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Check if you can get Working Tax Credits

This advice applies to England

Universal Credit has replaced tax credits for most people.

If you already get Child Tax Credits, you can still add Working Tax Credits to your claim.

If you made a claim for Working Tax Credits in the last tax year, you might be able to make a new claim. You should talk to an adviser to find out if you can.

If you got a severe disability premium (SDP)

You can’t make a new claim for tax credits but you can claim Universal Credit instead. You can claim Universal Credit even if you were getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with a severe disability premium (SDP).

You might get an extra amount in your Universal Credit - this is called the ‘transitional element’.

You’ll get the extra amount if you apply for Universal Credit within a month after you stop getting the benefit with the SDP.

You can’t get the extra amount if you:

  • were only getting the SDP with Housing Benefit

  • move in with a partner who is claiming Universal Credit

Before 27 January 2021, you couldn’t claim Universal Credit if you were getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with an SDP.

If you applied for Universal Credit before 27 January 2021, talk to an adviser to check what you’re entitled to.

If you’ve been told to claim Universal Credit by a certain date

The Department for Work and Pensions are stopping some people’s benefits and telling them to claim Universal Credit instead.

If you get a letter telling you to claim Universal Credit by a certain deadline, this is a ‘migration notice’. You should claim Universal Credit by the deadline in the migration notice. Your old benefits will stop after the deadline.

You might miss out on some money if you apply after the deadline. 

Check what you should do if you get a migration notice.

If you’ve reached your State Pension age, you can’t make a new claim for working tax credits. You should check if you can get Pension Credit.

You can check your State Pension age on GOV.UK.

To get Working Tax Credits you must be on a low income and work at least 16 hours a week.

What counts as a low income, and how many hours you need to work depends on your circumstances.

If you're under 25

You can only claim tax credits if you work at least 16 hours a week and are either:

  • responsible for a child under 16
  • eligible for the ‘disability element’

You can use the tax credits disability helpsheet on GOV.UK to check if you’re eligible for the disability element.

If you get other benefits

Tax credits can have a knock-on effect on other benefits you claim. For example, if you claim tax credits you might stop getting Income Support - this could mean you’re no longer automatically eligible for Housing Benefit.

This means claiming tax credits might leave you worse off. If you're 18 or over, you can use the Turn2us benefits calculator to check if it’s worth claiming tax credits. You’ll need to enter details of the other benefits you claim.

If you'd rather speak to someone in person, contact your nearest Citizens Advice. An adviser can help you work out if claiming tax credits would leave you better off.

If you get help with childcare costs

You can’t get tax-free childcare at the same time as working tax credits.

If you use childcare vouchers you can apply for tax credits, but you won’t be able to get the childcare element of working tax credit.

You can find out whether you’ll be better off with tax-free childcare, childcare vouchers or tax credits on GOV.UK.

If you’re not a UK citizen

You can only get Working Tax Credits if your immigration status lets you claim public funds.

You can claim public funds if you have any of the following:

  • British or Irish citizenship
  • pre-settled or settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme - or if you’ve applied to the scheme and you’re waiting for a decision
  • indefinite leave - unless you came to the UK on an adult dependent relative visa
  • refugee status or humanitarian protection
  • right of abode

If you have any other immigration status, check if your immigration status lets you claim public funds.

Your tax credits estimate

The amount you could get in tax credits depends on your income as well other factors such as whether you have children. To get an estimate, use the the tax credits calculator on GOV.UK.

If you’re self-employed, you need to work out your income from your taxable profits. For help with this, see how to claim tax credits if you’re self-employed.

You can still apply if your income is slightly too high to be eligible for tax credits. If your income goes down later in the year, your tax credit claim can be backdated to when you made your claim. This is because tax credit amounts are worked out across a full year.

This is called a ‘protective claim’ - the application process is the same.

How many hours you need to work

You’ll need to work a certain number of hours to get Working Tax Credits, depending on your circumstances.

Your situation Hours a week you need to work
Aged 25 to 59 At least 30 hours
Aged 60 or over At least 16 hours
Disabled At least 16 hours
Single and responsible for a child or young person At least 16 hours
In a couple and responsible for a child or young person At least 24 hours between you (with 1 of you working at least 16 hours)

If you're in more than one of these situations, look at the one that needs the fewest hours.

If you usually work more than your contracted hours

Use the number of hours you normally work instead. For example if you're on a zero hours contract, but usually work 30 hours a week, tell HMRC you work around 30 hours.

You need to tell HMRC if your regular hours change, as this might mean you don't qualify for tax credits any more. If HMRC ask for proof of the hours you work, you can send payslips or a letter from your employer.

If your hours change regularly

If the number of hours you work from week to week are predictable, HMRC call this a 'normal working pattern', even if your hours are different each week. You can give HMRC your average weekly hours over whatever period your normal working pattern is. For example, if it's common for you to work 20 hours and 40 hours on alternate weeks, you could put your normal working hours as 30 hours per week.

If your working hours are unreliable and irregular, you might not be able to say what hours are normal for you. If this is your situation, contact HMRC to get advice on how to describe your weekly hours. Or you can contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Who counts as responsible for a child or young person

You’re responsible for a child if they either:

  • live with you all the time
  • usually live with you and you’re their main carer

If you share responsibility for a child, for example if you and your partner are separated, only one of you can claim tax credits for the child. This should be the person who’s mainly responsible for the child.

The child you’re responsible for will need to be either under 16 or between 16 and 20 and in full-time approved education or training.

A 16-year old who’s not in approved education or training is considered a young person until the 31 August after they turn 16 unless:

  • they work 24 or more hours a week

  • they’re entitled to income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance

Making sure you're in paid work

You can get working tax credits if you’re in paid work that’s expected to last at least 4 weeks. This doesn’t include being paid:

  • expenses while volunteering
  • a grant or allowance for studying or training
  • for work done while in prison

The rules are the same if you’re self-employed, but there are a few things you should know before you apply.

If you’re not working

In some circumstances, you can get tax credits when you’re not working. For example if you’re on maternity or sick leave, or if you’ve recently lost your job.

You can also start claiming tax credits 7 days before starting work if you’ve accepted a job offer - your tax credits will start from the date work begins.

GOV.UK has a list of circumstances you can claim tax credits when not working and how long you can claim for.

If you're a foster carer

You might be able to claim working tax credits as a self-employed person if you’re:

  • getting a fostering allowance
  • registered as self-employed with HMRC

The other rules for eligibility still apply, such as your age and how much you earn.

Who counts as a couple for working tax credits

If you’re in a couple, you’ll need to make a joint claim with your partner. You’re counted as a couple if you’re married or in a civil partnership, or if you live together.

If you’re temporarily separated, but still legally married, you’ll need to make a joint claim. HMRC treats you as a couple unless you’re either:

  • divorced
  • legally separated under a court order
  • permanently separated - ie you don't plan to get back together

How much you’ll get is based on you and your partner’s combined income. If you're 18 or over, you can use the Turn2us benefits calculator to work this out.

Check if you can get other benefits

If you can get working tax credits you might also be able to get other benefits. If you're 18 or over, you can use the Turn2us benefits calculator to check which benefits you can get.

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