Who can get it and how much you get, plus how to claim
Child benefit is a monthly payment for anyone with parental responsibilities for children under the age of 16. It's worth claiming if you aren't already, as it can be worth over £17,000 over the years – or more if you've two or more children.
What is child benefit?
Child benefit is the Government's way of acknowledging the costs involved in raising a child. It's paid monthly to anyone responsible for children under the age of 16 (or under 20 if they stay in approved full-time education or unpaid training). You can also get child benefit for an extra 20 weeks in some circumstances (for example, if your child joins the armed forces).
If you (or your partner) earn £50,000 a year or under, you can claim the full entitlement of child benefit if the child you're applying for lives with you, or if you're paying at least the same weekly amount as the benefit towards looking after them. For example, you might pay for clothes, food, pocket money or birthday and Christmas gifts.
It includes grandparents, adoptive parents and some foster parents. Earn more than £50,000? You might have to pay some or all of it back – see more info on this if you earn over £50,000.
If two people are responsible for the same child, only one will get the payment. Parents can decide between themselves who receives it – otherwise, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will decide. HMRC will give the child benefit to the parent the child lives with the most.
When can I claim child benefit?
You can claim child benefit as soon as you've registered the birth or the child has come to live with you. It can take up to 12 weeks to process your claim and can only be backdated three months.
What happens when my child turns 16?
You may still be able to claim child benefit even after your child turns 16, provided they remain in approved full-time education or unpaid training.
Approved education includes A-levels, NVQs and home education, but not a university degree or BTEC qualification. Approved training should be unpaid, and includes apprenticeships and traineeships, but not training that is part of a job contract.
Once your child's approved education or training comes to an end, benefit payments will come to an automatic stop, at the end of February, May, August or November (whichever is soonest).
Claiming can boost your national insurance contributions
By claiming child benefit, you will also earn national insurance credits, which count towards your state pension. You need 35 years' worth of national insurance credits to receive the full state pension, so this is especially important if one of you is a non-earner or earns less than £118 a week – the amount you need to get national insurance credits.
If you're not working or you're earning under £118 a week, claiming child benefit essentially lets you earn national insurance credits you wouldn't otherwise have earned. HMRC reckons 200,000 parents are losing out on credits in this way because their partner with a higher income, not them, is registered for child benefit.
How much is child benefit?
There are two weekly child benefit rates:
- For a first-born or only child: £21.15
- For additional children: £14.00 per child
This applies even for a multiple birth, so if you have twins born within minutes of each other, you'll still get different amounts for them.
If you've a bigger brood, the individual amount you get for your second and subsequent children will be lower, but the total will be higher.
You'll usually be paid once a month, and the whole amount must go into the same account. It can't be split between parents.
While it may not look like a lot of money broken down, it adds up. If you claim for one child until they're 16, this rate amounts to more than £17,000 over their childhood.
How do I claim child benefit?
You can claim child benefit as soon as you've registered the birth of your child, or a child comes to live with you.
You'll have to fill in the 'CH2' form and send it to the child benefit office. You can find the address on the form, which you can download from Gov.uk.
If you adopted your child, you need to send their original adoption certificate with the form. If you've lost it, you can order a new one.
If your child's birth was registered in Northern Ireland or outside the UK, you need to provide your child's original birth certificate. If you've lost the birth certificate, you can order a new one. If the birth was registered outside the UK, you'll also need to provide the passport used for your child to enter the UK.
Income of £50,000+? Here's what you need to know
If you (or your partner) earn more than £50,000 a year individually you will still get the full amount of child benefit, but you will have to pay some of it back in the form of a charge. This is known as the 'high income child benefit tax charge'.
- How do I know if I'll have to pay back some of the child benefit? To work out how much you will have to pay back, you need to work out your adjusted net income. This is your total taxable income before any personal allowances and less certain tax reliefs.
So you need to include things like:
- Profits if you're self-employed
- Rental income
- Some state benefits
And then deduct things like:
- Pension contributions (more on this below)
- Trading losses, eg, trade loss relief or property loss relief
If you're not sure if you're liable to pay the tax charge or think you will but not sure how much, use the Government's Child Benefit Tax Calculator to see if, and how much, you have to pay.
- How much will I have to pay back? It is tapered, so the more you earn over £50,000 a year, the more you need to pay back.
- For every £100 you receive above £50,000, you need to pay back 1% of the maximum amount of child benefit you're entitled to. So if you earn £55,000 a year, you'll pay back 50%.
- Once you hit £60,000 a year, the charge you'll pay back is 100% of your entitlement, meaning you won't get any benefit.
- How do I pay it? If you or your partner, or both of you, receive an annual income above £50,000, the one getting the most MUST fill in a self-assessment tax return – even if you're already paying tax via your employer in the pay-as-you-earn system.
You'll have to register for self-assessment and send in a tax return every year. If you're not sure you've enough income to pay the charge, it's probably a good idea to register anyway.
If you're claiming and worry you may need to pay the tax charge, you could keep the money in a separate savings account. That way, you'll be covered if you need to pay the charge and anything you get to keep is a bonus. You'll also earn interest on the money. See our Top Savings Accounts guide for more details.
Unsure if you'll fall foul of the charge? Get in touch with HMRC
If you've had a change of circumstance, or you're unsure whether you're eligible for child benefit or liable for the high income benefit charge, get in touch with HMRC directly on 0300 200 3100.
If you don't know if your partner is receiving child benefit, or has a higher adjusted income than you, eg, because you live apart or have separated, you can write to HMRC and ask. It will just tell you "yes" or "no" – you won't get any financial details. You can only do this for a former partner if your relationship ended within a year of the tax year you want information for.
If your income is above £50,000 a year, you might still be able to swerve the charge. That's because it's based on your 'adjusted net income' – so if you pay any tax-deductible expenses, these might take you below the threshold, or at least lower how much you may have to pay back.
The main way you can minimise the charge is by upping your pension contributions. However, before considering doing this, see if your current pension contributions might already take your adjusted pay below £50,000. For example, if you're on £52,000 a year and contribute 5% of your salary into your pension, you won't have to pay any charge.
ALL types of pension count and would help to reduce the amount you'd be liable to pay. This would include self-invested personal pensions, any additional voluntary contributions as well as any other contributions to workplace or personal pensions (and it doesn't matter if you were auto-enrolled or not). It does NOT include Lifetime ISAs, however, as they're not strictly pensions.
How you calculate how much pension contribution to take away depends on whether it's going from your before-tax or after-tax pay:
- Employer pension scheme: If it goes straight from your before-tax ('gross') pay into a pension, eg, an employer pension scheme, you can deduct that same gross amount.
- Personal pension: If it comes out of your after-tax ('net') pay, eg, if you have a personal pension, you can deduct more – £100 for every £80 you pay in.
Here's an example...
Peter earns £52,000 a year, but 7% of his pre-tax income (£3,640) is used to make pension contributions. To see if Peter needs to pay the tax charge, we need to deduct £3,640 from his actual salary – leaving £48,360. In this case, Peter's pension contributions take him below the threshold, so he won't need to pay the tax charge.
If Peter wasn't making any pension contributions, he'd have to pay the charge, as his before-tax income would be over the threshold.
If your income is £60,000+, it's still worth registering for child benefit
If you or your partner have an income of £60,000 or more, it's still worthwhile filling in the child benefit form and registering your entitlement – even if you opt out of actually receiving the benefit itself. Doing so has several advantages:
- As mentioned earlier in this guide, you'll get national insurance credits, which count towards your state pension. You need 35 years' worth of national insurance credits to receive the full state pension, so this is especially important if one of you is a non-earner or makes less than £166 a week (which is when you'd start to pay national insurance contributions). HMRC reckons 200,000 parents are losing out on credits in this way because their partner with a higher income, not them, is registered for child benefit.
- It will ensure your child is registered to receive a national insurance number shortly before they turn 16.
Had a drop in income or been made redundant? You might now be able to claim
If you've been made redundant, or put on furlough, and your salary has subsequently dropped, you may now be entitled to claim child benefit.
Individually, if you (or your partner) have an income of £50,000 or more a year and your household's receiving child benefit, you get charged. Once you have £60,000 or more coming in, the charge you'll pay back is 100% of your entitlement, essentially meaning you won't get any benefit. So if your income was £60,000+ but has fallen it could be worth checking to see what you could get.
If you've already registered for (and opted out of) the benefit, claiming only involves a quick phone call – make sure you have your national insurance number to hand. For those new to claiming, there's just one form to fill in.
HMRC has refunded £1.8m in fines over 'failure to notify' fees
HMRC has issued refunds worth £1.8 million to almost 5,000 families who were issued so-called 'failure to notify' penalties for the tax years 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16.
When the high income benefit charge was introduced in 2013, many parents with an income of more than £50,000 weren't aware that they had to notify HMRC that they earned enough to pay the tax charge, and, as a result, were charged the penalty fees.
Child benefit FAQs
- Your child is up to six months old
- Your child was born in the UK
- You live in England, Scotland or Wales and registered the birth there
If you don't meet this criteria you'll have to apply for child benefit by using the CH2 form and send it to the child benefit office. If you're claiming for more than two children, you'll also need to send the 'additional children' form.
If you contribute at least the weekly value of child benefit towards taking care of a child, you could claim for them. Being eligible to claim doesn't mean you'll be successful. If you and the parent claim, HMRC will decide who gets the payment – it will usually go to the person the child lives with the most.
If you're taking care of the children of two parents who have died (or in certain circumstances where one surviving parent is unable to care for the child), you may also be eligible for guardian's allowance. It's £17.20 a week which you get on top of child benefit.
If your child goes to live with someone else, you'll continue to get child benefit for eight weeks (maybe longer if you pay towards taking care of your child), unless someone else also claims.
You need to tell the child benefit office if this happens. You usually won't be able to get child benefit after the time limits above, but there are exceptions.
If you've two children and one of them stays mostly with you, and the other stays mainly with your ex-partner, you can both claim and receive £21.15/week for each child.
Child benefit is affected by the benefit cap. This sets the maximum yearly total you can get on benefits. What you get depends on where you live and your circumstances (eg, a single parent living with children is limited to £20,000 a year outside London but for the same situation it's capped at £23,000 in the capital). So if you're close to your limit and claim child benefit, your award may be capped, but there are exceptions.
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