapter 17.
Basic facts
    Most student income is ignored when working out your entitlement to tax credits.
    Some benefits and other income are taken into account.
    Gross earnings are counted as income.
1. Working out your income
While you are on income support (IS), income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or pension credit, you are entitled to maximum tax credits without any income test. If you are not on these benefits, the tax credit assessment is based on income over a full tax year, 6 April to 5 April. To assess your award, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) uses your income from the previous complete tax year. If you are getting tax credits between 6 April 2021 and 5 April 2022, it uses income from 6 April 2020 to 5 April 2021. Note: although your income from a previous year is used in the initial assessment, all other relevant circumstances, such as the age of your child, are taken from the current year of the tax credit award.
Your tax credits are first assessed using the previous year’s income, even if HMRC knows at the outset that your circumstances have changed. If you expect your income over the current tax year to be more than £2,500 lower or higher, tell HMRC and it reassesses your entitlement. If you do not tell HMRC, you will have an overpayment to pay back at the end of the tax year, or an underpayment of tax credits that you will get back as a lump sum. At the end of the tax year, HMRC sends you an annual review form to check whether your income and circumstances have stayed the same over the year. It reassesses your award for the previous year based on the current year’s income plus £2,500 if it is more than £2,500 lower than in the previous year, or based on the current year’s income less a disregard of £2,500 if it is more than £2,500 higher.
If your income increases by £2,500 or less since the previous tax year used to assess your claim, you do not need to tell HMRC as this does not affect the amount to which you are entitled. However, you should let HMRC know if the change means you are now eligible for working tax credit (WTC) or more WTC. Any increase is taken into account from the following April (April 2022 for an increase in the 2021/22 tax year), so it is important to tell HMRC of any increase by this date, otherwise you are likely to incur an overpayment.
If you have a partner, your claim is made jointly and her/his income counts as well as yours.
Unless you or your partner are working and eligible for WTC, your maximum child tax credit (CTC) is reduced if your income is above the threshold of £16,480 a year. If you are eligible for WTC, this threshold is £6,565. When working out your income, some income is disregarded.
Examples
Antonio is a mature student. He has one child, Eva, aged nine. In the tax year April 2020 to April 2021, he was working and earning £22,000. He starts university in September 2021 and now his only income, apart from child benefit, is his student grants and loan. He only gets a small amount of CTC, based on his earnings in the tax year 2020/21. Antonio phones the Tax Credit Helpline and gives details of his student support. HMRC reassesses his CTC based on this year’s income plus £2,500 and awards him maximum CTC (one family element and one child element).
Kirsty was getting IS before she became a student. She now gets a student loan of £6,750, an independent students’ bursary of £1,000, a lone parents’ grant of £1,305, a childcare grant of £1,215, child support maintenance of £520 and child benefit. Her CTC is reassessed and she is awarded maximum CTC based on the IS she was getting in the tax year 2020/21. Although her income in 2021/22 has increased since 2020/21, only the lone parents’ grant counts for tax credit purposes. Kirsty is still entitled to maximum CTC.
2. Grants and loans
Most student grants and loans are ignored in the tax credit assessment except for the following, which are taken into account:1Reg 8 TC(DCI) Regs
    dependants’ grant for adults;
    dependants’ grant for children;
    lone parents’ grant.2Reg 8 TC(DCI) Regs refers only to a ‘dependants’ grant’. However, HMRC’s intention seems to be to count the lone parents’ grant also.
The following grants and loans are disregarded.
Higher education (HE):
    tuition fees;
    postgraduate tuition fee loan;
    student loan;
    lone parents’ childcare grant;
    care-experienced students’ bursary;
    care-experienced accommodation grant;
    disabled students’ allowance;
    travel expenses;
    young students’ bursary;
    independent students’ bursary;
    childcare fund;
    discretionary funds;
    paramedic, nursing and midwifery student bursary.
Further education (FE):
    bursary maintenance allowance;
    care-experienced bursary maintenance allowance;
    education maintenance allowance;
    additional support needs for learning allowance;
    study expenses allowance;
    travel expenses allowance;
    lone parents’ childcare grant;
    FE discretionary fund;
    childcare fund.
Any scholarship, exhibition, bursary or any other similar educational endowment is ignored if you are receiving full-time instruction (FE or HE) at an educational institution.3Reg 9 TC(DCI) Regs A stipend is also ignored if it is not awarded in relation to the student being a holder of an ‘office’ or as remuneration for employment.4gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/employment-income-manual/eim06210
A professional and career development loan is disregarded, except for any amount applied for or paid in respect of living expenses for the period supported by the loan.5Reg 19(c) Table 8 para 2 TC(DCI) Regs
Example
Lauren is an undergraduate. She has one child aged 13. Her income for 2021/22 is:
– student loan;
– lone parents’ grant;
- independent students’ bursary;
– child benefit.
The student loan, independent students’ bursary and child benefit are ignored for child tax credit (CTC). The lone parents’ grant counts as income. Because this is less than the threshold of £16,480, Lauren is entitled to maximum CTC.
 
1     Reg 8 TC(DCI) Regs »
2     Reg 8 TC(DCI) Regs refers only to a ‘dependants’ grant’. However, HMRC’s intention seems to be to count the lone parents’ grant also. »
3     Reg 9 TC(DCI) Regs »
4     gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/employment-income-manual/eim06210 »
5     Reg 19(c) Table 8 para 2 TC(DCI) Regs »
3. Earnings
Your gross earnings plus those of your partner are taken into account in the tax credit assessment. ‘Gross earnings’ means all income before any income tax or national insurance contributions are deducted. It also includes tips, overtime pay, taxable expenses and, ignoring the first £30,000, taxable payments related to the termination of employment such as redundancy pay.1Reg 4 TC(DCI) Regs If you make any contributions to a personal or occupational pension approved by HM Revenue and Customs, these should be disregarded.2Reg 3(7)(c) TC(DCI) Regs The first £100 a week of statutory maternity, adoption, paternity, shared parental pay and parental bereavement pay is disregarded, but payments above this are included.3Reg 4(1)(h) TC(DCI) Regs Statutory sick pay is included in full.4Reg 4(1)(g) TC(DCI) Regs Any payments that are exempt from income tax should generally be ignored for tax credit purposes.
For full details of the way earnings are treated, see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.
 
1     Reg 4 TC(DCI) Regs »
2     Reg 3(7)(c) TC(DCI) Regs »
3     Reg 4(1)(h) TC(DCI) Regs »
4     Reg 4(1)(g) TC(DCI) Regs »
4. Benefits
Generally, benefits that are not taxable are disregarded when calculating tax credits, and benefits that are taxable are included. For full details of the way social security benefits are treated, see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.
Benefits taken into account in full include:
    carer’s allowance (CA);
    contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA);
    contributory employment and support allowance (ESA);
    long-term incapacity benefit (except pre-1995 awards);
    increases for a child or adult dependant paid with any of the above benefits.
Benefits completely disregarded include:1Reg 7(3) TC(DCI) Regs
    bereavement support payment;
    Best Start grant;
    CA supplement and young carer grant;2The Tax Credits and Childcare (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2018, No.365
    child benefit;
    disability living allowance;
    personal independence payment;
    income-related ESA;
    guardian’s allowance;
    housing benefit;
    income support (except to strikers);
    income-based JSA;
    industrial injuries disablement benefit;
    maternity allowance;
    funeral support payments;
    most war pensions;3Reg 5 TC(DCI) Regs
    increases for a child or adult dependant paid with any of the above benefits;
    Scottish child payment.
Benefits partly disregarded include state retirement pension (and private and occupational pensions) and widowed parent’s allowance. These are included in tax credit calculations, although the first £300 of the total income from pensions, income from capital, and foreign income is disregarded.
 
1     Reg 7(3) TC(DCI) Regs »
2     The Tax Credits and Childcare (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2018, No.365  »
3     Reg 5 TC(DCI) Regs »
5. Other income
What follows is a brief outline of how other income is treated. For further details, see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.
Income from self-employment
Your taxable profits are taken into account less any personal pension contributions.
Savings and investments
There is no capital limit for tax credits. You are eligible whatever amount of savings you have and whatever the value of other capital. However, income generated from your savings or other capital is taken into account. For example, interest from bank accounts is taken into account, unless it is in a tax-free savings account. However, if you have no income from property or pensions, or foreign income, interest on savings or other capital is only taken into account if it is over £300 a year.
Property
Taxable rental income from property you let to tenants is taken into account, although you can rent a furnished room in your own home for up to £7,500 a year and this rental income is ignored. As with savings and investments, the capital value of any property is ignored, but any taxable rental income is included, although the first £300 of the total income from pensions, income from capital and foreign income is disregarded.1Reg 11 TC(DCI) Regs
 
1     Reg 11 TC(DCI) Regs »
Maintenance
Regular maintenance from an ex-partner is ignored, regardless of how the arrangement was made. Similarly, any support received from an ex-partner for your child(ren) is also ignored.1Reg 19 Table 6 para 10 TC(DCI) Regs
 
1     Reg 19 Table 6 para 10 TC(DCI) Regs »

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